Spokane Transit Authority

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Spokane Transit Authority
Spokane Transit Authority logo.svg
Slogan How a great city moves.
Founded 1980 as the "Spokane Public Transportation Benefit Area Authority"
Headquarters 1230 W. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99201
Locale Spokane County, Washington (service will be extended to the Coeur d'Alene Metropolitan area, in 2025)
Service area 248 square miles (642 km2)
Routes 34
Destinations Airway Heights, Cheney, Medical Lake, Millwood, Liberty Lake, Spokane, Spokane Valley, unincorporated areas of Spokane County
Fleet Buses: 148, Paratransit Vans: 118, Vanpool Vans: 111
Daily ridership 41,000 (weekday for all modes, 2014)
Annual ridership 11.5 million (all modes, 2015)[1]
Chief executive E. Susan Meyer
Website http://www.spokanetransit.com/

Spokane Transit Authority, more commonly Spokane Transit or STA, is the public transit authority serving Spokane, Washington and its surrounding areas. STA was founded in 1980 as a municipal corporation but has roots to private transit operators extending back to 1888. Its serves a population of approximately 409,000[2] across 248 square miles (640 km2) of the Spokane County Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA), which includes the cities of Spokane, Spokane Valley, Cheney, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, Medical Lake, the Town of Millwood, and unincorporated areas in and around those cities.

STA is currently planning the Central City Line, the region's first bus rapid transit corridor.


Most of Spokane Transit's bus routes run through The Plaza in Downtown Spokane.

Spokane Transit provides multiple services:

  • Fixed Route Bus Service. Spokane Transit operates 34 bus routes throughout its service area on published schedules. Most routes run 365 days a year. Additionally, STA operates routes during major community events such as the Lilac Bloomsday Run.
  • Paratransit. Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Spokane Transit provides accessible transportation to persons with disabilities within 34 mile (1 km) of every fixed route.
  • Vanpool. A service which matches people traveling to or from similar locations and provides a publicly owned van at a fixed price per mile.

Fixed routes[edit]

Spokane Transit has 34 fixed routes operating year-round on published schedules. Routes are numbered to reflect geographic or service attributes. Most routes operate 365 days a year with the exception of the commuter express routes and the "1 Plaza/Arena Shuttle." Routes have distinct weekday, Saturday and Sunday schedule patterns. Major holidays operate on a Sunday schedule.[citation needed]

Fares and passes[edit]

Fare structure[edit]

As of February 2011, single ride regular fares cost $1.50, and VIP fares cost $0.75. Day passes for adults and VIPs are $3.50 and are good for unlimited rides for the remainder of the day that the pass was issued. Adult 31-day passes are $45.00, and VIP 31-day passes are $22.50. Paper transfers were discontinued in December 2006. In its place is a Two-Hour Pass that works as a transfer on any route for two-hours from the time it is issued on the bus.

Pass programs[edit]

Spokane Transit provides multiple fare instruments, including employee, youth, and college passes. Additionally, organizations may participate in the Universal Transit Access Pass (UTAP) program with a "utility charge" for each ride taken by eligible participants.[3] Spokane Transit currently maintains UTAP contracts with Eastern Washington University for students, faculty and staff; WSU Spokane for students, faculty and staff; City of Spokane for employees and elected officials; and, Spokane County for employees and elected officials. A grant will fund the introduction of the UTAP program for students at the Community Colleges of Spokane in January 2014.

Passenger facilities and amenities[edit]

  • Bus Stops: At the end of 2015, Spokane Transit served 1,669 bus stops throughout its service area.[4]
  • Park and Ride Lots: Spokane Transit operates a total of 13 park-and-ride facilities (including the VTC) throughout its service area, several of which are operated through cooperative agreements with other property owners to allow parking access to transit services.
  • Transit Centers: Spokane Transit operates three transit centers:
  • Bicycle Accommodation: Bike racks are available on all buses serving all fixed routes. Most park and ride lots feature bike lockers that can be rented on a monthly basis.

