Updated: Jul 19
If you’re wondering what the worst things about Spokane are from someone with an outsider's perspective then this article is for you.
My name is Phil Wells, I’m a real estate agent right in the heart of the city of Spokane. Unlike some people I am not interested in painting an artificially positive image of something, I prefer telling it like it is. There are some things about Spokane that I don’t like and some things that I find just plain annoying. I want you to consider me as an honest resource when it comes to relocating to Spokane so here is my take on things.
I'm going to cover the 5 things I like least about the city. These are the things that stood out to me the most when I first moved in 2019 as well as things I have discovered along the way. I’ve also included a bonus item at the end so stick around to see what that is. Let’s get into it.
The Roads in Spokane
The first thing I don’t like about Spokane are the roads. Now i’m not just talking about the road surfaces but also the layout of the roads themselves - let me explain.
In terms of the road surfaces it’s common to find tire ruts in the road, pot holes and sudden edges to the asphalt. Essentially the city just doesn’t look after them as well as they should. During the 2020 lockdown the city does seem to have doubled it’s resurfacing efforts but they are still playing a massive game of catch up and will be for a number of years it seems. There is a major project under way to completely resurface the section of i90 through Spokane, they’ve done a great job on the section they’ve done so far and I hope they continue with these efforts as it’s badly needed.
In terms of the road layouts themselves, the first thing you should know is that Spokane is an older city that doesn’t benefit from a modern grid system. Every junction and intersection is slightly different and unique. It’s the same with on ramps, sometimes you have a long on ramp to join the freeway sometimes you only have 50 feet to transition from a 30 MPH road to a 60 MPH freeway.
Another thing I don’t like about the roads here are the one way systems. You’ll find these primarily in the downtown area and for the most part they aren’t an issue. However, during peak times it can be very difficult to make your turn when for example, you are in the far left lane and need to cut across 4 lanes of busy traffic to find your turn in the far right lane. I have missed my turn more than once and highly recommend traveling with navigation so it can re-route for you if necessary.
Job Prospects in Spokane, WA
Now, I moved out here and became self employed selling real estate so while I don’t have first hand experience of looking for a job here. However, I’ve met a lot of people in my line of work and have made an effort to get out and meet people so I have a pretty good idea of what the situation is like in Spokane.
Spokane is not what’s considered a primary market. There are no major businesses that call Spokane home and there are a lot of people that rely on the hospitality and retail industry for employment.
Having said that, the medical industry in Spokane is one of the largest sectors here and is thriving with people traveling from the surrounding regions just to use the hospitals. There is also a major AFB base here that is expanding.
In addition, Amazon has opened a fulfillment center here. Spokane also has the 5th largest aviation industry in the US and there has been constant talks about the aviation industry here receiving a boost from the likes of Boeing and recently the city has even bid to be the home to the the Space Force Command.
Spokane is home to a lot of great universities so the city has a well qualified workforce. There is also a ton of space around the city that could be prime locations for large corporations in the future - for example the proposed Boeing plant would be a 1200 acre facility near to the airport. There aren't many cities with this much land to play with.
In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before Spokane becomes an economic center in it’s own right but right now it just isn’t. People are moving here and there are more jobs coming but don’t move here expecting to land a six figure tech job on day one, not just yet at least.
Outbound Travel From Spokane
Right now the Spokane airport is not a hub. It is technically an international airport because it has some flights to and from Canada but there are limited direct flights to top destinations in the US meaning you’ll likely stop off in somewhere like Seattle before traveling on to your final destination.
There is so much space around the Spokane airport to expand and as the city grows I can foresee this situation improving as the demand improves and it begins to make economic sense for airlines to put on more direct flights across the USA and across the globe.
Here is a list of current direct flights from Spokane:
Boise, Idaho – BOI
Chicago, Illinois – ORD Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas – DFW Denver, Colorado – DEN Las Vegas, Nevada – LAS Los Angeles, California – LAX Minneapolis, Minnesota – MSP Oakland, California – OAK Phoenix, Arizona – PHX Portland, Oregon – PDX Reno, Nevada Sacramento, California – SMF Salt Lake City, Utah – SLC San Diego, California – SAN San Francisco, California – SFO San Jose, California – SJC Seattle, Washington – SEA
Also, unless you’re only traveling as far as Coeur d'Lane by car then expect to spent 4-5 hours in the car before you get somewhere major like Seattle or Portland.
Parking in Spokane, WA
There are relatively few malls in Spokane and there’s a lot to see and do downtown. That means that at busy times, especially the weekends parking can be difficult at these places. You need to get there early to guarantee a parking spot or risk navigating the one way streets for a while to find street parking.
Christmas 2019 was my first Christmas in Spokane and it really sticks out to me as being a particularly bad shopping experience, there were a couple of weeks where I just couldn’t park anywhere and ended up online shopping to get what I needed instead.
I really wish there was a destination mall with tons of parking to free up these areas. Maybe there’s something on the horizon, who knows.
Drugs & Homelessness in Spokane, WA
On to the final point - this is one I see frequently mentioned in my comments so I wanted to address it head on - drugs and homelessness. There are hard drugs in Spokane that much is obvious to anyone that runs a quick google search or someone that visits downtown frequently.
This type of drug use has a direct relationship with homelessness and property crime - both of which are unfortunately above the levels of where they should be this city.
Everyone is going to have their own experience and story to tell when it comes to this but here is my personal experience and my opinion on the issue.
I drive around this city a lot. I’m willing to bet my job takes me to more places around Spokane than almost any other job with the exception of maybe an Uber driver. While driving in my car I have never had issues with pan handlers, homeless people or tweakers.
To put this in context, I recently visited downtown LA drove around the homeless tents and encampments there and I felt very unsafe there waiting at red lights. So, from my perspective at least, the situation in Spokane isn’t awful. There are some areas where the problem is worse than others.
I do feel for the homeless population, absolutely, I even volunteer occasionally at a homeless shelter to try do my part. But the city needs to address this issue head on before it becomes a major issue that drives people and businesses away from downtown.
Here is my advice on how to steer clear of any issues in Spokane:
Join your neighborhood ring.com app or equivalent so you can get the facts on what’s going on in your neighborhood terms of crime. Where I live in Spokane and right now we’re seeing opportunistic crime like package thieves and thefts from unlocked vehicles.
Be mindful to keep everything locked and don’t leave anything valuables on display in your car.
Basic common sense would suggest that you should be sensible about where you visit after dark - being drunk wondering around downtown on your own at 2 am isn’t a great idea in any city. Spokane is no different.
In short, look after yourself and your things, be sensible about where you choose to visit and when and you’ll have no problems. I have lived in 8 different cities in my life in 2 different countries and I can honestly say Spokane doesn’t worry me at all. I’m comfortable going running, cycling, visiting downtown and leaving my vehicle unattended almost anywhere. However, I will always exercise basic common sense to keep myself and my property safe and you should too.
Final Thoughts on the Worst Things About Spokane
Even with it's downsides, Spokane is an awesome place to live and work. It’s the city I call home and it’s not perfect! Just like any other city you may come across.
This was my personal perspective on the things I don’t like about Spokane; let me know the things you don’t like about the city below in the comments.
Like I said my name is Phil Wells, I’m a real estate agent in here Spokane as well as North Idaho. If this blog has sold you on moving to Spokane, and why wouldn’t it, then please reach out to me if you have any questions.
I would be honored to work with you to help you find the right property to call home.