Citizens' Guide to Spokane Transit Authority’s Proposition One: to increase the local sales tax rate to nearly 9.0% to expand transit services and build a once-rejected $72 million Central City Line

By CHRIS CARGILL, MARIYA FROST, MARGARET DOUGLAS  | 
POLICY BRIEF
|
Oct 18, 2016

Download the Citizens' Guide to Spokane Transit Authority’s Proposition One 

Key Findings

  • Spokane Transit Authority’s (STA) Proposition 1 would increase the sales tax in many parts of Spokane County to 8.9% by 2019
  • If approved and once fully-implemented, STA would become a $100 million government agency
  • The most controversial piece of Proposition 1 remains STA’s $72 million ‘Central City Line’ (CCL), formerly called the ‘modern electric trolley’
  • The ‘CCL’ does not have the essential features that would make it a Bus Rapid Transit system
  • The cost to carry a passenger on an STA bus remains one of the lowest of urban transit agencies in the state, at roughly $4.00 per trip, but administrative costs grew 85% between 2004 and 2013
  • Improvements to public transit services in Spokane are possible without a $221 million tax increase 

Introduction

This November, people living in the Spokane Transit Authority (STA) service area – which includes the most populated parts of Spokane County – will be asked to vote again on a ballot proposal that would raise sales taxes by $221 million over 11 years to fund expansion of public transit services in the Spokane area. 

The measure appears on the ballot as Proposition One1;

The Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors approved a proposition seeking
an increase in its sales and use tax authority to maintain the existing transit system, including paratransit and vanpool services, and improve xed-route bus service through high frequency, high performance transit service, including extended hours on all basic and frequent routes, expanded transit service to new areas, new routes, and expanded passenger services including new and enhanced park and ride lots. is proposition would authorize the collection of an additional sales and use tax of up to 2/10 of 1%,

1/10th e ective April 1, 2017 and the second 1/10th e ective April 1, 2019 both expiring no later than December 31, 2028, all as provided in Resolution No. 742-16. Should this proposition be:

Approved

Rejected

Approval of the proposition would raise the sales tax rate in the Spokane area to just under nine percent. Transit officials say they want to use the new revenue to fund 25 projects, including a new West Plains Transit Center, expanded bus service in rural areas and extended weekend hours. The higher proposed taxes would represent a significant increase in transit spending in Spokane. If the proposal is implemented, Spokane Transit Authority would become a $100 million per-year agency.

Included in the proposal is a “Central City Line” project voters have previously rejected. In the past, transit officials and city leaders referred to the project as a downtown electric trolley. They now insist the $72 million system is Bus Rapid Transit. 

Download the Citizens' Guide to Spokane Transit Authority’s Proposition One 

View the Policy Note on Spokane Transit Authority's Poposition One