Fixed route fleet[edit]

Spokane Transit currently[5] has 134 buses in its fleet. Included in the fleet are:

Make/Model Length Seats Year Quantity Fleet Notes
STA 2964.JPG New Flyer D60LF 61' 62 2002 3 2261-2263 Purchased used from New Flyer, formerly operated by OC Transpo
2007 6 2661-2666
2009 4 2961-2964
Gillig Low Floor 29' 26 2003 3 2330-2339 Special livery for "Downtown Shuttle" (Routes 1 and 2)
Gillig Low Floor 35' 32 2003 13 2301-2013
2005 10 2501-2510
2007 3 2701-2703
STAbus2619.jpg Gillig Low Floor 40' 39 2006 19 2601-2619
2007 14 2704-2717
2008 14 2801-2814
2009 9 2901-2909
2014 8 1401-1408
Spokane Transit Gillig Hybrid 8001.jpg Gillig HEV 40' 39 2007 3 7001-7003
2008 6 8001-8006
2010 10 10701-10710
2012 6 12701-12706
STA 9031.JPG Gillig HEV 29' 26 2009 3 9031-9033 Special livery for "Downtown Shuttle" (Routes 1 and 2)


Spokane Transit is governed by a board of directors which includes nine positions filled by elected officials who must be appointed by the municipal jurisdictions that form the agency, and one position appointed by the Board upon recommendation by the labor organizations representing the public transportation employees within the local public transportation system pursuant to state law.[6]

Originally, the board consisted of 2 members from the City of Spokane, 2 members from the Spokane County Commission, 1 member from each of the Cities of Airway Heights, Cheney, Medical Lake, and the Town of Millwood, and one additional member alternately held by an official from the City of Spokane and Spokane County.

The City of Liberty Lake was incorporated on August 2001, and the City of Spokane Valley was incorporated on March 2003, necessitating a change in board membership. Now the board consists of:

  • City of Spokane, 3 members
  • Spokane County, 2 members
  • City of Spokane Valley, 2 members
  • The small cities, 2 members (combined)
  • Labor representative, 1 member (non-voting)

The small cities of Airway Heights, Cheney, Liberty Lake, Medical Lake, and Millwood rotate membership in three-year terms:

  • 2011: Liberty Lake and Medical Lake
  • 2012: Medical Lake and Millwood
  • 2013: Medical Lake and Millwood
  • 2014: Millwood and Cheney
  • 2015: Cheney and Airway Heights
  • 2016: Cheney and Airway Heights
  • 2017: Airway Heights and Liberty Lake


First era of mass transportation in Spokane[edit]

Transit history in the Spokane area dates back more than 125 years beginning with the inaugural trip of a horse-drawn streetcar running between downtown Spokane and the Browne's Addition neighborhood to the west in 1888.[7] The first electrically powered streetcar began operations November 1889 and traveled between downtown Spokane through what is now the University District.[8] Over the next several decades, multiple private interests constructed and operated streetcars and cable cars typically as an integral part of a real estate development plan.

By 1896, the leading streetcar system was the Spokane Street Railway Company, with 23 miles of railway. Its network of lines was described as a "cartwheel" that emanated from a "hub" at the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Howard Street in downtown Spokane.[9]

By 1910, streetcar lines were owned and operated by two competing companies: Washington Water Power and Spokane Traction Company. In addition to urban street railways, each company had interests in electric Interurban lines that stretched as far away as Moscow, ID. In that year, streetcar and interurban ridership peaked at 37.98 million rides.[10]

The decade following 1910 was a time of intense competition for the streetcars, with growing automobile ownership and private jitneys that threatened the viability of a divided transit system. By the end of the decade, Spokane Traction Company fell into receivership and underwent reorganizations that were unsuccessful in returning the system to profitability. In 1922, Spokane citizens overwhelmingly voted to amend the city charter to reduce taxes and other special assessments imposed on streetcar operations and infrastructure, enabling the formation of a unified streetcar system featuring "universal transfers" between lines and empowering the company to convert some lines to trolleybuses on its own discretion.[11][12] Following the successful measure, the Spokane United Railway Company was formed as a subsidiary to Washington Water Power (later, Avista Corporation), creating a unified electric streetcar system.

The street railway system was gradually phased out through the 1930s to make way for motorized coaches. Bus ridership reached a peak in the Spokane area in 1946 with 26 million passengers.

