C-Tran’s board earlier this week approved the basic outline for a bus rapid transit line along Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard from downtown Vancouver to just west of Southeast 192nd Avenue — an early step in the process that will allow the agency to start more detailed design work on the bus line, which could open by 2023.
The line would travel along the Mill Plain corridor from a new transit center near 192nd Avenue to downtown Vancouver via East Evergreen Boulevard. It would be the city’s second bus rapid transit line, following The Vine, which travels along the East Fourth Plain Boulevard corridor.
The “rapid” in bus rapid transit comes from added efficiency.
For C-Tran, that means The Vine uses 60-foot buses as opposed to 40-foot buses. Passengers pay before boarding as opposed to when they step on, and the buses can jump in line at some intersections thanks to special traffic lights.
The Vine along the Fourth Plain corridor goes from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Mall. The line replaced Routes 4 and 44, and according to C-Tran, led to a 45 percent increase in ridership, 89 percent drop in late departures and 12 percent shorter travel times in 2018.
Riders took 1.3 million trips aboard The Vine in 2018, up from 1.1 million the year prior. Route 37 along Mill Plain Boulevard saw about 776,000 trips in 2018.
The Mill Plain bus rapid transit route and basic design, called the locally preferred alternative, were planned following about a year of advisory committee meetings and public comment gathering. Initial work on outreach and making a general route plan was budgeted to cost $1.5 million, agency spokeswoman Christine Selk said, but C-Tran so far has spent $850,000 on the first phase of the project.
The next phase of the project will include additional, more detailed design work, environmental review and permitting. In February, the Federal Transit Administration authorized C-Tran to move forward with project planning.
C-Tran’s board on Tuesday also approved a $4.5 million contract with engineering firm HDR, Inc., for further project development work.
Selk said C-Tran estimates the project will cost less than $50 million
The Vine cost about $58 million to build, with about $7 million of that from local funds. C-Tran staff expect to use a similar combination of local and grant funds to pay for the Mill Plain line.
“The Mill Plain BRT project will deliver on our mission of connecting people to opportunities, supporting economic vitality and enhancing quality of life in this great community,” C-Tran CEO Shawn M. Donaghy said in a news release. “We’re grateful to the board, the Federal Transit Administration and all of our partners as we advance this project and build on the success of The Vine.”
Construction could start in 2020 or 2021, according to C-Tran, with operations possibly starting in 2023.