Sunday, January 16, 2022
Jan. 16, 2022

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In Our View: Growing The Vine

Bus rapid transit project survives court challenge, now deserves support

The Columbian

After four years of planning, construction is due to launch later this year on C-Tran’s bus rapid transit project.

Called The Vine, the project will serve 34 curbside stations along a six-mile route, linking Westfield Vancouver mall with downtown Vancouver destinations. It will replace two current bus routes — No. 4, C-Tran’s most popular, and No. 44.

Instead of conventional buses, C-Tran is buying 10 extra-long hybrid buses. The buses are 60 feet long and will be hinged in the middle in order to make it around corners. Each vehicle can hold about 100 people.

Rather than stepping up into the bus, the buses will have low floors and curbside stations will be elevated, so it will be easy for people to walk aboard — or to roll a stroller or wheelchair.

Because the vehicles will be faster to load, C-Tran reckons each trip between the mall and downtown will take 10 minutes less than the 30 to 35 minutes it does now. Service will be frequent — six buses per hour at peak times, and at least four buses per hour at all times.

Once it’s built, the new system should cost less to operate than the buses it will replace.

Like any other large public works projects these days, The Vine is not without those who would like to clip it. Clark County Councilor David Madore has been in the forefront of government critics, and 19 of his allies sued C-Tran to stop the project. Last week, Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson ruled for C-Tran, dismissing the suit and presumably clearing the way for construction to begin as contemplated.

We understand why some people don’t like The Vine. As in most of the West, Vancouver is a car culture. It’s typical for households to have one vehicle per licensed driver. The city was designed to make driving easy, and walking hard. But not everyone drives, or chooses to drive. About 6,000 people ride the No. 4 bus every day, according to C-Tran. That’s more than 2 million riders a year.

And despite the potential to save on operating costs, opponents are quick to point out The Vine will be expensive to build. C-Tran expects the total construction cost to reach $53 million. That total includes the vehicles; the boarding platforms; relocating the Westfield Vancouver transit station from the north to the south side of the mall; associated sidewalk, crosswalk and bike lane improvements; and an expansion of the transit agency’s maintenance facility. The federal government is paying 80 percent of the cost; the rest will come from C-Tran’s savings accounts.

Finally, the paranoia that the project has something to do with reviving the defunct Columbia River Crossing project has generated some of the opposition. This comes despite the fact there is no project funding, no design team, no political support and generally no appetite to revisit this big project. Yes, The Vine would have complemented the CRC. But it now stands on its own.

Given that reality, it’s time for leaders to come together to nurture The Vine. The project has received all of the necessary vetting, both at the federal and local levels. The plans are complete. The money is in place. The court has ruled in its favor.

Perhaps the critics will be right. There might be cost overruns, or construction delays. The operating savings may not be as much as anticipated. Maybe the name will be so confusing that people will think it’s a garden store. But years of careful planning suggest otherwise. It’s time to give The Vine a chance to flourish.