C-Tran staff unveiled a wide-ranging list of proposed service changes this week, including the establishment of a fixed-route bus line to Ridgefield and the consolidation of some of the agency’s express service routes between Vancouver and Portland.
Chief external affairs officer Scott Patterson and senior planner Taylor Eidt gave an overview of the proposal during a C-Tran board of directors meeting Tuesday. The slate of changes is the first major overhaul package in some time, Patterson said, because the agency didn’t want to make any permanent service updates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The slate of changes is preliminary, Patterson said, and will go through a public outreach and feedback process over the next two months, including open house events and virtual engagement platforms. The schedule calls for a public hearing Sept. 14, with final board approval Oct. 12 and implementation in January.
The changes are a mix of service expansions and reductions, Patterson said, and as a result they won’t require an increase beyond the current total number of funded service hours in C-Tran’s budget.
The first big proposed change is an overhaul of C-Tran’s Connector service, which currently includes both regular scheduled stops and on-demand pickups within designated areas, providing a way for remote Clark County residents to reach the agency’s fixed bus lines.
The existing service zones include parts of Camas and Washougal, Ridgefield, La Center and Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood. Residents within a zone can schedule individual rides on a first-come, first-served basis or catch a ride at a scheduled time and location such as the Junction Park & Ride lot east of Ridgefield.
The proposed changes include increasing the daily operational timespan for Connector Service in all of the current zones to 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., expanding the Camas and Washougal zone to cover the entirety of both city limits and adding new service zones at the Port of Vancouver and Salmon Creek, including the WSU Vancouver campus.
The change would also see the service switch from a dial-a-ride model to an app-based booking system, and it would eliminate the fixed-stop schedule in order to free up vehicles for on-demand, point-to-point rides — a system that Patterson and Eidt referred to as Microtransit.
“Microtransit is really the modernization of our existing Connector program,” Eidt said.
Rides to nearby destinations outside of the designated zones would also be allowed in order to let riders connect to fixed-route bus services.
The proposed Ridgefield route would connect the north county city to the 99th Street Transit Center in Salmon Creek, running north along Interstate 5 and exiting at Pioneer Street.
After exiting, the route would first head east to make a stop at the Junction Park & Ride lot, then cross the freeway and head west, turning around at the North Royle Road roundabout and making two stops along Pioneer Street on the way back to Interstate 5.
“Our Ridgefield service is intended to support much of the significant new development that we’re seeing in Ridgefield, particularly around the Discovery Ridge area,” Eidt said.
The new line was one of two updates proposed under a category that Patterson and Eidt referred to as “local changes.” The other was the addition of a new stop on Route 74 near the intersection of Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard and Northeast 159th Avenue.
“This is one of the most frequently requested destinations that we have received as of late,” Eidt said.
La Center councilmember Doug Boff asked whether similar expansion plans could be on the horizon to bring fixed-route service to La Center. Patterson replied that La Center would benefit for the moment from enhanced Connector service, and that C-Tran expects to see ridership growth as a result.
“We’re going to be able to track that very closely,” he said. “Assuming something like that does happen and comes together like we think it will, then we could be in a position of doing something similar for La Center in the not-too-distant future that we’re doing for Ridgefield today.”
The proposed package of updates includes several changes to C-Tran’s Vancouver-to-Portland Express routes under the label “matching Express routes to demand.” Several of the changes are similar to the temporary adjustments that C-Tran put in place during the pandemic, essentially making them permanent.
The proposal would discontinue Route 177, which runs from the Evergreen Park & Ride to downtown Portland via Interstates 205 and 84, as well as Route 157, which runs from the 99th Street Transit Center to Portland’s Lloyd District via I-5. Service on Route 177 has already been suspended during the pandemic, and service on Route 157 has been reduced.
It would also seek to consolidate the lines in the Interstate 5 corridor by combining Routes 134 and 199, which normally run to downtown Portland from the Salmon Creek Park & Ride and the 99th Street Transit Center, respectively. The combined line would stop at both Clark County locations. The two lines have already been temporarily combined to follow that route during the pandemic.
The rest of the proposed Express changes differ from the current pandemic adjustments, which have included temporary reductions on Routes 105 and 164. Route 105 runs from the Salmon Creek Park & Ride to downtown Portland, with stops at the 99th Street Transit Center and downtown Vancouver. Route 164 runs from the Fisher’s Landing Transit Center to downtown Portland via I-205 and I-84.
The proposed changes would lengthen the operating hours of those two routes, with service running from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both routes and adding midday trips for Route 164 with 60-minute frequency (Route 105 already has midday trips). Both routes would aim for 20-minute frequency during peak morning and evening hours.
The plan would also alter Route 105’s path through downtown Portland by exiting I-5 at the Rose Quarter and crossing the Steel Bridge to reach the transit mall, in order to better serve Portland’s Pearl District and Old Town Chinatown areas.
“That change will also help us make use of a number of transit priority infrastructure and lanes that the city of Portland has recently put into place,” Eidt said.