Vancouver’s C-Tran, one of the largest suburban transit agencies in the state, will open its bus rapid transit system, “The Vine“, on Sunday, January 8, during a weekend of celebrations.

It is the first bus rapid transit system in the Portland region, and has been over a half-decade in the making. The $53 million project was funded with a $38.5 million federal grant, state contributions, and $7.4 million in local funds from C-Tran, using reserve funding after a sales tax increase was defeated at the ballot. Opponents tried to stop the project with a lawsuit, arguing that BRT did not meet the legal requirements of high-capacity transit that was specified in the ballot text. Next City has a nice write-up of the project’s troubles and general history.

The Vine will operate more like Community Transit’s Swift than Metro’s RapidRide, featuring a wider variety of traditional BRT features. Stations are spaced a third of a mile apart, with only 17 pairs on the 6.7 miles from Downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Mall. Platforms are raised to be level with buses, which have three doors for boarding and three interior bicycle racks for roll-on boarding through the back door. Payment is done off-board, with ticket vending machines at all stations; the Portland region’s new Hop Fastpass fare card will debut next year and C-Tran is one of the launch agencies, so integration with The Vine is expected soon. Sections of Fourth Plain Boulevard, where The Vine runs, will have transit signal priority to help speed up bus travel through the corridor by as much as 10 minutes, despite remaining in mixed traffic.

Fourth Plain is currently served by route 4, and formerly by route 44, which will be replaced by The Vine in January. Replacement of the two routes, among the agency’s most popular, is expected to cost less to operate for C-Tran. The two routes also continued to a transfer with the MAX Yellow Line across the river at Delta Park, which will instead be served by a “frequent cross-river shuttle” from Downtown Vancouver.

77 Replies to “Vancouver’s “Vine” BRT Begins Service January 8”

  1. “The Vine in January. Replacement of the two routes, among the agency’s most popular, is expected to cost less to operate for C-Tran, thanks to savings in .”

    Savings in what?

  2. Fourth Plain is currently served by route 4, and formerly by route 44, which will be replaced by The Vine in January. Replacement of the two routes, among the agency’s most popular, is expected to cost less to operate for C-Tran, thanks to savings in .

    Not that I don’t occasionally have the same issues when posting something here, but there seems to have been a few missing words at the end of that sentence.

    The two routes also continued to a transfer with the MAX Yellow Line across the river at Delta Park, which will instead be served by a “frequent cross-river shuttle” from Downtown Vancouver.

    This is good news. We can hope that this gets reasonably well integrated with MAX schedules so there isn’t a significant wait time at the Delta Park station.

    It would also be nice if something could be done with the Janzen Beach stop. It can be a fairly busy location so you can’t skip it outright, but it also adds a huge amount of delay for the buses to get off the freeway, serve the several stops, and then get back on the freeway. Picture the 512 or something trying to serve Northgate Transit Center.

    The whole thing really needs to be rethought in terms of how the service works.

    Unfortunately, the old solution was to have TriMet service cross the river (formerly bus route #5, replaced by Interstate MAX). With Clark County opposing MAX expansion into Vancouver, yet Vancouver itself passing the MAX expansion initiative, there doesn’t seem to be too much hope for a really good solution.

    However, be that as it may, MAX really needs to go as far as Janzen Beach. The mall there used to be a pretty busy stop on the 5.

    1. Glenn,

      The shuttle is already operating; the #4 was cut back to a downtown loop a few weeks ago. The shuttle stops at Jantzen Beach only in the “off-peak” direction. So, in the morning it stops northbound and in the afternoon and evening southbound. Folks traveling from Vancouver to the Island have to ride through Delta Park one way or the other. This means that Jantzen Beach has effectively lost its MAX connection.

      But that isn’t really C-Tran’s responsibility.

      And, like the #4, the shuttle is absolutely scheduled to co-ordinate with MAX. However, since the MAX trains don’t meet at Delta Park but rather at Kenton/Denver Ave, the folks trasferring in the off-peak direction usually have to wait for ten minutes.

      1. Thanks for the information.

        There’s also the 6:

        It doesn’t connect to MAX but it at last goes south.

        It should also probably be pointed out that C-Tran has a host of express routes that are operated across the river too, so it isn’t as if the MAX + shuttle + Vine is the only way people will have to get around. If you are going between major destinations over a long distance, chances are you will use one of those.

