Bus rapid transit plan taking shape

Citizens advisory committee studies C-Tran analysis of Fourth Plain corridor

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Step by step, plans for a proposed bus rapid transit line on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor are coming into clearer focus.

C-Tran earlier this month presented a detailed analysis of the busy thoroughfare to a citizen advisory committee helping shape its future. Two weeks ago, the group looked at three possible configurations for Fourth Plain itself. Thursday, another meeting will focus in part on Fort Vancouver Way near Clark College.

Public meeting

• Who: C-Tran’s Fourth Plain Corridor Advisory Committee.

• What: A proposed bus rapid transit system for Vancouver’s Fourth Plain and Fort Vancouver Way corridors.

• When: 4 p.m. Thursday, March 29.

• Where: C-Tran administrative building, 2425 N.E. 65th Ave., Vancouver.

• Later: C-Tran will also present a BRT update to the Vancouver City Council at 4 p.m. Monday, April 2.

The analysis aims to find a way to ease congestion on one of the city’s most crowded corridors. Looking to bus rapid transit, or BRT, puts C-Tran and Southwest Washington in uncharted territory, said project manager Chuck Green.

“This is the first study of bus rapid transit of its kind in this region,” Green said. “This is the first detailed corridor analysis.”

BRT works by mixing several features — larger vehicles, raised boarding platforms, specialized signals and dedicated bus-only lanes among them — in an effort to move passengers more smoothly and reliably. If installed in Vancouver, the system would replace C-Tran’s No. 4 and No. 44 bus lines.

C-Tran leaders have moved away from using dedicated bus lanes on

Fourth Plain. But that option remains on the table for Fort Vancouver Way.

Planners have zeroed in on three possible options for Fourth Plain. One would put BRT vehicles with mixed traffic in the right lane. The second would run them in the left lane — a plan that would also put boarding stations in the median. The third option would put BRT vehicles in a partially restricted right lane, open only to buses and business access.

New figures show the entire system could cost $45 million to $55 million, according to C-Tran. The left-lane BRT option could add an additional $5 million to $7 million to the price tag.

Those costs assume the system would stretch from downtown Vancouver to about Northeast 121st Avenue, said C-Tran public affairs director Scott Patterson. Planners have considered going as far east as Northeast 164th Avenue.

At Fort Vancouver Way, the committee has also considered possible routes to send a BRT line through the veterans’ hospital near Clark College. But heading straight down Fort Vancouver Way directly from Fourth Plain appears to be the more cost-effective option, said Bob Williamson, the college’s vice president of administrative services and a member of the advisory committee.

The committee could pick a preferred plan as soon as May, Green said. The agency hopes to put a proposal before the C-Tran board by June.

“Things are moving very fast,” Green said.

C-Tran is banking on federal money to cover about 80 percent of the cost to build the system. Operation costs may be up to voters — the agency has indicated it will pursue a sales tax ballot measure in November, which would also help maintain light rail should it come to Vancouver.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviroeric.florip@columbian.com