Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Dec. 7, 2022

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Work begins on C-Tran Mill Plain Vine bus route

By , Columbian staff writer

Construction has begun on C-Tran’s Mill Plain Vine project.

The bus rapid transit line, which has limited stops and easier boarding, will stretch along Mill Plain Boulevard from downtown Vancouver to a planned Mill Plain Transit Center at 184th Way. C-Tran estimates the $50 million project will take about 20 months to complete.

“For us, the construction isn’t quite as intense as it would be if (the buses) were in their own dedicated guideways,” said Shawn Donaghy, chief executive officer of C-Tran. “It’s a lot more nuanced stuff at the stops. Where we’ve selected locations, there’s a fair amount of work we have to do to make sure there’s bike and pedestrian access and safety measures in place for the bus to be able to safely sit in that area for a while.”

Construction will be similar to work done creating the Fourth Plain Vine corridor, with safety measures like crosswalks involved.

“It certainly will be a little bit of a pain for folks that are in the vicinity of the stops, but not nearly to the extent there would be on a full scale (bus rapid transit), where we’d have to dedicate that space and segment that from the actual roadway,” added Donaghy.

Traditional bus rapid transit systems set aside lanes for the buses, but a “light” version of the system is preferable for Vancouver because of the land use and displacement required to add additional bus rapid transit lanes, said Donaghy.

C-Tran is also working with the city of Vancouver to install about 10 miles of fibre cable along the route. There’s currently a break in fibre across Interstate 205.

Daytime construction

Heavy construction at the stops will happen from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. During that time, there will be flaggers and single lane closures at the sites. The lanes will be reopened each evening.

Because Mill Plain is so wide, C-Tran doesn’t expect significant issues. There will be a couple of weeks when a portion of the roadway near the stations will be closed as new pavement and sidewalks are curing.

Construction will happen at different locations at different times, starting on the west end of the corridor before moving east later in the year and into 2023.

The first phase includes stations at Seventh Street at Turtle Place, eastbound at Evergreen Boulevard and C Street, eastbound at Fort Vancouver Way, westbound at Reserve Street, eastbound at V Street, eastbound at Grand Boulevard, eastbound at Brandt Road, westbound at Garrison Road, westbound at Andresen Road, westbound at 97th Avenue and westbound at Evergreen Boulevard and Broadway.

“You won’t see everything under construction at once,” said Eric Florip, assistant manager of customer experience and communication at C-Tran.

The Vine stops on the Mill Plain route will look nearly the same as those on the Fourth Plain route, though the shelters will have more wind screens to better protect passengers from the elements.

When the Fourth Plain Vine opened, C-Tran saw a quick and significant increase in ridership from the bus route it replaced. Ridership increased 45 percent in the line’s first year and kept increasing for the next few years. That increase, said Donaghy, is not normal in public transit.

“We’re certainly hoping to replicate that success on Mill Plain,” said Florip.

“That’s a reflection of the quality of the service,” he added. “If more people want to ride it, it means you’re doing something right.”

Growing system

C-Tran plans to open subsequent Vine routes after the Mill Plain route, starting with one on Highway 99. But bus rapid transit is just part of C-Tran’s scope.

“We have an entire network of local and regional and commuter routes that we’re always looking at and looking to improve,” said Florip. The agency just launched a bus route to Ridgefield, for instance.

“It’s the system working together that makes the bus rapid transit work,” said Donaghy.

Still, there are many advantages to bus rapid transit, said Scott Patterson, chief capital projects and planning officer at C-Tran. One is the near level boarding, which can cut boarding time in half for passengers using wheelchairs or other mobility devices. The Vine buses also have signal priority over cars at a some intersections, dispersed boarding at multiple doors and indoor bike storage.

“The time the bus is parked at a station is far less than the time that a regular bus is at a fixed route stop,” said Patterson. That, he added, speeds the trip up and provides for greater reliability.

Bus rapid transit also runs buses more frequently than fixed route buses.

“Overall, operationally it’s more reliable,” said Patterson. “It’s going to be a faster trip.”

After the Vine was completed on Fourth Plain Boulevard, passengers saved about seven minutes on the ride from Vancouver Mall to downtown Vancouver.

Patterson pointed out that there are more amenities, including real time passenger information and real time arrival information, that comes with bus rapid transit, which have improved passengers’ experiences.

The agency found on its Fourth Plain Vine line that people were willing to walk farther to catch The Vine than a fixed route bus.