      2. The only C-Tran express which runs any time other than the peak is the 105 to downtown Portland. Mid-days, evenings and weekends it’s bus to Delta Park and MAX from there.

        My last four years of contracting were at Nike, and my usual commute was car to 99th Street TC, 199 to Alder and then sprint to Pioneer Place or if the train was already crossing Fifth, to Pioneer Courthouse Square. Then I got to relax on MAX to Nike. (Hey! That’s a good jingle: “Stew behind the wheel or Relax on MAX?”

        For the first two years I was “behind the berm” so I rode to Beaverton Creek and took the shuttle or walked. The last two years were in 58 which is a four minute walk from Millikan. Now that was nice!

        Also, the Tek campus has some amazingly beautiful fall color! There’s one tree which was right by our window in 58 that turned apricot and has purple seed pods that hang on into the winter. What an amazing tree!

        If I had to work later than 6:00 PM because of some project, it took two hours to get home and four vehicles. Blue Line to Pioneer CHS, Yellow Line to Delta Park, #4 to downtown Portland and #32 or in those days #37 to the 99th Street. Now it would be #71.

        Now I admit that if I knew I was going to be late because of an upgrade or whatnot, I would drive to avoid that two hour return. But overall, I rode my talk while I battled the Deplorables on the Columbian website.

      3. About the #6. Yes, it reaches Hayden Island, but it no longer connects with MAX anywhere short of the Convention Center. That’s a long slow ride when there’s a train only a half mile away. But in the morning southbound and in the evening northbound, a train that can’t be reached.

      1. Same basic idea of people in Asotin County voting against the ability of people in Puget Sound to have Sound Transit tax authority.

      2. Or Spokane city and Spokane County.

        The Asotin comparison isn’t quite accurate because Clark Countians would be paying the tax and Asotin Countians wouldn’t. So the Clark County vote is a traditional tax revolt (“taxes are socialist/useless and we don’t need trains”), while the theoretical Asotin vote would be blocking other areas from raising their own taxes. It’s like a lot of people in Seattle want rent control but the state passed a law blocking rent control statewide. If that had been done by a statewide vote rather than by the legislature, it would be like the Asotin situation.

      3. True enough….

        …except people in rural Clark County usually just take Interstate 205 and cross the border to the shopping center by the Portland airport to avoid paying as much of the sales taxes as possible anyway.

        ….then complain about the fact that Clark County doesn’t have enough money to build higher capacity roads to connect them to I-205 so this is more convenient and less traffic filled for them.

      4. Well, the thing is that the C-Tran service area is a bit bigger than Vancouver itself and pretty much every retail outlet of any size is within it. So the Out Countians pay C-Tran taxes and get no service for it.

        Now the truth is that don’t want service. Their favorite memes are “Loot Rail” and “Crime Train” and they think pretty much the same thing about POBS as well.

        Clark County used to be pretty “union Democratic” but the influx of entitled, clueless chuckleheads from Orange County CA has pretty much ruined it politically except for the 49th LD which is “Old Vancouver”.

      5. If the government just deunionized the workforce and paid them minimum wage and had a belt tightening, there would be money for that third freeway east of 205 they want.

      6. Mike,

        Most people realize that the topography means that a full fledged freeway east of I-205 would either have to blast through downtown Camas or be laid on top of 192nd which has a lot of quite valuable real estate along it.

        So, they really don’t want a freeway per se, just “The East County Bridge” to Troutdale. I guess if you’re going up the Gorge or to Mt. Hood/Bend from Vancouver, it would be convenient, but as a commuter route it just pours more cars into overburdened I-84 (The Banfield) and I-205 southbound.

        What they want the Freeway is across Sauvie Island and through Cornelius Pass to Tech Wonderland. Can you say “Kablooey” to the Urban Growth Boundary?

      7. The big issue with a freeway through there is trying to get it through the West Hills. The big expensive houses on Skyline aren’t going to want a surface route, and the alternative is a tunnel.

        It’s going to be expensive and nobody is going to want to pay for it.

        The east side seems to have an awful lot of commuter traffic from the businesses on the east end of 84 around Troutdale and Gresham to I-205 going north. Those are probably the people that are wanting a new bridge on that end of things. It just moves the congestion point from Airport Road in Portland to the two lane section of Highway 14.

