Spokane — Downtown Streetcar
Rail Transit Online, October 2003
A preliminary proposal for a downtown circulator
streetcar line that would complement a future light rail or bus rapid
transit system has been unveiled by the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the
Spokane Regional Transportation Council and the Spokane Transit Authority.
A study is planned on a route that would serve the central business
district, nearby neighborhoods and traffic generators such as the Spokane
Veterans Memorial Arena, Riverpoint Higher Education Park and the South Hill
medical district. The plan contends streetcars would not only move people,
they could help spur economic development as they did in Portland. “The
fixed-rail configuration provides a measure of permanence allowing investors
to make more significant investment decisions,” Downtown Spokane Partnership
President Michael Edwards told the Journal of Business. Along with
routes and ridership, the six-month feasibility study will evaluate possible
funding sources including the federal government,
special assessment districts, local taxes and the private sector.
Charles Hales, vice president of transit planning for
the architectural and engineering firm HDR Inc., addressed a group of civic
leaders in late August and said streetcars could work well in Spokane. “The
streetcar, because of its size, fits into the urban fabric,” Hales told the
Journal of Business. “Cars and fixed rail would operate in the same space.
The streetcar doesn’t dominate a street; it removes very little parking;
and the customer access is very, very easy.” Hales, a driving force behind
the Portland Streetcar while a city commissioner, noted that over $1 billion
in development has taken place along the streetcar route. “One thing we
learned (from Hales) was that a streetcar, more than light rail and
certainly more than buses, is two-thirds about economic development and is
one-third about transportation,” Mary Ann Ulik, the Downtown Spokane
Partnership’s director of parking and operations, told the Journal of
Business. Meanwhile, planning for a rapid transit link between Spokane and
Liberty Lake is continuing, with a decision yet to be made on whether to
continue with light rail along all or part of the route or switch to BRT.