In an unexpected move, the C-Tran Citizens Advisory Committee (CCAC) voted 8-3 Thursday night against recommending C-Tran’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). The 12-member citizen panel withdrew support over changes to the route and costs estimates. Last week, the Clark College Board of Trustees was asked to approve the BRT plan, and withheld approval in favor of more information and time to review the project.
Testimony from audience members as well as new information provided to the panel from Chuck Green, C-Tran’s BRT Project Manager appeared to shift the panel’s long-held support of the project.
One rider observed that newer 40’ C-Tran buses have fewer seats (39 vs. 47) and more narrow aisles. He objected to BRT bus stops in the middle of the road that require riders to cross a street as more difficult and poses a higher accident risk, especially for those with physical challenges. Audience member Margaret Tweet testified that the proposed BRT plan indicates significant on-board time savings. Ms. Tweet testified that in riding several bus routes in town she discovered that significant time savings could be experienced if riders were required to off-board from the back of the bus; allowing for on-boarding riders to load at the same time (instead of waiting for passengers to exit the front of the bus). She testified that C-Tran’s new buses allowed for level boarding, as the new buses lower themselves to sidewalk level to easier access to wheelchair and other disabled riders. Further, she testified that the new buses were spacious enough to accommodate wheelchair riders and questioned the need to spend significant amounts of money on new buses, when current buses already provided the necessary service.
Audience member Tiffany Couch, a local forensic accountant, testified that if she were a member of the panel she would ask questions regarding the feasibility of C-Tran’s projected ridership numbers. Ms. Couch testified that C-Tran’s own plan called for 19.2 million riders by 2030, an increase of over 200% from the last decade’s average annual ridership of 6.4 million. Ms. Couch testified to the panel that if C-Tran’s ridership numbers were not realized, neither would their revenue numbers. If revenue projections failed, then C-Tran would be forced to make decisions between current levels of bus service and making debt payments on costly BRT and LRT plans. Ms. Couch also informed the panel that the costs (and funding sources) to build the BRT system and operate and maintain the system in the future have not been provided by C-Tran. Ms. Couch urged the panel to call a “time out” to the process to ensure answers to these significant questions could be understood before moving forward.
Chuck Green, C-Tran’s BRT project manager presented the panel with a PowerPoint presentation on the highlights of the plan. Green explained that updated cost projections are based on the year 2035, and that ridership is too low to extend BRT east past Vancouver Mall. Previously, the panel recommended a BRT route extending east on 4th Plain to 121st Street. Green reported mixed responses from area businesses, with some driveways impacted. He stated that expected federal funding of 80% of the cost to build the system appears unlikely, and a 70% federal contribution is possible, but not guaranteed.
Lisa Rasmussen, Senior Rider Representative and committee chair, tabled other agenda items to allow a more in-depth discussion about BRT. Several panel members expressed concern that C-Tran’s numbers and plan had changed considerably. Kevin Keay, Vice-Chair of the panel and non-ambulatory rider, expressed concern that under the BRT plan, “critical stops would be lost.” Debbie Hansen, Bi-State Commuter Representative, expressed concern that the panel’s original recommendation to extend BRT to 121st Avenue had not been brought forward. She indicated that she “could no longer support” the project and had “no trust of ridership numbers or finances”. She went on to say that “$55 million was too much to approve without having more information.” Non-rider representative Dawn Rhoads stated she was unconvinced about the finances, and liked the lower cost TSM alternative. Harry Kiick, Fixed Route Rider, indicated that the changes were “minor” and that “if the cost savings were true” then he supported the BRT.
Three alternatives have been studied for the 4th Plain Corridor, and a Locally Preferred Alternative may be selected by the SW WA Regional Transportation Council on June 5 and the C-tran board on June 12. The options include:
1) No Build-maintaining existing bus service levels,
2) Traffic System Management– Low cost improvements such as signage, lighting, signal management, crossings or more frequent regular bus service. Costs for TSM have been estimated at $12 Million
3) Bus Rapid Transit, estimated at $50-55 Million. Key features include:
- 60’ articulated hybrid bendable buses with capacity about 100 riders, estimated cost = $1 Million each. Current 40’ buses have a capacity of 50-65 riders at a cost of about $400,000- $617,000 each
- Level boarding through raising sidewalks. Current buses kneel to the curb for near level boarding using a ramp or lift for wheelchairs,carts, or riders who need a boost.
- Ticket machines at bigger bus stops under the honor system. Current ticket sales are at transit centers or on board buses by drivers. Some bus stops are covered and others are not.
- Island bus-stops in the middle of the road are proposed in some areas at an estimated cost up to $7 Million, along with curbside running buses in other areas.
- Priority traffic signals for busses to allow them to go first. (Either BRT or TSM could include this.)
- Bikes inside the bus. Current bike racks on C-tran buses hold 2 bikes.
- Wheelchairs and scooters self parked vs. currently strapped in by bus drivers- limit of 2 per bus.
- BRT promotes speeding service by fewer bus-stops and possible time savings to board buses.
Next Step: The Regional Transportation Council is slated to vote on the C-Tran alternatives next Tuesday, June 5, at 4 PM at the County Service Building. Public comment of 3 minutes per person is scheduled for the beginning of the meeting.
Public Service Center
1300 Franklin Street, 6th floor
Vancouver, Washington 98660
Citizens may also e-mail comments to the RTC Board at firstname.lastname@example.org