      8. Glenn,

        I don’t spend much time in East County so I’ll give you the stage on the connection between Troutdale and East County. I have seen that lineup on Airport Road to the east of I-205, so I expect you’re very right.

        So far as SR14, we are going to “double track” the chokepoint over the Washougal River slough. It was part of the gas tax increase project list last fall. I think it’s schedule for next year.

        And if that were what the East County bridge were really meant to handle, I guess I couldn’t complain much. But what it really means is that the plains north of Camas will be filled up within five years or its opening.

        If they’d knuckle down and use what is potentially a very nice potential urban place for something other than Madorite McMansions, yeah, I think it would be good. But there is no indication that the County or the developers want to do anything but make more sprawl.

      9. And, on the Westside Bypass idea, I fervently hope you’re right. Since your land-use laws in Oregon pretty much have ring-fenced Scappoose and St. Helens from becoming sprawlsvilles, the only people who would benefit from this boodoggle would be Clark County folks who work at Intel, etc. But you folks in Oregon would pay for it.

        It’s a bad deal for you and I would assert, a bad deal for Clark County, too. But people here are absolutely insane about wanting it.

        As if Intel were even going to accept their resumes.

  3. How frequent is this thing?

    In general, like the term “light rail”, the term “BRT” is a desperate attempt to describe something that really can’t be summed up in one term. This has level boarding, off board payment, wide stop spacing, and signal priority. However, it lacks any sort of busway to improve its speed in traffic. None of that means it is a bad idea, but it does mean it is hard to call it “BRT”. Maybe “streetcar style bus service” would be a better description. Or maybe it is useless to try to label things in the manner, and we should just judge each service based on the features it has. This has a lot of good ones, but I wonder if it is frequent, and I also wonder if it serves a popular area and how well it connects into other transit service.

    1. ‘Maybe “streetcar style bus service” would be a better description.’

      This sounds like it’s faster than walking, so that’s not an accurate description.

      1. Yeah, “streetcar style bus service” is distinctly less than helpful, in a world where most streetcars (including the ones in the metro area in question) are aggressively unconcerned with travel time and sensible stop-spacing.

        That very few American attempts at BRT are actually up to BRT standards is true, but that’s just what BRT now means in this country. It’s what we can do with buses, given the typical political constraints.

      2. But aren’t our streetcars, Roosevelt HCT and this bus route strikingly similar? Putting aside the horrible routes of our existing streetcars, the main advantage is off board payment, level boarding and signal priority. In other words, this is “streetcar style bus service” with a better routing (one would hope) — just like Roosevelt.

        On the other hand, there is a huge difference between the Madison and Roosevelt projects. Both will have off board payment, level boarding, signal priority and good headways. But one will be slower than driving, while the other one won’t. That is a very important distinction to a lot of people, which is why it is hard to lump them into the same category.

        But you are right — the term sucks. Maybe “Low dwell time bus service” would be better. There is great value in that, even though it is less than ideal. I’ve taken a lot of buses where that was by far the worst delay. It implies that it won’t ever be faster than driving, but still a lot faster than most buses.

      3. But aren’t our streetcars, Roosevelt HCT and this bus route strikingly similar?

        How so? Is Roosevelt HCT likely to have 1/3 mile stop spacing? Is VINE going to be slower than walking for most of the trips it serves?

      4. >> Is Roosevelt HCT likely to have 1/3 mile stop spacing? Yeah, more or less.

        But fair enough. As I said, the main difference is the routing (stupid or not). All three have low dwell times and none of them will be as fast as driving. But the main reason that our streetcars are slower than walking is not because of all the stops, but because the route is stupid. You really have to go out of your way to come up with a bus route (or streetcar route) that is slower than walking. Seattle managed to do it. I am a huge critic of streetcars, but I would hardly assume that this is a common characteristic of them (I would assume most streetcars are sent on a straight line through relatively uncongested areas or they actually do something about the congestion).

        So, basically, adding “low dwell time bus service” is fine, as long as the route makes sense. Of course the same is true for every bus route — its just that the stakes are higher once you’ve spend money reducing the dwell time.

      5. “Is Roosevelt HCT likely to have 1/3 mile stop spacing?”

