If you live in the Spokane area, Proposition 1 is the most important measure on your ballot this year. By funding the STA Moving Forward plan, the measure will expand regional transit services by adding the first high-frequency bus rapid transit routes, several new transit centers, and late-night service on multiple lines. In addition, it will provide the necessary funding to maintain existing service levels. But lost in the noise has been an honest conversation about what exactly the measure will do. So let’s break it down.
Proposition 1 will raise the sales tax within the Spokane Transit service area by two-tenths of a percentage point. Functionally, this means different things in different areas.
- In Spokane and Spokane Valley, sales tax will go from 8.7% to 8.9%
- In Airway Heights, sales tax will go from 8.9% to 9.1%
- In unincorporated areas outside the STA service area, sales tax will remain 8.1%
In total, that’s about $2 per month or $24 per year for the average local household. But it won’t happen in one fell swoop; the increase will be broken up so as to mitigate any potential negative impacts. The first 0.1% increase takes effect April 1, 2017, and the second 0.1% increase takes effect April 1, 2019. Both increases would sunset on December 31, 2028 unless renewed by voters.
44% of this new sales tax funding will used to expand service along new routes and to new transit centers. 33% will be used to improve existing service by extending service later into weekend evenings and boosting frequency. Finally, 23% of this new funding will be used to maintain existing service levels.
Finally, Spokane Transit intends to apply for federal and state bridge funding for the capital improvements necessary to implement the STA Moving Forward plan. The agency’s planners and accountants believe that it will be able to secure up to $94.9 million in additional funding. Through a competitive process, these grants will be awarded to other cities if not to Spokane. As such, it’s to our benefit to be fight for this funding; otherwise, we’d be paying the federal and state taxes used to fund them, but not receiving any of the benefits. And this doesn’t even consider the infrastructure investment programs that could move forward as a result of the presidential election.
Unlike other regional measures, Proposition 1 includes a sunset period. In ten years, the operational funding will have to be re-authorized by voters. This gives voters an unprecedented level of control and accountability over the measure.
If voters aren’t happy with STA Moving Forward in 2028, simply vote the next measure down.
In addition, voters and residents will have the opportunity to engage with planners, policymakers, and decisionmakers in board meetings, planning sessions, and other public meetings. Aside from the ballot box, there will be plenty of opportunities for review, accountability, and public process.
Now, the fun part. Proposition 1 funds the STA Moving Forward plan, which is the ten-year “master plan” for transit in our region. These projects will help our region’s transportation infrastructure cope with the 165,000 people who are anticipated to join the Inland Northwest by 2040. Unfortunately, the list of projects isn’t exactly the most easy-to-navigate, so let’s break it down for you.
- Service extended later than 11pm on Saturday nights
- Improved user amenities along North Division and East Sprague lines
- More runs of North Division line
- More runs of Route 33 (Wellesley) on Saturdays
- More runs of Route 26 (Nevada), and later, on Sundays
- More runs and improved user amenities between Spokane and Liberty Lake
- More runs of Route 61 (West Plains)
- New weekday route on Indiana between Spokane Valley Mall and Greenacres
- New West Plains Transit Center, allowing service directly between Cheney and the West Plains without a downtown transfer
- New maintenance facility to allow for future growth
- More runs of Route 23 (Indian Trail) on weekends
- More runs of the new Spokane Valley Mall-Greenacres route
- New South Regal-North Monroe high-capacity transit corridor with improved user amenities, greater frequency, later hours, and better service
- New Moran Prairie Park & Ride near 57th and Palouse Highway
- New South “Commuter Express” from the new Moran Prairie Park & Ride to downtown
- New Upriver Transit Center at Spokane Community College, helping to eliminate unnecessary trips to downtown Spokane
- Improved stop amenities on West Plain rural highways
- New route directly between West Plains Transit Center and Medical Lake/Cheney
- New route directly between Lincoln Heights and the Logan District, eliminating unnecessary transfers downtown
- New Route 66 (Cheney) high-capacity transit corridor with improved user amenities, greater frequency, later hours, and better service
- Improvements to service, including fewer necessary transfers downtown, for the Browne’s Addition neighborhood
- More runs of Route 27 (Hillyard), and greater capacity
- Central City Line bus rapid transit corridor comes online between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College, with improved user amenities, modern electric buses, off-board ticketing, real-time information, greater frequency, and later hours
- Expansion of the Mirabeau Transit Center, to allow for more capacity and further runs of improved service
- Improvements and expansion of the Liberty Lake Park & Ride to meet growing demand, featuring potentially as many as 300 spaces
- Reinstate Liberty Lake Express route, featuring nonstop, direct service between downtown and Liberty Lake
- East Sprague high-capacity transit corridor with improved user amenities, greater frequency, later hours, and better service
- New night and weekend service along the new high-capacity transit route between Spokane and Liberty Lake via Spokane Valley
- Trial service of a new high-capacity transit route between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene via Post Falls
Phew! That’s a lot of new transit service. Of course, this timeline represents the current proposal, and it could change based off of funding availability. Increased funding from grants could speed up the project timeline, for example.
Should you vote “yes” on Proposition 1? Perhaps. Spokane Rising itself does not endorse candidates or ballot measures (although I do personally from time to time). That’s because we see our role primarily in educating, informing, and engaging with the public. But it’s also important to note that this would be the biggest move forward for transit in Spokane’s history.
And in terms of value for money, we’d get a great deal of transit service for not much in new taxes, all things considered. Proposition 1 would raise taxes by about $24/year, on average. And that’s for a great deal of fast, frequent transit, later service, new amenities, four new transit centers, and wildly improved frequency. (By comparison, the Westside’s Sound Transit 3, also on the ballot for this fall, would raise area property taxes by $169/year, on average. Of course, it would also build 50+ miles of new light rail, but…baby steps.) A big first step for a city our size.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think of the STA Moving Forward plan and Proposition 1? Are there projects you would have liked to see included? What’s your vision for the future of transit in the Spokane area? Are you voting yes? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you.