More than any other single issue, Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot will be about maintaining Clark County’s high quality of life. It’s not about expanding the local transit system (just preserving it), and it’s certainly not about light rail. Yes, Proposition 1 is about a tax increase: a two-tenths of a percentage point increase in the sales tax, or two pennies on a $10 purchase. But without that increase, the projected cuts in C-Tran and C-Van (for people with disabilities) services are unacceptable.
Although The Columbian typically opposes tax increases during this lingering economic crisis, we recommend a “Yes” vote on Proposition 1 to prevent those dramatic cuts and protect our community’s efficiently managed and highly valued transit system. If Prop 1 fails, C-Tran’s board of directors anticipates these actions:
Did you know?
• Proposition 1 will be decided by voters in C-Tran’s service district, which includes Vancouver and its urban growth boundary and the city limits of Camas, Washougal, Battle Ground, La Center, Ridgefield and Yacolt. Ballots will be mailed on Oct. 19 to 226,042 voters, or 81.5 percent of registered voters in the county.
Eliminate Sunday bus and C-Van service. This would be a dramatic loss particularly for people who have no other form of transportation (about 30 percent of current C-Tran passengers).
Eliminate 12 weekday bus routes and two Saturday routes. This would sharply impact businesses whose workers and customers use C-Tran, schools and colleges whose students ride transit system buses, even people who never use C-Tran but don’t want to see more cars on the roads.
Eliminate all special event and holiday service. Many people use C-Tran only once or twice a year. Numerous passengers insist C-Tran’s shuttle buses are the best way to get to the Clark County Fair. Those services would be cut.
Reduce commuter service. Getting workers to and from jobs in Portland is one of the most valuable services C-Tran provides.
Weekday and Saturday service (C-Tran and C-Van) would start later and end earlier, creating havoc for many people’s work and school schedules.
Reduce C-Van’s service area to within three-fourths of a mile of fixed-route service.
Prop 1 would generate about $8 million to $9 million annually to preserve services that are threatened by loss of state funding and imposition of federal mandates. It’s important to know, C-Tran operates 20,000 fewer annual service hours than in 1999, serving a population that increased by about 100,000 residents in that time.
Has C-Tran worked to contain costs? Among those efforts, almost three dozen staff positions have been eliminated. Has C-Tran expected more from customers? They have increased fares five times in five years and, yes, passengers pay about 25 percent of the cost of that ride. But C-Tran might have to go higher, much higher, in the future.
Do not be deceived by Prop. 1 opponents who incorrectly associate this ballot measure with light rail. None of this revenue will go to light rail. C-Tran’s board of directors likely will present another ballot measure to voters in the fall of 2012 related to operation and maintenance funds for light rail. In Clark County, light rail is an emotional, cultural and political issue. Prop. 1 is far different; it’s about facts and fiscal matters.
Some critics assail C-Tran for asking for a tax increase. We don’t see it that way. With Proposition 1, C-Tran is simply presenting voters with a choice: Do we want to preserve vital transportation services? Or do we want sharp reductions?
The people of Clark County — the best place in America to live, work and play — deserve a high-quality public transit system. Vote “yes” on Proposition 1.