        I think Metro said RapidRide stations will be every half mile to a mile, or half to three-quarters, and Local stops would be every quarter to a half mile but I can’t find confirmation of it. Express will be every one to two miles according to Metro’s LRP page 18. However since the city is building Roosevelt BRT it may have more say on how many stations and may put them closer together.

    2. Exactly, they’re lying about this being BRT the way King County lied about Rapid Ride, presumably to make it more politically palatable; It’s just another express bus like ours. However, Vancouver’s BRT is arguably worse than ours for they have no ROW lanes to work with at all.

      1. The problem I have is that this still might be worth the money. I wouldn’t call it BRT, but off board payment, level boarding and signal prioritization can make a huge difference. I am sure there are popular bus routes where traffic is not a huge problem, or solving it would cost a huge amount of money, but if you added all these things than it might make a huge difference. For example, the 48 won’t have a busway on 23rd, so you probably shouldn’t call it BRT. But if you had everything else, it would make the bus a lot faster, especially in the middle of the day (when traffic isn’t the biggest issue).

        But if you call that BRT, and people are stuck in traffic, it means that when you really propose something that actually is BRT (not stuck in traffic) people don’t feel like it is worth the effort.

      2. It’s not an “express bus”. Do you know what an “express bus” is? If not, here’s a useful definition. “Express service buses typically link two high activity centers or one high activity center and a suburban transit center, operating with few to no stops between the end points”.

        The Vine is nothing like that. It’s somewhat enhanced RapidRide because it will have pretty significant signal priority at every cross-street other than Andresen and true level boarding.

      3. Yeah, Anandakos is right. As I said above, Jarrett Walker called this “Rapid Urban Bus” ( Still a pretty vague term, but completely different than an express.

        The debate kind of reminds me of terms like “Crossover SUV”, which is a vague term meant to suggest that it is somewhere between a typical (big) SUV and a car. Their is no busway, so I wouldn’t call it BRT. But with off board payment, level boarding, signal priority, a moderately urban environment and decent headways, it sounds like a great improvement.

      4. I tend to think of express bus as the same route number w/ dramatically reduced stops between point A and B; it may be an activity or work center at point B, whatever it is. I just know that it tends to be quicker, or feel like an express based on my subjective criteria as opposed to an agency defined one:/.

        The Vancouver bus, like our Rapid Ride, appears to be a technologically advanced express bus as opposed to the regular buses w/ the off board payment and signal preference.

      5. East Coast,

        Ah, I didn’t really grok your handle. I can certainly see why you think of “express bus” the way you do. And for places like New York, Chicago and Boston, you’re absolutely right. They have what is essentially a RapidRide overlay on their biggest routes and call if “route blah-blah express”.

        My apologies.

      1. Hmmm, not horrible, but not exactly what you would call spontaneous. I wonder what it is like outside of peak? Seems a shame to spend all that money on level boarding and an off board payment system, then not have the kind of frequency that leads to great transfers or the elimination of a schedule. Of course off board payment means folks enforcing fares, and that is expensive unless you have high ridership. My guess is the area just isn’t dense enough to afford that.

    3. Every ten minutes. Fourth Plain at one time was a busy arterial, but it is now paralleled by SR500 so traffic isn’t a problem except at cross-streets. The Vine will have pretty heavy priority at nearly all the intersections between Thurston and Fort Vancouver Way. The primary exception is Andresen which have heavy north-south volumes, several times than of Fourth Plain. So it can’t be messed with.

      The other streets that Fourth Plain, except Grand, are mostly five or so blocks long on either side. There is a long creek/wetland about a half mile to the south and SR500 a half mile to the north, so there are few real cross-streets except Andresen.

      1. I’m obviously been infected by “Omission syndrome”.

        “which has heavy
        “several time that
        “The other streets that cross Fourth Plain”

      2. It’s not you, it’s the comments system. It also drops words for several of us. Usually I just leave it unless it makes the argument completely non-understandable or changes its meaning vastly.

    4. We shouldn’t encourage this by giving it a special term. It shouldn’t even be considered a distinct concept. Buses in streets are just buses, no matter how many bells and whistles they have.

      What we’re talking about is bus modernization: eventually, all urban buses will have off-board or mobile payment, low floors and hopefully even signal priority and exclusive lanes in high-traffic areas. So if we want any term for an early effort like this, it should be called a “modernized bus” or “bus modernization pilot”.

