Clark County Commissioner David Madore stopped by the Battle Ground City Council meeting Monday to make his case against committing more money to -C-Tran’s bus rapid transit system.
The controversial plan has drawn criticism from some C-Tran board members, chiefly Madore, who argues the project is too expensive. Madore addressed the council in hopes of swaying Councilor Bill Ganley, who represents Battle Ground and Yacolt on the C-Tran board, to vote against giving the project at least $6 million more in reserve funds next month.
“This BRT system, it’s highly supported by the C-Tran staff, but there is a significant cost to it above and beyond what the current service is now,” Madore said.
C-Tran plans to build the $53 million BRT line along Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor from downtown to the Westfield Vancouver mall. The system would also serve Fort Vancouver Way and Clark College, and a separate route would shuttle riders between Portland and downtown Vancouver, replacing the No. 4 and 44 buses.
Instead, Madore advocates letting TriMet take over the proposed BRT service area between Portland and downtown Vancouver. The move would save money for C-Tran and allow the board to lower bus fares, he said.
Last month, the board voted to raise fares for the seventh year in a row. The new rates will take effect in September, and board members expect it will raise an additional $63,000 each year.
“Every time that happens, we end up having fewer bus riders,” Madore said.
In April, the C-Tran board voted 5-3 to authorize additional design work along Fourth Plain and dedicate $200,000 more to the project. Ganley abstained from the vote, saying he wasn’t sure how his fellow councilors felt about BRT.
C-Tran plans to buy 10 buses at about $1 million apiece for the Fourth Plain corridor routes, which could be operating as soon as 2016. The agency says the buses would be larger with raised boarding platforms and other features to move riders along faster, and they would be cheaper to operate.
Most of the project’s funding — $39 million — would come from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts program, according to C-Tran. But that money won’t be available until local funds have been committed.
Deputy Mayor Philip Johnson told Madore he sees the BRT proposal as an issue for Vancouver and the county to debate, and it does no good for Battle Ground councilors to get in the way.
“I’m of the attitude that we let Vancouver and the county, if they wish, fight this out and we sit out and watch from the ringside,” Johnson said.
Mayor Shane Bowman asked Madore to provide the councilors with more information about his counterproposal before they make a recommendation to Ganley heading into the vote next month.