STA Votes To Approve Electric Trolley

STA Votes To Approve Electric Trolley – News Story – KXLY Spokane.

The initiative next moves at hyper speed to the Spokane City Council on Monday night (it is probably the last item on the agenda as RES 11-55), presumably so opponents will have a hard time mustering opposition speakers.

The STA is in process of cutting bus service by about 20% for the rest of us, but would seek a sales tax for all of the urban areas of Spokane County to pay for much of the 3 mile long, $36 million electric trolley.

Does Spokane need a 3 mile long electric trolley paid for by taxpayers to benefit downtown property owners?

Some facts about Spokane:

Naturally, what this town needs is a “cool factor” electric bus in the downtown core that serves key power brokers and eventually Kendall Yards, where residents pay no property taxes for 12 years. The head of the STA said the “cool factor” is why we need this.
The actual purpose of the trolley is to take money from the taxpayers to benefit downtown power brokers.

What we need instead are initiatives with a positive, long term return on investment. Not concrete pouring initiatives as a short term jobs program that are intended to benefit local power brokers.

I wrote the following in April, but did not previously publish it:

Transit expert praises STA’s, city’s planning – – April 4, 2011.

So begins the pitch to enrich the downtown core while the rest of city and county remain economic disaster zones. The downtown trolley is a done deal.

There is little evidence that downtown trolleys spawn economic growth but during the past year they are the rage amongst top down, centralized urban planning groups. Name a mid-sized city – Boise, Yakima, Tacoma, Cincinnati, Huntington, VA, Tucson and dozens and dozens more – all of them have built or are proposing downtown trolleys. Why? Because the Federal government will pay for up to 80% for “fixed guideway” transportation. That rules out buses but permits rail, monorail, buses on rubber wheels but with fixed overhead wires (“electric trolley”), and rail lines. This becomes an inflexible permanent transportation solution  a la pouring concrete.

The Spokane downtown trolley does not bring shoppers into downtown. The primary goal is to keep the luxury housing residents of Kendall Yards, the future high density South University District housing residents, and thousands of college students from leaving the downtown core. The goal is to discourage travel to Northtown or Valley Malls and other non-downtown vendors. National and local taxpayers will fund this to create benefits to key downtown stakeholders. This will not create economic growth – it just moves spending from one place to another.

Like the $570 million sunk in the north side freeway, the $110 million waste of energy plant that makes our disposal costs twice that of a landfill (“it may turn trash into air pollution but at least it costs twice as much”),  and other programs, this is another investment with a bad return to the many.

Like so many taxpayer funded investments here, the trolley does not show a good return on investment – and will divert money from projects that might actually improve our local economic situation.


I filed this story under “Crime”.

One Response to STA Votes To Approve Electric Trolley

  1. zelda says:

    Speaking truth to power- it’s scary stuff. Have you read Kim Zentz’s op-ed in Sunday’s S-R? It is total balloon juice. Sirti is a Potemkin village. Her article reads like it was written by the Onion News Network as a parody of civic boosterism.

    This city doesn’t want to take a hard look at itself. Instead it indulges in moon-shot fantasies such as thinking that a downtown trolley is going to be pivotal in creating a medical center to rival Johns Hopkins, Stanford or Washington Univ. at St. Louis. The trolley plan is a “let them eat cake” retort because the planners and supporters really don’t care if the rest of Spokane disintegrates as long as a key handful of people stand to benefit.