For nearly five years now, Donald Holmes of Spokane Valley has relied on the bus to get from point A to point B.
On Monday, Holmes had some questions for representatives from the Spokane Transit Authority about point CC – as in “considerable cutbacks.”
STA workers may have outnumbered residents at the latest in the series of community meetings to explain the proposed service reductions for 2011, but for Holmes, the Spokane Valley open house was an opportunity to voice concerns about several potential changes, including the elimination of Route 95 in Millwood.
|Representatives from the Spokane Transit Authority have been visiting communities throughout Spokane County since Oct. 1, fielding questions about the 7-percent service reduction proposed for 2011. On Monday, local resident Donald Holmes (right) was one of several citizens to drop by the Spokane Valley open house. Photo by: Craig Howard
“People are concerned,” he said. “I’m not the only one affected.
Some people are going to be left out along this corridor.”
Holmes noted that the shift in routes would mean an additional 32 minutes from his usual commute from Sprague south on Argonne. STA has discussed the possibility of adjusting the schedule of bus No. 32 that now travels along Trent/Indiana but could add stop on Buckeye between Vista and Argonne to help allay the loss of the Millwood route.
For Holmes, the transition would mean a transfer near the CenterPlace Regional Events Center and a difference in estimated time of arrival from eight minutes to 40.
“I think they could keep the 95 and go to every hour instead of half hour,” he said.
Greater Spokane Valley once had buses that stopped every 60 minutes, until five years ago when input from STA board members Rich Munson and Dick Denenny – at the time, both representatives of the Spokane Valley City Council – proved integral in improving bus routes.
“I felt like that half-hour made us a transit system,” said Steve Blaska, a resident of Spokane Valley who serves as STA’s operations manager.
Now, some of that service – including one of two Liberty Lake express routes – may be part of STA’s recommended 7-percent, or about $3.5 million decrease, for 2011. Like the jurisdictions it serves, the agency has been significantly impacted by the drop in area sales tax, a revenue source that account’s for two-thirds of its overall budget. STA anticipates around $6 million less in sales tax this year compared to 2007.
In 2008, Spokane County voters approved lifting the sunset clause on the addition of three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax to fund STA. The agency currently collects a total of six-tenths of 1 percent in sales tax and could go up to nine-tenth, although STA spokeswoman Molly Myers said there has been no discussion among administration to raise the rate.
“A lot of people thought we got more money in 2008 when the vote passed,” Myers said. “But it was just a continuation of what had been in place.”
STA cut service by 3 percent in 2010. The 7-percent decrease for next year would affect some 100 disabled residents out of 6,000 – including around 30 at Bethany House in West Spokane Valley – who currently travel courtesy of STA ParaTransit. Blaska said in event of such a change, the agency offers vans free of charge, including fuel, insurance and maintenance, to those facilities or residential areas that can provide someone to drive the vehicles.
Some of the other adjustments to Valley service would include the elimination of a route through the Spokane Industrial Park and having No. 74 exit Interstate 90 at Evergreen instead of Sullivan with the removal of mid-day service.
The latest budget proposal was presented to the STA board in September with the first phase of public outreach scheduled through December. The agency will publish the plan in January 2011 and hold additional community meetings, including public hearings, through March. A board decision on the document is anticipated that month with bus route changes taking effect Sept. 18, 2011.