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Spokane Faces Big Decision on Future of Transit

Spokane, Washington may be at a crossroads as voters consider expanding the city's urban transportation system. Some say it's key to attracting young workers and building a walkable urban environment. Others see it as a waste of money.
May 16, 2016, 10am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Tracy Hunter

This November, voters in Spokane, Washington will have the opportunity to vote for an increase in the sales tax to fund a raft of transportation projects including a new bus-rapid transit system. John Robert Smith of Transportation for America, writing on the Opinion Page for the Spokesman-Review, advocates for the need for better mass transit as a means for attracting and retaining young workers who might otherwise look elsewhere. Noting the downward trend of millennials driving cars, Smith writes that cities are now competing to create the urban, walkable neighborhoods that attract a wide range of jobs and workers. Smith notes:

In “Core Values,” a study my organization conducted on the movement of companies across the country relocating to downtowns, businesses reported that current and potential employees want neighborhoods with restaurants, cafes, cultural institutions, entertainment and nightlife as well as easy access by public transportation.

...

Bus rapid transit done right can bring economic benefits akin to more expensive light rail systems, but at a lower price – a great recipe for midsize cities that aren’t quite ready for rail-based transit.

In a follow-up to Smith's opinion piece, Randall O'Toole of the Cato Institute argues against the sales tax increase as a waste of funds to be used by the Spokane Transit Authority to do "projects promoted by the federal government." O'Toole also argues that the success of Portland in attracting young workers has less to do with its light rail system and more to do with its abundance of microbreweries.

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, May 8, 2016 in The Spokesman-Review
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