      1. This won’t just have low floors but also raised platforms so that there is no need ever for kneeling. They will also have the self-service constraints that Metro uses on RapidRides. This is a first use for the Portland Metro Area I believe.

        Well, except MAX of course which also has floor level platforms.

  4. Kudos to little, low density Vancouver.

    When taking the Amtrak to PDX, I often wonder when, if ever, they will work out a Sounder-like commuter rail system along the BNSF tracks into Portland. They could have stops further into Washington at Woodland, Kalama, and Kelso.

    A little transit oriented development around the stations to further induce demand.

    1. Kudos to little, low density Vancouver.

      Actually, it’s huge, low density Vancouver.

      Clark County sprawl consumes about as much physical space as Seattle to Snoqualmie does. (note the two links are to the map at the exact same scale)

      This is what happens when you have unlimited road building paid for by the rest of the state.

      1. Yeah, it looks surprisingly like Tacoma. I think it has a very different feel because of the history and the distance to the nearest city, along with the border change (Vancouver is much more of a suburban community). But surprisingly enough, Tacoma and Vancouver don’t look that different on the population density maps and both are about the same on average. Tacoma has a few more pockets (and even a few next to each other) but still not much. Both have huge swaths of sprawl or just plain low density housing.

      2. Ross,

        Vancouver is the oldest city in the Northwest. It pre-dates Portland by nearly 30 years, but lost out because in the informal “co-ownership” between Britain and the US before 1848, the Oregon side of the Columbia was “American” and the Washington side was “British”. You can do the math yourself which side grew fifteen times faster in the decade before 1848.

        Also, Portland has the wonderful port facilities the Willamette River affords. The Columbia along Vancouver’s waterfront is not so “approachable”.

      3. Actually, Vancouver is getting the waterfront that Portland should be building..

        True, highway 14 cuts off the city from a lot of the waterfront, but there is a trail that runs along the waterfront from I-5 to the edge of the old shipyard property. That new waterfront development with park west of I-5 will probably be better than anything we’ve got near our downtown.

        The planning once you get outside Vancouver isn’t so great.

      4. Glenn,

        Yes, the new waterfront development will be really beautiful and a genuine asset. But I don’t believe there will be much actual access to the water. The river is too variable for a beach; it would just get washed away in the winter high water.

    2. The BNSF is way too far from what population density there is. Even when one bridge was completely closed for a big emergency repair back in the 1990’s and Amtrak offered a free 20 minute headway shuttle, it was an abject failure. Five people rode per trip. I was one of them.

  5. Take a look at the comments on The Columbian web site from a year ago to see what C-Tran is up against.

    It will also be faster to make its journey because the busses [sic] on The Vine will be able to switch the traffic lights to operate in their favor – which means other road users’ trips will be delayed or disrupted as their green lights become red lights to let the bus through. The left turn lane that currently fills up with every cycle of the lights may soon overflow to block other lanes.

    Nope. Can’t encourage transit use. Giving people an option other than driving and using something else might make traffic worse.

    1. Yeah, tough crowd. What is crazy is that while this is a zero sum game for drivers, some of them come out ahead. If I’m next to the bus in the other lane, I will make that light. Besides, signal priority for a bus doesn’t work like an ambulance. The bus will probably have to stop if the light just turned green (because it does no one any good if traffic is screwed up as the article suggests). But if the light is about to turn red, it stays green a bit longer. It is a tricky dance, but one that works, and cities much bigger than Vancouver WA have used it successfully.

      But i guess this shouldn’t be that surprising. Folks move to Vancouver because they don’t like income taxes, which means they don’t trust the government. Signal priority will somehow screw up driving, while those commies ride buses (unlike real Americans, who drive).

      1. Yeah, that “this will be just like Boston’s big dig and other transit projects” comment is pretty telling.

        (The Big Dig was a highway project with a huge amount of road building, and this project just means making some bus improvements with almost no infrastructure changes.)

    2. Do buses get to switch signals in their favor- or is this comment-writer just fear-mongering? If this were KC Metro or ST, I’d be harder on the idea of pretending buses are fast and advanced because they look like rocket ships.

      Confined to regular traffic, why not just spend the money on more buses? For Vancouver Washington, though, especially since I don’t live there, no reason they shouldn’t have a new fleet of buses.

