Spokane Transit to ask voters to approve more than 25 projects, increase sales tax

Spokane Transit to ask voters to approve more than 25 projects, increase sales tax

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Transit Authority is once again asking voters to give the green light on more than 25 transportation projects, and those projects would come with an increase in the sales tax.

The Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors voted on Thursday to bring voters a proposition on the November 2016 ballot. It's called the STA Moving Forward plan.

That sales tax increase would be up to 2/10 of 1 percent, 1/10th effective April 1, 2017, and the second 1/10th effective April 1, 2019.

Spokane Transit tried to pass a measure to fund the project last year, but it was narrowly rejected by voters.

A hot topic of the proposed plan has been the Central City Line, essentially an electric-powered bus that would use $4.1 million in operating costs.

STA says, the Central City line won't open until 2021, so for the first few years, all the money brought in from the new tax would go to more than 25 other projects, including park and rides, and more frequent routes.

By 2021, STA estimates the taxes would bring in about $20 million, meaning the Central Line's operating costs would make up about 20 percent of the new sales tax, and about 10 percent of STA's overall budget.

"We have about twenty-five increases in service or new bus routes in the plan, as well as new park and rides, and the Central City Line," explained Board Member and Spokane City Council Member Amber Waldref, "so the Central City Line is one project, it has higher operating costs than other lines, bus lines, and that's because it's our first foray into bus rapid transit."

Other projects in the STA Moving Forward plan include adding direct service to Airway Heights, Cheney, and Medical Lake, extending Saturday evening service past 11 p.m., and replacing buses and vans at the end of their useful lives.

In the last year, STA has received grants from the state of Washington that will help fun the West Plains Transit Center, and the capital costs of the Central City Line.

Waldref said STA spent about a year making adjustments to the plan, to lower the sales tax and address community feedback, and says it's important to give voters another chance to look and decide on the plan.

STA is hoping there will be higher voter turnout in November's election.