Spokane Transit System era[edit]

The system was purchased by Spokane City Lines Company (part of National City Lines) in 1945, and later turned over to the City of Spokane in 1968. Upon acquisition by the city, funding for the system was derived from a $1 household tax.[13]

Spokane Transit Authority era[edit]

In 1980, a municipal corporation was created to administer mass transit services for a new public transportation benefit area (PBTA). The new PBTA represented a shift in funding and operational model of Spokane Transit System from a city model to a county-wide model. Due to rapid inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the flat $1 city tax on households that had funded Spokane Transit System was no longer keeping up with the rising costs of its era. The household tax model had another major disadvantage; because the tax depended on the quantity of households within the tax boundaries, its revenues would only increase with the construction of new households. Meanwhile, most residential growth was occurring outside Spokane city limits. Furthermore, the flat tax on households had been viewed by some as a very regressive tax.[14]

An election was held on March 10, 1981 to determine the future of public transportation in the Spokane region. The election measure, which passed and was subsequently implemented the following month of April 1981, replaced the $1 tax on households within Spokane city limits with a 0.3% sales tax to be applied throughout the public transportation benefit area. The shift in the transit agency's funding and administrative model was not isolated to Spokane. Many other cities and regions in Washington state including the cities of Vancouver and Tacoma, as well as King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, and Clark County had already shifted from a city household tax model to a county-wide transit system funded by sales tax.[15]

In addition to adapting its funding model to reflect the current economic times, the shift to a county-wide model allowed the transit agency to heavily increase bus service to areas beyond Spokane city limits. Prior to the election, service outside city limits was scarce, despite the areas already falling within the public transportation benefit area.[16]

The restructured system operated under three branches; Spokane Transit Authority for Regional Transportation (START) was the administrative body, the Spokane Transit System (STS) name remained for the fixed route bus operation, and Spokane Area Special Transportation Agency (SASTA) operated the paratransit services. The three names were unified about one and half years later in September 1982 under the Spokane Transit Authority name and brand.[17]

At the urging of the downtown business community, Spokane Transit built a transit center in 1995 to replace the historic Howard and Riverside hub which required that buses park along many downtown streets for passengers to make transfers. Not only was this uncomfortable for passengers, who were forced to wait for buses in the weather, but it also made the streetside businesses less accessible to customers. The bus center, known as "The Plaza" was constructed as an indoor urban park at a cost of approximately $20 million including property acquisition costs. With its high, daylight ceiling, imported Italian tile, and cougar statues leaping over a waterfall between the up- and down- escalators, it generated great controversy.

In addition to the local sales tax, a major revenue source was Washington State's motor vehicle excise tax which provided matching funds. After statewide initiative I-695 was passed in 1999, the legislature eliminated the matching funds even though the initiative was later found unconstitutional. See also List of Washington initiatives.

The period after the elimination of the motor vehicle excise tax was a time of unprecedented change for Spokane Transit. As its undesignated cash reserves balance fell, Spokane Transit attempted to increase its tax authority from 0.3% to 0.6% in September 2002, but it was rejected by voters 48% to 52%.

Spokane Transit created task force to study changes that could be made to regain the support of the community, while simultaneously preparing for a potential 40% service decrease. After increased public participation, and 69% voter approval, Spokane Transit increased the sales tax from 0.3% to 0.6% in October 2004, subject to a sunset of the tax in 2009. In May 2008, voters reauthorized the additional 0.3% sales tax with no sunset clause.

Peer transit systems[edit]

Spokane Transit is one of eight local public transportation systems for the large urbanized areas (UZA) in the State of Washington along with:

Among transit systems in Washington State, Spokane Transit tends to achieve high efficiency and effectiveness levels despite the rather suburban nature of its service area.

  STA Statewide
Farebox Recovery 18.58% 23.97%
Cost per Passenger $4.03 $4.74
Cost per Mile $8.37 $11.33
Cost per Revenue Hour $116.31 $148.61
Passengers per Hour 28.9 31.4
Passengers per Mile 2.08 2.39

These 2014 performance measure data depicted above[18] indicate a lower cost per passenger and cost per revenue hour of service for Spokane Transit compared to total fixed route operations in Washington State. In 2005, an average 20.81 unlinked passenger trips took place per revenue hour of fixed route service. By 2014 that figure jump to 28.9 unlinked passenger trips per revenue hour. This dramatic increase in service productivity has minimized growth in the cost per passenger despite growth in fuel costs, health benefits and other inflation factors during that period.