      The sight of them might encourage some positive action for the future. The lanes and traffic signals are already there, waiting for stripes and signal software reprogramming. Could also be a railroad spur or two with possibilities.

      But Glenn, help me out with question about Portland itself, and its relationship with its suburbs. Every time I visit Portland, I get the feeling that the center city is a prettier place than Downtown Seattle, and kinder to humans.

      Some beautiful parks. Also, always wondered why MAX seemed to go in so easily- if that’s really the case. Though also have the feeling that a few very wealthy old families gave a lot back to the city. Anywhere close?

      And also, some perspective about relations between Portland and the State of Oregon. But only if On Topic here. Curious, that’s all.


      1. Yep, Glenn is right. It’s green extension priority not ambulance- or fire-truck-style pre-emption. That said, it’s going to be pretty aggressive at most of the intersections. Andresen will not be treated; the north-south flow is too important to mess with. And Grand will get a more limited treatment. But all of the other signalized intersections, all of which except two go no more than a few blocks in either direction and are only barely “arterials” in any reasonable sense of the word (more like neighborhood collectors) will be aggressively green-favored.

      2. Just wait until they figure out that people need to cross the road to get to the bus, and therefore need to press a button to request a red extension. Then there will be traffic anarchy I tell you. Giving pedestrians sufficient time to do anything other than drive somewhere will be the absolute end of society as we know it.

        Except it hasn’t done so anywhere else on the planet, of course.

      3. Ooooohhh! Deep in the snark, Glenn!

        Actually, many — certainly not all and maybe not most, but many — of the beg buttons over here are “smart”. That is, if you hit the button within as many as fifteen seconds of the green for the direction you’re going — depending on how long the cycle is of course — the walk light will go on.

        When they redo an intersection they put such smart controller cabinets in. It’s nice, and people are pretty thoughtful about not turning in front of pedestrians on wide streets, which is also very nice!

  6. I don’t know anything about this area, but it sounds from the article like they’re stopping short of the routes they’re replacing by not connecting to MAX, splitting it into a “BRT” section and a “shuttle”. Is this actually a good thing to do? Does it just make a lot of popular trips into three-seat rides? Are there other routes from downtown Vancouver farther into Portland that mitigate this?

    It sounds like the benefit is isolating travelers that aren’t crossing the river from river-crossing delays, so if most of the passengers aren’t crossing the river, or if the riders mostly turn over in downtown Vancouver, maybe the split really helps.

    Unless the shuttle skips stops that existing service makes or is less frequent, it’s hard to see how a split wouldn’t increase operational costs. Splits usually increase operational costs, as they often overlap a little, and there’s a higher ratio of recovery time… but the article (and C-Tran’s FAQ) suggests cost savings! Any idea how that works?

    1. Read my comment above. The shuttle does operated differently from the old #4. It stops at Jantzen Beach only in the “off-peak” direction. It stops northbound in the morning and southbound in the afternoon so most riders transferring to and from the MAX have the optimum ride.

      This operation is also very popular with Vancouver merchants; they like the idea of making it a little harder to get to Jantzen Beach. However, people who work at the retail stores there and take the bus will have a commute about fifteen minutes longer.

    2. Someone else who knows the area better than me can correct me, but this sort of reminds me of Swift. That might be a tortured analogy, but Swift goes through some moderately dense areas with commercial areas along the way. But it doesn’t get you to downtown Seattle any faster. Same with this, which not only connects to some shops along the way, but also to the main commercial area of Vancouver.

    3. The split shouldn’t matter so much to the longer distance trips anyway, at least during peak hours. There are a number of C-Tran express routes that run into various parts of Portland.

      You would wind up using the three + seat ride if you were moving from local area to local area.

      This helps those getting from outer Vancouver into downtown Vancouver, and separating that traffic from the mess on I-5 is a good thing. Crossing over the river into Janzen Beach or to the Delta Park MAX station means getting on I-5 and getting stuck in that traffic.

  7. Classification is always a problem since we deal with a continuity rather than discrete categories. Is a car a compact or sub-compact, full-size or mid-size SUV, or a crossover? Is the Volt a hybrid? Is a plug-in hybrid an electric car? Etc.

    Similarly for BRT. But there are people working on a standard for classification. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) classifies BRT projects into Gold, Silver, or Bronze depending on how well they score on various metrics.

