In our view: BRT — Too Early to Decide

C-Tran, citizens advisory committee ponder ways to improve Fourth Plain

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Twenty years ago, you could ride a C-Tran bus from the mall to downtown Vancouver in about 30 minutes. Now it takes an average of about 45 minutes, and about a third of the buses are running at least five minutes late.Various factors conspire to create this growing problem, not the least of which are the increase in local population (by more than 140,000 people since 1992), the growth of Clark College and the nearby veterans hospital, plus the surge in traffic along Fourth Plain to current daily totals of up to 23,000 vehicles. This is C-Tran’s busiest corridor, with bus Routes 4 and 44 the most crowded in the system.

C-Tran believes there’s a better way, and it’s looking more and more like that better way is Bus Rapid Transit or BRT. The Columbian remains open-minded and uncommitted on BRT, and we recommend that attitude for local residents, too. Until we know which of BRT’s myriad components might be included in a final plan, and how much that’s going to cost, and how much of that burden will be carried locally … any verdict would be conjecture at best.

But those numbers in the first two paragraphs scream to us that BRT is worth studying, and we salute both C-Tran and a very active citizens advisory committee for putting BRT under the microscope. Two weeks ago, the committee considered three configurations for a BRT project stretching from the Westfield Vancouver mall to downtown Vancouver. The exact route is starting to take shape, to include Fourth Plain Boulevard and Fort Vancouver Way.

We also like the fact that public outreach has been vigorous, and that will continue with two public meetings in coming weeks: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 14, at the Clark Public Utilities Community Room, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way; and 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at the C-Tran offices, 2425 NE 65th Ave. Although open-mindedness and curiosity are recommended for now, there clearly are pro- and anti-BRT factions mustering these days. Whether you belong to either camp, or remain properly and temporarily neutral, attending one or both of those meetings would be a good idea.

Enhanced public awareness would be beneficial because the pace of the planning is about to increase. As Eric Florip reported in Tuesday’s Columbian, the citizens advisory committee could pick a preferred plan as soon as May, and a proposal could go before the C-Tran board in June.

What that proposal might be is anyone’s guess, but three possibilities are (1) BRT vehicles with mixed traffic in the right lane; (2) BRT vehicles in the left lane with boarding stations in the median; and (3) a restricted right lane open only to BRT vehicles and business access. Florip reports that the citizens advisory committee is moving away from using dedicated BRT lanes on Fourth Plain, but such a plan could be determined the best option for college-related traffic along Fort Vancouver Way.

For now, when it comes to BRT and C-Tran, the quest for knowledge should overshadow the stoking of passion. There’ll be plenty of time later for competing campaigns. Let’s first answer the crucial questions and increase the light before turning up the heat.