Spokane’s Sustainability Action Plan

At their June 28 meeting, on a 5-2 vote Spokane’s City Council adopted the Sustainability Action Plan produced by Mayor Verner’s Task Force on Sustainability. This document addresses climate mitigation, climate adaptation and energy security—all timely topics—and presents an action plan with strategic recommendations. Notably, Avista’s Roger Woodworth and STA’s Susan Meyer were part of the 13-member task force that developed the Plan.

Two of the Plan’s eight strategies rightfully list the desirable role transit-oriented development (TOD) will play with respect to promoting clean mobility (Strategy #3) and also enabling optimal land use (Strategy #4), citing reasons discussed at length on the InlandRail website.

Without elaboration here—no need; check out the voluminous documentation available on InlandRail’s website—it is well to note the importance the Action Plan places on TOD’s positive roles. Consequently, it is also well to understand the need to closely and critically compare Avista/STA’s active promotion of electric bus rapid transit with the electric light rail transit model promoted by InlandRail (at least for the east-west corridor), and those modes’ demonstrated historic roles (or lack thereof) in fostering both near- and long-term, healthy, real and sustainable TOD. 

In the final scheme of things, any comparison of the long-term viabilities of BRT and LRT must include and ultimately boil down to their respective economic impacts. In a recent Spokesman-Review guest editorial, InlandRail’s board president, KC Traver put it well:

“Now STA is proposing a major investment in a cheaper version of transit that mimics light rail. It’s called bus rapid transit. In their report, Marketek and Applied Economics also concluded, ‘…while Bus Rapid Transit can be as effective in relieving congestion as light rail, there is little evidence that it supports or stimulates the same level of transit oriented development.’

So if we deferred light rail, which is an economic engine, because we don’t have a congestion problem, why would we invest in bus rapid transit, whose strength is congestion relief but isn’t an economic stimulus?”

Indeed! KC has hit the nail on the head.

One Response to “Spokane’s Sustainability Action Plan”

  1. Donald Cain says:

    I wholeheartedly concur with KC Traver’s assessment of BRT v LRT. Our community is desperate for sound economic development projects. LRT will improve the quality of life for the region. The interface of a LRT system with a downtown streetcar project provides the kind of infrastructure improvement that will take the region to the next level of accessibility, sustainability, and smart growth.

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