    I don’t see a score for RapidRide, but I’d hazard we merit a Bronze at best since we don’t have dedicated right-of-way, only partial off-board fare collection, and some signal priority. However, we do have platform-level boarding and reasonable service integration, service hours, headways, and on-time performance.

    1. I agree. But even then it sort of misses the point. The main thing is how this changes the debate. If people see BRT as like RapidRide (slow) they may not want to invest in it. I really could care less how something is graded on the ITDP standard, as long as the improvement is cost effective. Sometimes this means a “real BRT” investment, while other times it means just adding the things that this adds.

      I think we will encounter a classic example of this in a few years. Madison BRT is probably the only line that would even get a bronze. Regardless, the main thing is it will run in a very popular environment, with great headways (6 minutes all day) and fast speeds (faster than driving most of the day). RapidRide+ for the 48, on the other hand, will be similar (low dwell time, great headways) but very little will be done in the way of busways. It won’t be faster than driving. Now imagine you are trying to get to First Hill from the UW (a common trip). The transfer isn’t bad because the Madison BRT runs every 6 minutes. Getting to Madison isn’t bad because it isn’t that far, and you know the dwell times will be short. These projects are both worthy, even though one is probably silver level BRT and the other wouldn’t medal. None of that matters as long as we have an idea of what we expect to build, and don’t get obsessed with terminology.

      1. I’m guessing that, in practice, a reasonably fit person could get from UW to First Hill faster by walking from Capitol Hill Station, rather than going downtown and transferring. At a minimum, it’s 5 minutes to ride the train to University St. Station, 3 minutes to wait for the Madison BRT bus, and 5 minutes to ride the bus to first hill. That adds up to 13 minutes, which is, give or take, the amount of time it would take to walk from Capitol Hill Station to First Hill. However, the walk option is more reliable and probably slightly faster, once the bus transfer option is made to include the walk time from bus stop to final destination.

        That’s not to say that Madison BRT isn’t worth it, though. Taking Link from the south instead of the north, and the bus transfer is probably faster, simply by virtue of taking a more direct route.

    2. I just returned the other day from Quito, where I frequently used their “Trolebus” BRT line to get in and out of the historic district. This BRT line is rated Silver and is substantially better than anything we have or are planning to have here, including Madison. In effect it is mainly dedicated center-running right of way with actual enclosed stations where you pre-pay to enter. Buses are high-floor and the new ones are double-articulated with 5 pairs of doors, 36 seated/124 standing passengers. Mark will enjoy the fact that they are overhead two wire catenary-powered trolleys as ours are. Their system would be incredible here anywhere you have a 5-6+ lane road with substantial bus service or a future need for such (Aurora, Pac Highway, Lake City Way etc.) but aren’t planning a rail line. It undercuts some major cross streets and seems to have signal priority at others. It also acts as a fast path for emergency services to get around as they use it too.

      Even so, the difference between what is very good BRT compared to ours and actual grade separated transit can be stark. As it approaches and goes through Quito’s large historic district, by necessity its lane still is bus-only but becomes shared with bikes due to the narrowness of the streets. During normal operations it still works, more or less, but it can get jammed up by general traffic on cross streets easily – they have a large force of transit police trying to direct traffic through these intersections but with huge numbers of pedestrians, cross traffic and very frequent bus service, the thing can bog down easily.

      Saturday evening I took the Trole to the old quarter where a “festival of lights” was going on. Pedestrian and auto traffic was so bad that the bus lane quickly became blocked and buses came to a complete stop a couple of miles away–and started stacking up. Eventually they just opened the doors, let everybody off, and turned the buses off. They were still there when I returned a couple of hours later and had to walk a couple of miles to where the buses could still operate. Quiteños love the Trole, which was inaugurated 30 years ago, but there’s a reason they are now constructing a parallel Metro line.

  8. Yeah, this is definitely not BRT but primarily a way to get federal funds for the area, to buy new buses and shelters. It does well for that purpose, and provides an excuse for C-Tran to do some stop thinning and avoid serving the Plomondon Loop, but I disagree with Bruce on the comparison with Swift. This is more like Rapid Ride in terms of stop spacing and ride quality (lack of signal priority and queue jumping), with the primary Swift-like features the fancy, Federally funded stations. The “savings” in operations is dubious since there is a net reduction in buses an hour caused by collapsing the limited stop and local stop services into one semi-frequent stop route, eliminating the loop to the north side of the Westfield Vancouver Mall (which could have been done without the project), and by calling the “cross river shuttle” a different route.

