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STA elects to leave bus stops as is along East Sprague amid business owner uproar

Spokane business owners look to change STA stops
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Spokane business owners look to change STA stops

SPOKANE, Wash. - While the first phase of redevelopment along East Sprague has been met with overwhelming positive feedback from business owners, one aspect of it has sparked quite the controversy.

"We want a good transit system in this neighborhood and the bus stops are highly important to us,"said Doug Trudeau, owner of Trudea's Marina, "but it was kind of a pilot project and they don't work."

He, along with others, note that they have seen decreased traffic flow through their stretch of road, and they blame the bus stops, which are right now in the lane, not pullouts.

"We will see anywhere from seven to 12 people backed up behind the bus," said Janet Taylor, owner of Blue Cat Vintage.

They have concluded that because of congestion, more people are starting to choose alternate routes, and they say they are losing business.

According to a study from STA, traffic has actually decreased by around 20 percent since construction wrapped up.

"Traffic does not necessarily correlate to economic activity in a location," said Marlene Feist, spokewoman for the City of Spokane.

She said the idea to go with in the lane bus stops was actually supported by business owners when the plans for the redevelopment were first laid out.

"More of the businesses we spoke to wanted to preserve the parking on the three lanes," she said.

Now they are calling for change.

"Make a pullout area, where there's parking but where there aren't a lot of people using it," said Taylor.

For their part the city offered up striping out pullout bus stops, but on Thursday, that along with other potential options were declined.

Instead the STA Board decided to leave the bus stops as is, though they will be exploring whether or not to equip bus drivers, or buses, with the technology to better align stops with changing street lights.

That fix would address safety concerns business owners want addressed where cars stuck behind stopped buses speed around them, cutting into oncoming traffic.

"We hear the people when they lay on their horns, and then we hear the acceleration and watch them go past the bus and going into the turning lane," said Taylor.

She suggested moving the bus stops, one of which is right outside her shop, to not be immediately after a stop light where cars and emergency vehicles were getting caught in the middle of the intersection when lights changed.

The city, though, says they were put there intentionally to try and hide the bus stops. If a bus stopped after a red light, the cars behind it would already be stopped, and the bus would clear by the time of the green light.

All in all, despite the controversy, the city says they consider the project to be a success.

"The goal here was to slow down traffic and make more people deliberate about coming through the corridor," she said.

She also noted that pedestrian and bus rider safety were important.

In Thursday's public comment period during the STA meeting, bus riders spoke out about how the new bus stops, which feature heightened curbs, and protected exits have made the bus riding experience much more pleasant.

Additionally, bus drivers noted they felt much safer while driving within the lane bus stops, because it cut back on collisions and removed the challenge of reentering the lanes.

 


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