C-Tran to offer low-income student pass

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

Published:

 

A limited number of low-income students in Clark County will receive free bus passes this school year under a pilot program approved Tuesday by the C-Tran Board of Directors.

The program will allow up to 1,500 qualifying middle school and high school students in the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts to receive the passes starting next month.

Eligibility will be determined by school staff, based in part on the students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. That’s roughly half the students in both the Vancouver and Evergreen districts.

The one-year program was crafted by C-Tran, the city of Vancouver, Evergreen Public Schools and Vancouver Public Schools. Bart Hansen, Vancouver city councilor and C-Tran board member, advocated for the idea earlier this year.

“This could be the start of something very big,” Hansen said Tuesday. “I think this is going to be something great for the youth in our communities.”

Students who receive the pass will be able to use any C-Tran route within Clark County. It also will grant access to local community centers during non-school hours, according to C-Tran. The program aims to help low-income students who can’t afford to use public transit and might have difficulty getting to after-school jobs or activities.

Passes will be distributed through the school districts. The pilot will start Sept. 1 and continue through Aug. 31, 2016, according to C-Tran.

The 1,500 student passes that could be given away in the coming year are valued at $511,500, according to C-Tran. But the program isn’t expected to require additional resources or costs from C-Tran, said Executive Director Jeff Hamm. The agency may, however, lose a relatively small amount of revenue from some of the schools and students who currently buy bus passes and may choose not to if they receive one through the pilot program, Hamm said.

Hansen said he’d like to see the program expanded if it’s successful this year. Transportation remains a huge challenge for many local youths, he said.

BRT contracts approved

The C-Tran board also approved a series of contracts — including two major construction contracts — for the agency’s planned bus rapid transit system in Vancouver.

Emerick Construction of Happy Valley, Ore., will build an expanded maintenance facility at C-Tran headquarters to accommodate the larger vehicles and other needs. Battle Ground-based Tapani Inc. will build nearly three dozen stations along the project corridor. The two contracts total more than $26 million, according to C-Tran.

Other items approved Tuesday included a set of property acquisitions along the project corridor and utility relocation work.

The $53 million bus rapid transit line, known as “The Vine,” will run between the Westfield Vancouver mall and downtown. The enhanced bus system uses 60-foot articulated buses, raised boarding platforms and other features in an effort to move passengers more efficiently and reliably.

Scott Patterson, planning, development and public affairs director, told the board Tuesday that C-Tran will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for The Vine on Aug. 24 in downtown Vancouver. The line could open in late 2016, according to C-Tran.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; twitter.com/ericflorip; eric.florip@columbian.com