By Brandon Rapez-Betty
Spokane Transit Authority Communications & Customer Service Director
Some of the best life advice is to enjoy the small things, of which I lump those cool moments of petite serendipity in downtown Spokane. When they happen, relish the experience, share it with others, and look forward to it again.
Serendipity is simply an unplanned fortunate discovery. Infrequently used and often misunderstood, storytellers tend to relate this exotic word with magnificent outcomes like once-in-a-lifetime love or completely unexpected wealth. In our weighty world, however, I think it’s better to seek and appreciate the smallest gems of joy wherever they happen to present themselves.
Set apart from the many well-known downtown attractions we and our guests regularly enjoy, I’m talking about petite serendipity, those micro-experiences of urban satisfaction you weren’t expecting.
These moments are unique to each person, and perhaps I’m easy to please, but here are a few serendipities that wowed me and earned themselves a little spot on my “I heart downtown” list:
- Feeling a bit uneasy entering the very small and dark Baby Bar for the first time, then suddenly realizing what a fantastic secret den I had just discovered.
- Questioning the cost of a lobster sandwich at High Tide Lobster Bar, then never questioning it again after my first bite.
- Hurrying across downtown to another meeting, only to learn I got to add another notch to my tally of “downtown buildings entered.”
- Looking down at the Falls from the Monroe Street Bridge during peak flow, in awe that I could feel the mist all the way up there!
- Being invited to a downtown art show, then having my mind blown at the scale of Terrain.
Don’t feel robbed of these surprises if you have yet to experience them on your “downtown adventure” list. There are countless chances to encounter petite serendipities when you open yourself up to new opportunities and experiences.
A whole new variety of such opportunities will present themselves in 2022 when Spokane Transit begins service on the City Line, our region’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route featuring five-door, zero-emission electric buses and 33 streetcar-like stations along the six-mile route between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College via downtown and the University District, including Gonzaga University.
It’s important to avoid confusion here. The City Line project itself couldn’t be further from petite serendipity. It’s been planned for more than a decade and is a huge deal for the region and downtown in particular.
Paid for in large part with competitive federal funding and state grants, the $92 million infrastructure project (significantly more affordable than a rail project) is a major investment in downtown land value, maximizes transit efficiency in and around downtown, incentivizes infill development near the permanent stations, plays an important role in regional transportation equity, and is a key strategy in mitigating parking demand in the downtown core. Very. Big. Deal.
Those important benefits are all from the macro-level perspective. Within the larger project, the City Line’s service frequency, modern features, and distinct branding open the gates for a flood of unplanned fortunate discoveries by downtowners who avail themselves to the new service at times when it can meet their needs.
During morning and afternoon rush hour (we call that peak service in the transit world), City Line buses will come every seven-and-a-half minutes. Even during most off-peak hours, buses will come every 10 to 15 minutes.
For someone who doesn’t use transit for fear of not knowing the schedule, your unplanned fortunate discovery happens when you realize you don’t need a schedule; just walk to the elevated station platform and check out the content on the digital monitors for a few minutes until the next bus arrives. If you really need to know the exact arrival time, STA has you covered with digital real-time bus information online and at the station.
I’ve heard some people avoid public transit because they are intimidated by the boarding process. Through which door do I board? Can I use cash? Do I have to have a ticket? Where do I put the ticket? How do I signal the bus to stop?
Imagine the small but memorable, rewarding surprise when you learn how convenient and easy it is to ride the City Line. With mobile ticketing, transit customers can manage transit fares online and use their phones to pay when they board. And just like light rail or streetcar, the stations are elevated to enable near-level boarding so customers can simply walk or roll on through any open door (on the left side of the bus at some stations).
Even if you don’t end up using the City Line right away, your petite serendipity can be when you realize this modern transit infrastructure is in downtown whenever you need it.