C-Tran will offer free shuttle service to the Clark County Fair this summer in an effort to boost dwindling transit ridership to the event.
The C-Tran Board of Directors unanimously approved the change on Tuesday, eliminating the $2-per-person fare to the fair this year. Officials hope the move will attract more riders to a service that has seen its numbers fall sharply in the last decade due to several factors.
With free service this year, “we believe we will see a significant ridership increase,” said Scott Patterson, C-Tran’s planning, development and public affairs director.
In 2005, C-Tran’s shuttle service to the fair boasted a total ridership of more than 44,000 trips. C-Tran increased the fare in 2008, and by 2012 ridership had fallen to slightly more than 15,000 — a decrease of more than 60 percent. Last year, C-Tran shuttles carried 17,701 trips to and from the Clark County Fair.
Despite efforts to provide incentives to take the bus, many people simply find it more convenient and cost-effective to drive and pay $5 to park at the fairgrounds, according to C-Tran.
Providing free service this year will result in an estimated $9,000 to $15,000 loss in cash to C-Tran, according to the agency. But board members all supported the proposal, calling it a good thing for fair-goers and for the fair itself.
“There are lots of reasons why this is mutually beneficial,” said Clark County Councilor Jeanne Stewart.
There aren’t currently any plans to expand the free shuttle service beyond this year’s fair, Patterson said. C-Tran will use it as an “experiment” and evaluate its success, he said.
This year’s Clark County Fair runs from Aug. 7 to 16.
BRT acquisitions OK’d
The board also approved the first batch of property and easement acquisitions for a planned bus rapid transit system on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.
The acquisitions include a handful of small parcels on Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard and Fort Vancouver Way. Only three include full property acquisitions; the largest of those is just 862 square feet, according to C-Tran. The rest are only temporary construction easements.
C-Tran’s bus rapid transit line, to be known as The Vine, will stretch between the Westfield Vancouver mall and downtown. The system uses larger vehicles, raised boarding platforms and other features to move passengers more efficiently and reliably.
The Vine will replace C-Tran’s existing No. 4 and No. 44 routes on Fourth Plain. The $53 million system is scheduled to start construction this summer and be up and running in late 2016.
According to C-Tran, the cost of the acquisitions approved Tuesday will be no more than $61,710, which is included in the project’s overall cost. Additional acquisitions will follow as the project moves closer to construction.
The properties will be transferred to the city of Vancouver, which is consistent with other C-Tran bus stops on public right of way, said project manager Chuck Green.