C-Tran lays out cuts if Prop. 1 fails

12 weekday lines, Sunday transit, other services rely on voters’ choice

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter



Not every public-transit-riding student at Washington State University’s Vancouver campus has paid much attention to the Nov. 8 election — despite Robert Chu’s best efforts.


C-Tran has identified 12 weekday bus routes that could be eliminated if Proposition 1 fails (2010 total ridership in parentheses):

• No. 2 Lincoln (46,366)

• No. 3B City Center (119,177, ridership includes both 3A and 3B routes)

• No. 9 Felida (61,560)

• No. 19 Salmon Creek (94,255)

• No. 35 Tech Center (27,061)

• No. 39 VA/Northeast 87th Avenue (49,697)

• No. 41 Camas/Washougal Limited (5,281)

• No. 44 Fourth Plain Limited (98,758)

• No. 47 Battle Ground Limited (6,324)

• No. 105 I-5 Express (152,115)

• No. 157 Lloyd District Express (29,392)

• No. 177 Evergreen Express (23,923)

Source: C-Tran

Chu, who is visually impaired and can’t drive himself, is a frequent rider of C-Tran’s No. 19 route. That’s the only line that directly serves the WSUV campus, and one of 12 weekday routes that could be eliminated if voters reject Proposition 1 next month, according to C-Tran.

Chu is a recently finished WSUV student who still makes his way back to campus often because of his connections to student government. He’s also a volunteer with the campaign supporting the measure.

“All of student government is aware,” he said, “because I have made them aware.”

Prop. 1 would bump C-Tran’s sales tax rate by 0.2 of a percentage point, boosting funding to maintain the agency’s basic service, according to C-Tran leaders. The measure would bring C-Tran’s local sales tax to 0.7 percent from 0.5 percent, an extra 2 cents on every $10 taxable purchase for consumers.

The tax hike would raise an additional $8 million to $9 million to keep existing bus service intact, along with the federally required C-Van service for disabled riders. C-Tran is currently spending part of its reserves each year, and has faced continual financial troubles since losing much of its state funding in 2000.

Should the measure fail, C-Tran has said it will need to cut total service by about 35 percent to make ends meet.

The process to come up with the long list of proposed cutbacks was anything but quick, said C-Tran public affairs director Scott Patterson. It wasn’t as simple as crossing off the 12 least-used routes, he said.

“A lot of those reductions are to service that is very productive and very important,” he said.

Proposed service cuts include 12 weekday routes, two Saturday routes, and all Sunday service. All service on holidays and to special events such as the Clark County Fair is on the chopping block. C-Van’s service area would also be curtailed as fixed routes pull back their reach.

To come up with that list, a planning committee used low-ridership routes as a starting point, Patterson said, keeping in mind an obligation to reach C-Tran’s entire service area as well as possible. That’s what would keep the relatively little-used Ridgefield and La Center connector service, for example, in operation but reduced.

People there are “still paying sales tax,” Patterson said. “You still have to have some coverage out to those areas as well.”

The most-used route on C-Tran’s list of possible eliminations is the No. 105 I-5 Express, which carried more than 150,000 riders last year. The No. 44 Fourth Plain limited route, at nearly 100,000 riders on one of Vancouver’s most crowded corridors, would also be eliminated. But the agency’s busiest routes — No. 4 on Fourth Plain and No. 37 on Mill Plain, each with more than 1 million riders in 2010 — would stay mostly intact.

Five of the 12 weekday routes that connect to Portland would be eliminated under the draft plan. C-Tran buses would still reach Jantzen Beach, Parkrose and downtown Portland.

Eliminating all Sunday service likely kept other routes off the elimination list, Patterson said. Having all drivers stay home means dispatchers and other support staff don’t have to report to work, either, he said.

“C-Tran would literally close down for a day at that point,” Patterson said.

Prop. 1 opponents have pointed to C-Tran’s reserve account, which was over $40 million late this summer, saying the agency needs to use its assets more efficiently. C-Tran officials have said upcoming commitments and continuing deficits will make available reserves run dry and force cuts by 2013.

Voters convincingly approved a C-Tran sales tax hike in 2005, after a failed attempt in 2004. But this year’s measure comes in the midst of a still-shaky economy and opponents say people can’t afford another tax increase.

Camas resident Dave Lattanzi has helped the campaign for both Prop. 1 and the 2005 measure. It’s tough to gauge public support this year, he said, but putting a public agency’s finances under the microscope is a good thing regardless.

“Any time you ask the community for money, you’ve got to show that you’re doing a good job with your dollars,” Lattanzi said.

Lattanzi said his 26-year-old son would be directly impacted by C-Tran’s proposed cuts. Lattanzi’s son, who has Down syndrome, takes the Camas connector service to his janitor job five days per week, he said. That’s one of the routes on the elimination list.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; www.twitter.com/col_enviro; eric.florip@columbian.com.