In Our View: Tighter Focus on BRT Plans

Citizens advisory committee supports specialized-bus system on Fourth Plain

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When it comes to public outreach, C-Tran officials might be working on some kind of record with the bus rapid transit system that’s being studied for the Fourth Plain corridor. Various representatives of the agency have appeared at 59 local meetings since Feb. 16, 2011.That’s an average of about one meeting per week in which the evolving BRT project has been explained to neighborhood associations, open house gatherings, merchants associations, government bodies and a wide assortment of other public events large and small.

No one can justifiably claim that C-Tran is not keeping the public informed about BRT and the proposed route from Clark College to the Westfield Vancouver mall and on to Northeast 121st Avenue, just beyond the main route north to Battle Ground.

Last week brought another step toward a modern, specialized bus system, this one taken not by C-Tran officials but by local citizens serving on the Corridor Advisory Committee. Yes, it’s only an advisory group and, yes, the major decisions will be made by the C-Tran board of directors. But after many months of detailed analysis and complex deliberations, the citizens’ learning process is paying dividends. Last week the committee indicated its support of BRT by forwarding two forms of the new transit system to the C-Tran board of directors. The citizens’ committee generally supports using all curbside stations, or combining curbside and median stations along the proposed BRT route. Earlier this year, the Corridor Advisory Committee decided against putting dedicated bus-only lanes on Fourth Plain or Fort Vancouver Way at the college.

Both of the endorsed plans carry distinct advantages. Using only curbside stations is favored by business owners on the committee. Combining curbside and median stations for BRT could also expand and streamline passenger-delivery and reliability far beyond current standards. That second option, though, would require BRT vehicles to make at least one lane change along the route.

Which option is best? We’ll leave that up to the transportation experts and citizens serving on the advisory committee. Already, though, we’ve seen encouraging progress, a winnowing process that starts with a high-altitude perspective, then a tighter focus as possibilities are studied and eliminated.

The advisory committee also favors a phased plan, building a BRT system to Northeast 121st Avenue, and in later years extending it to Northeast 162nd Avenue.

The stakes are high. Passengers and businesses along Fourth Plain deserve a much more efficient transit system than is available today. The cost is high, too, from $40 million to $55 million with as much as 80 percent covered by federal grants.

Kudos and thanks to the citizens who have stepped forward to serve on the advisory committee. Their work is invaluable. Gratitude is also extended to C-Tran for commissioning ambassadors to make presentations at 59 meetings in 15 months.

An excellent source of information about the local BRT proposal can be found at http://c-tran.com. Click on “Fourth Plain Transit Improvement Project.”