Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Jan. 18, 2022

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C-Tran argues it’s within legal authority on BRT

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

C-Tran, responding to a lawsuit filed by a group of citizens last month, insists that it is within its statutory authority in pursuing and building a bus rapid transit system in Vancouver.

The lawsuit, filed by 19 plaintiffs in Clark County Superior Court, argues that C-Tran is unauthorized to receive federal funding for BRT without first receiving voter approval. In 2012, voters soundly rejected a sales tax hike that would have helped pay for the system, plus a light-rail extension planned as part of the now-defunct Columbia River Crossing project.

The plaintiffs argue that C-Tran is unauthorized to spend sales tax revenue on BRT under RCW 81.104, the state’s high-capacity transit law. The lawsuit also argues that C-Tran’s BRT project is inconsistent with the agency’s long-term plans.

In a response filed this week, -C-Tran argued that its BRT project is not considered a high-capacity transit system under state law, though officials long described it that way in earlier planning stages. The transit agency also said the BRT project preserves C-Tran service, and therefore can use funds from voter-approved tax increases in 2005 and 2011. Those sales tax measures were characterized as necessary to avoid cuts to C-Tran’s basic bus service.

But even if BRT couldn’t use those funds, C-Tran would still have “more than sufficient revenue” to cover the project’s expenses without it, according to the response filed by law firm K&L Gates, which represents C-Tran.

The transit agency declined further comment.

Despite the pending litigation, C-Tran has continued planning the $53 million system, which would stretch between the Westfield Vancouver mall and downtown primarily along Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor. The system would use larger vehicles, raised boarding platforms and other features in an effort to move passengers more efficiently and reliably.

The C-Tran Board of Directors in July voted to spend $6.7 million in local funds on the project; most of the cost is expected to be covered by a federal grant. Construction is scheduled to start as soon next year, and the system could begin operating in 2016.

The project has continued to advance over the objections of a few C-Tran board members, but has enjoyed the backing of many residents of the corridor and the Vancouver City Council. Among the opponents who filed the lawsuit are several Republican activists and at least two former legislative candidates.

The BRT line would replace -C-Tran’s existing No. 4 and No. 44 routes along that stretch. C-Tran has said BRT would cost less to operate each year than its current service there. Fourth Plain is C-Tran’s busiest corridor.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter