Pride Foundation recently endorsed Spokane Transit Authority (STA) Proposition 1, which would raise critical funds to support public transportation.
Proposition 1 will appear on the April 2015 ballot in Spokane, asking voters to approve a 3/10 of 1% increase in local sales tax. This proposition is the first step in implementing a plan called STA Moving Forward, which was approved in December by Spokane City Council. The comprehensive plan outlines a ten year strategy for STA—including service improvements and expansions across the county.
Approximately fifty percent of the funds raised will be used to maintain existing transportation service levels. The remaining funds, in combination with state and federal grant monies, will be used to fund 28 regional projects that create more and better transit. Improvements to the region’s transit system include the development of High Performance Transit in some of the busiest travel corridors, more frequent routes, service to new areas, later service on nights and weekends, additional services, and improved travel times to more connection locations.
What does this mean for the LGBTQ community?
Transit is important to Pride Foundation because tens of thousands of people in Spokane County depend on the Spokane Transit Authority every day for access to work and education. A strong transit system reduces barriers to education, jobs, healthcare, and increases access for everyone in the community, including LGBTQ people. For example:
- LGBTQ students use the transit system to go to school. This measure would not only affect students in the city of Spokane, but those attending Eastern Washington University in Cheney as well.
- A number of youth who attend Odyssey Youth Center (OYC), a Pride Foundation grantee, use the transit system to get to OYC after school. Many of the youth have parents that are working and unable to take them, and for others their parents are unaccepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, so they are forced to use public transportation to go to OYC. In addition, some families don’t have a car, making public transportation the only option for youth.
- Many individuals living with HIV/AIDs are without a car and depend on the STA to get the medical attention they need, to buy groceries, and to maintain a good quality of live.
- Low income people and people of color are more likely to rely on the transit system to get to work and the grocery store.
- Homeless youth need a cost efficient way to get around.
Pride Foundation recognizes that this ballet measure would have a positive impact on many LGBTQ people and allies—particularly those who are invisible and vulnerable because of being economically, racially, socially, geographically, or politically disenfranchised. For these reasons, we have endorsed Proposition 1 to eliminate barriers and provide resources that many in our community depend on.
What happens if Proposition 1 doesn’t pass?
Spokane Transit Authority receives 70% of its budget from sales tax revenue, which is still suffering from the recession that began in 2008. A decline in purchasing power from the local population meant a sharp decline in STA’s budget and an inevitable downsizing of public transportation. As a result, STA was forced to cut bus routes and their number of employees.
If this proposition is rejected, board members would consider further reductions in service beginning in 2017 (however STA would maintain current levels of service through 2016 while other options are explored).
More information about STA Moving Forward:
STA Moving Forward is the result of a three-year planning process that explored increased demand for transit services throughout the Spokane region; “We heard lots of testimony from citizens about the current high demand for transit in the region, and we heard about the importance of growing the system to meet the transit needs of the future,” said STA Board Chair, Amber Waldref. Since 2009, ridership has grown by 44 percent and 2014 was the highest ridership year since 1953, with approximately 11.3 million rides.
The goal of STA Moving Forward is abundant access to buses, leading to more choices and more mobility. The funds raised from Proposition 1 will prevent a 25% cut in current transit operations and build new service throughout Spokane County. This will raise about $280 million dollars over ten years, representing 106,000 new hours of service every year. It also includes over $120 million in new public construction projects that will generate work for the building trades.
Projects and service increases from this ballot measure are spread all over Spokane County, including City of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, and the West Plains, in addition to the City of Spokane. Included in the package is the new Central City Line, a modern electric trolley and Spokane County’s first new transit mode in decades. If built, this project will leverage tens of millions of dollars in competitive federal money to Spokane—creating even more jobs and making Spokane an even greater place to live.
STA Moving Forward benefits all of us! Even if you never ride the bus, we all benefit from a great transit system. For more information, please visit the STA Moving Forward website.
I hope you will join Pride Foundation and consider endorsing STA Proposition 1. Click here to endorse.
Gunner Scott is Pride Foundation’s Director of Programs. Email Gunner.