The C-Tran Board of Directors on Tuesday made official a pilot program that will allow a limited number of low-income students to receive free bus passes this school year.
The board approved an interlocal agreement that formally spells out the Youth Opportunity Pass program it had endorsed in August. The city of Vancouver and Evergreen Public Schools have already approved the same agreement. Vancouver Public Schools is scheduled to consider it during the district’s board meeting later this month.
The program launches Nov. 1. At that point, passes are ready to go out “within a matter of days,” said Scott Patterson, C-Tran’s director of planning, development and public affairs.
The one-year program allows up to 1,500 qualifying middle school and high school students in the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts to receive passes.
Eligibility is determined by school staff, in part based on the students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Roughly half the students in the Vancouver and Evergreen districts fall into that category.
Though the program is available only to Vancouver and Evergreen students, recipients can use the pass to travel throughout C-Tran’s C-Zone — basically anywhere the transit agency serves within Clark County. That includes a handful of routes that also connect to Portland. The pass won’t, however, allow free transfers to other systems such as TriMet.
Supporters of the program hope it expands to other Clark County school districts in the future.
“My vision … is after a successful year, we would roll this out to the entire county,” said Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen, who floated the idea earlier this year.
The program aims to help low-income students who might have difficulty getting to after-school jobs or activities and can’t afford to use public transit. It earned unanimous support from the C-Tran board on Tuesday.
“This is a very good program, and I strongly support it,” said Clark County Councilor David Madore.
Conference date set
C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm also briefly updated the board on the upcoming transportation conference that could change C-Tran’s boundaries.
The first meeting of the public transportation improvement conference will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, in the Columbia Room of the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Hamm said.
Clark County councilors voted in September to convene a public transportation conference with the stated goal of expanding C-Tran’s boundaries to cover the entire county.
C-Tran currently collects sales taxes within Vancouver’s urban growth boundary, plus the incorporated areas of Battle Ground, Camas, Washougal, Ridgefield, La Center and Yacolt. People who live within those areas — about 80 percent of the county’s population, according to C-Tran — vote on C-Tran tax proposals.
The transit agency’s legal counsel has told the C-Tran board that the planned Oct. 27 gathering is only the first step in a long, complex process. In 2005, for example, the same process spanned at least four meetings from January to May of that year, according to records. The 2005 process reduced C-Tran’s boundaries from countywide to its current area during a period of financial turmoil for the agency.