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Spokane - October 2003

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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.


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