Planning activities[edit]

Spokane Transit participates in regional transportation and land use planning activities. It is a member jurisdiction of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC), and sends a member of its board to serve on SRTC's board.

Early 2000s light rail proposal[edit]

SRTC and STA jointly created the Light Rail Steering Committee (LRSC) which was responsible for studying the creation of a light rail corridor from downtown Spokane to Liberty Lake. This effort, beginning in 2000, was preceded by significant study by the SRTC. In 2006 the committee published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which evaluated several rail and bus alternatives for the corridor. The committee stated preference for a single-track rail corridor using diesel multiple units (DMU) that would cost less than half the conventional light rail system. The travel demand modeling performed as part of the DEIS forecast less than 3,500 daily boardings on the 15.5-mile system in 2025. As a comparison, the 19-mile TRAX light rail system in Salt Lake City has over 43,000 daily boardings.[19] An advisory vote in 2006 elicited a negative response to continued planning and investment in the light rail project.

In 2008, transit consultants Nelson-Nygaard Associates recommended changes to transit operations downtown while retaining the use of the Plaza transfer facility.

High Performance Transit Network[edit]

In 2010, STA developed a preliminary proposal for what it calls a "High Performance Transit Network" (HPTN) composed of 14 corridors of premium all-day frequent transit service. The preliminary proposal does not specify the operating modes for each corridor but suggests that the corridors will operate at a speed appropriate to the access provided and urban characteristics of the operating environment. The HPTN vision is an element of the agency's proposed comprehensive plan, referred to as "Connect Spokane."

Also in 2010, STA and the City of Spokane initiated an alternatives analysis to study transit improvements in and around the downtown core. This "central city transit alternatives analysis" will look at "High Performance Transit" improvements that can be made to increase mobility and stimulate in-fill development. The timeline for the study calls for a "locally preferred alternative" to be determined by early 2011.

In 2016, the central city transit plan took the form as the Central City Line, a bus rapid transit line that is planned to open in 2021. It will be the first phase of a number of high performance transit lines in Spokane.


  1. ^ "Spokane Performance Measures Year End 2015" (PDF). Spokane Transit Authority. Retrieved 2016-07-31. 
  2. ^ "2014 Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) and Unincorporated Public Transportation Benefit Area (UPTBA) Population Estimates" (PDF). State Of Washington Office of Financial Management. 2014. Retrieved 2015-09-06. 
  3. ^ "Annual Route Report, 2012 Operating Data" (PDF). Spokanetransit.com. pp. 15–17. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  4. ^ "Annual Performance Report – Passenger Facilities, Edition No. 4 (2015 Data)" (PDF). Spokane Transit Authority. Retrieved 2016-08-20. 
  5. ^ "2016 Fixed Route Fleet". STA Fleet. Spokane Transit Authority. Retrieved 19 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "RCW 36.57A.050: Governing body — Selection, qualification, number of members — Travel expenses, compensation". Apps.leg.wa.gov. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  7. ^ Kershner, Jim (2007-01-29). "the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  8. ^ Kershner, Jim (2007-01-25). "the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ [2][dead link]
  11. ^ [3][dead link]
  12. ^ [4][dead link]
  13. ^ Tabor, Brenda (2 March 1981). "Mass Transit: Election will decide course of bus system". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Tabor, Brenda (2 March 1981). "Mass Transit: Election will decide course of bus system". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  15. ^ Tabor, Brenda (2 March 1981). "Mass Transit: Election will decide course of bus system". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  16. ^ Tabor, Brenda (2 March 1981). "Mass Transit: Election will decide course of bus system". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "New Name, New Routes, New Service!". The Spokesman-Review. 1 September 1982. Retrieved 21 August 2016.  |first2= missing |last2= in Authors list (help)
  18. ^ Public Transportation Division (December 2015). 2014 Summary of Public Transportation (PDF) (Report). Washington State Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 19, 2016. 
  19. ^ List of United States light rail systems by ridership

Washington State Summary of Public Transportation - 2003 by Washington State Department of Transportation Public Transportation and Rail Division (September 2004)

External links[edit]

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