    1. The #4 hasn’t been running through Plomondon for five or six years, since the 39 was established, but the rest of your comment is excellent.

      The City is pitching this as a development tool and it will probably succeed at that. There are a number of apartment buildings going up in the space between downtown and “midtown” (McLaughlin to Fourth Plain) and this will serve them. Interestingly, space is actually running out west of the freeway, so future density will likely be created along Fourth Plain. It is mostly run-down west of Andresen and already has quite a number of apartment developments just to the north. It makes sense to send development there instead of more sprawl.

      This is a huge political fight in Clark County, but, thankfully, David Madore got turfed out of the County Council in the primary! Woo-hoo! It’s true that his replacement will be a real estate agent and so doubtless a vote for blowing up the UGB, but there are three fairly moderate and well-informed councilors now. And of course the State will lean on them heavily to abide by the Growth Management Act. But the City is all-in on increasing density.

      If and when a new bridge is completed including a reserved transit facility, The Vine will cross the Columbia either to Delta Park or Jantzen Beach if the MAX gets extended there.

      1. This looks like a good project even if it isn’t BRT (what’s in a name, anyway). The route is solid, and probably the main similarity with Swift (neither is an express to the “big city”, but serve a commercial corridor with what passes for density in a low density area). It lacks any sort of busway, or even skip ahead section, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a lot faster. In the middle of the day, it could be plenty fast — much faster than it is now. Others can correct me, but maybe traffic isn’t the worst part about a bus ride into town (or from your apartment to the Thai restaurant up the road). For many, this means a huge improvement in their commute (the guy working at the 7-11 doesn’t have to get his car fixed right away). I’ve ridden on plenty of buses where traffic really wasn’t an issue, but the riders (and missing every light) was.

    2. Oh, I forgot to point out that the #44 had already been cut back to 40 minute headways before its elimination and only ran in the peak hours. So there’s really no reduction in service; the bigger buses will hold all the #4 passengers and those who rode the #44 as well.

    3. “this is definitely not BRT but primarily a way to get federal funds for the area, to buy new buses and shelters.”

      It’s improving the bus service, which is worthwhile even if it doesn’t go all the way to BRT. That’s what makes it less expensive, and Clark County likes less expensive, lower-level services. It also makes more sense in a small city. RapidRide is every 10-15 minutes from at least 6am to 10pm every day. Swift is 12 minutes daytime, 20 minutes evenings and weekends and ends at 8-10pm. The Spokane BRT if it’s approved might be Bronze or less. So Vancouver’s would be typical for an American small city. If you live along it it’s better service than you had before, and that’s something.

      1. The argument would then be, could you just brand the service with a Frequent Network style brand like what WTA (Bellingham) does? WTA uses the “Go Line” concept to interline routes and make them more distinctive. The advantage of this approach is that more people get direct service, rather than transferring to the special “BRT” bus.

        Overall, if the federal government is giving you money, it’s not sound to look a gift horse in the mouth. But if dollars were dropped in your pocket without specific “small starts” guidelines, I would prefer a restructuring to a Go Line model for the Fourth Plain, Mill Plain, and Old Highway 99 corridors.

  9. Until such time as Vancouver, Washington changes its name to Fort Vancouver could we please add Washington or BC for the appropriate place? It’s bad enough that people don’t know whether you’re referring to Washington DC or Washington state.

    1. When I was younger, a shop at the Vancouver Mall sold a shirt that said “Vancouver, not B.C. Washington, not D.C.”

    2. Joseph,

      Well, how we handle that is when the eyes widen we say “Oh, not that Vancouver!”

  10. Really great write-up SounderBruce. I wish I could afford to attend the Vancouver, WA launch of this service – problem is I’m saving up to take winter vacation and rent a drone to take with me. Really would love to get some drone pictures of Trimet… and next summer (2017) Sound Transit.

    I know you and some other STB contributors will take great photos, as will the Portlandia Transit Photog crew ;-). At least transit geeks have a new shiny photo target for a second winter in a row!

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