Waiting for the bus

STA looking at service to Coeur d'Alene

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A man looks at the sunset after exiting a Citylink bus at the Riverstone transit station at West Riverstone Drive on Thursday evening. Spokane Transit Authority wants to extend service to Coeur d’Alene, as surveys show, rider demand for that expansion is high.

COEUR d'ALENE - Spokane Transit Authority is considering adding regular daily bus service to Coeur d'Alene as part of a 10-year plan to expand and improve public transit.

Karl Otterstrom, planning director for STA, said Thursday that express bus service on Interstate 90 could be extended from Liberty Lake - the current eastern limit - to Coeur d'Alene. Express service means fewer stops along routes.

STA's board of directors in December approved the 10-year plan, known as STA Moving Forward, sending it to the ballot for funding approval by voters.

The plan is driven by increased demand for services, with ridership growing 44 percent since 2009.

Voters in Spokane will have a choice to OK funding for the 10-year plan in a special election on April 28. STA is asking the public for a 0.3 percent increase in the sales tax rate.

Otterstrom said more than one-third of the vehicles parked daily at the Liberty Lake "Park and Ride" lot have Idaho license plates. The idea of bus service to Coeur d'Alene has been popular in surveys.

The service between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene would provide buses hourly for riders on weekdays, and every other hour on nights and weekends, he said.

"That's a minimum service level in order to be successful," he said.

The service to Coeur d'Alene would start at the back end of the 10-year plan, meaning possibly 2024, Otterstrom said. Spokane-area improvements to STA's service would happen first.

The service between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene could start sooner if "funding opportunities" present themselves, he said.

"We've got lots of time to work out the details," he said.

If service was to extend beyond a test period, he said, cities like Coeur d'Alene or Post Falls or other local government entities would have to provide support.

"The potential is exciting," city of Coeur d'Alene spokesman Keith Erickson said Thursday. "We would consider anything that would improve transportation between the two cities."

Citylink Transit - through the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Kootenai County, the state of Idaho and Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization - provides public bus service in Kootenai and Benewah counties.

"The Tribe is always open to finding ways to improve public transit in the area," said Helo Hancock, legislative director for the Tribe. "We are certainly willing to have the discussions about synergies with STA and are happy to work with Kootenai County and other members of the KMPO to explore the concept further."

Otterstrom, of STA, said Idaho, unlike Washington, doesn't have dedicated funding for such bus service, except for federal grants.

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