C-Tran Photo

Clark County and Vancouver, WA aren’t exactly known for transit. Often seen as the Republican yin to Portland’s yang, where the dream of the suburbs is alive, Vancouver gets a bad rap. Local Republicans (often led by the gleefully antagonistic Don Benton) have been exceptionally hostile to both Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and to extending MAX across the Columbia, and C-Tran’s voters have twice poured cold water on local funding for its Vine BRT project. In the classic bait and switch of turncoat BRT supporters, one C-Tran board member said Vine was “a Ferrari when a Pinto would do“, and then local Republicans sued to stop the project on account of it not being “true high-capacity transit.”

So in one final act of ironic perseverance, Vine opened yesterday on a snow route, using older non-articulated buses, and skipping its brand-new stations. Once the ice storm melts, Vine will provide better service at less operating cost for the 6,000 daily riders on the Fourth Plain corridor between Downtown Vancouver and Vancouver Mall. Despite a mostly mixed traffic channelization, the line comes far closer to true BRT than RapidRide. Back in October, Bruce had a good write-up of its features:

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.

Congrats to C-Tran on sticking through the many setbacks to provide a huge service improvement to their riders.

18 Replies to “C-Tran Welcomes Vine, Washington’s 2nd True Bus Rapid Transit Line”

  1. Vancouver gets a bad rap. Local Republicans (often led by the gleefully antagonistic Don Benton) have been exceptionally hostile to both Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and to extending MAX across the Columbia

    There is a bit of a difference though between Vancouver and Clark County. Extending MAX across the river passed in Vancouver, but the rest of Clark County made it fail.

    This is a pretty busy transit corridor, and it will be interesting to see if the better service increases ridership.

    1. Credit can be awarded (I’m calling the city “Fort Vancouver”) for rejecting the 1st MAX LRT in 1995. The proposed line went north to Clark County Fairgrounds. A year later the route direction was turned east to Vancouver Mall. Much better, as they say, “once bitten, twice shy?

      The Columbia River Crossing I-5 Bridge bi-partisan replacement project (2005-2012) included LRT/BRT but made a the fatal flaw mistake of double-deck vs single-deck. Single-deck located 3-lane span adjacent to 5-lane southbound.Transit the lower deck? Single-deck transit forms an emergency access corridor, especially ideal with

      Anyway, the CRC is back on track with Single-deck & a better design for Hayden Island, remembered as (NO 3rd Central mid-island roadway) and better brake away emergency areas off exit ramps. BRT can evolve into LRT, etc. Credit both Ann Rivers and Don Benton both as proud citizens who achieved heroic deed in bringing the CRC down.

      Such horrible double-deck nonsense nd poor Hayden Island overrun with traffic, good grief. Wsdot and the Ports weren’t thinking at all. ODOT finished Marine Dr early, 2008-10, saw the handwriting on the wall, and directed efforts to other state projects. Marine Dr has to be done FIRST, but CRC Commission leader Wsdot decreed more money for the bridge, non for Oregon and a death trap of exits onto the island. Do BRT on the Barbur Blvd instead of MAX.

      Here’s the rub: agencies are covering each others backs.
      Am I right or not? Wyatt got away with a hand slap.

      Bryant would have sold the estuaries, streams and riversides and blacken or take water hostage wherever whenever.The only fossil fuel pipeline to support, yes/no, is existing with safety upgrades south from Dakota Bakken Fields to Oklahoma. Along that route plan another simplest east route.

      C-tran BRT from ‘Fort’ Vancouver would reach Jantzen Bch junction to MAX LRT. Delta Park would instead drop off at Hayden Island and function junction there.

      1. So this emergency-access lane is so important it’s worth basing the entire project vote on, and everybody including the engineers and politicvians missed the most important fasctor, and those who voted agaiunsdt it were heroes? That’s like saying we should reject East Linjk on I-90 because the shoulders aren’t wide enough. I find it hard to believe that such a horrendous safety problem would be legal if it were really so egregious, especially with the way highways are so overengineered to prevent precisely such kind of problems. I would have voted for the MAX rail crossing because there was no guarantee we’d have another opportunity in our lifetimes for it with Clark County being so tax-adverse.

      2. Actually it’s like the BRT project. Vote for it now (whenever it was) because you may not have an opportunity to vote for it later. Or you may spend twenty more years working around the lack of it with lost time and increased frustration and stress.

    2. I agree.

      IF the weather absolutely stinks one day of my next Portlandia trip, I just might see about taking a ride on the Vine. I suspect it’s like Community Transit SWIFT.

  2. The other big benefit that I can see is that, unlike the route it replaces, the Vine does not cross the Columbia River into Oregon on the very congested I-5 bridge.

    Instead, C–Tran is operating a shuttle bus between downtown Vancouver and the Delta Park/Vanport MAX station.

    It means the loss of a one-seat ride, but a gain of reliability. A traffic jam on the bridge will no longer cause cascading delays across the entire route.

    1. A loss of a one seat ride for only some. The express buses into downtown Portland, Lloyd Center and OHSU still operate.

      1. I’m calling Vancouver – Fort Vancouver.
        It just seems logical.
        Does it make too much sense?
        Fort Vancouver is like you know like totally historical.
        Fort Vancouver is like hysterically like historical-ish?
        Do BRT on Barbur, Glenn. MAX LRT doesn’t pencil out
        on the proposed Barbur MAX route; property takings, etc.

      2. You’d have to talk to the powers that be about that.

        They looked at BRT as one of the options for the southwest corridor, and the people who showed up at the meetings wanted MAX. Kinda like the Kirkland Save Our Trail stuff only in reverse: the loud protesters wanted a MAX line and so that is what is on the drawing board.

        There is pretty much nothing on the southwest corridor that pencils out. You can’t do express buses because I-5 is too congested. You can’t add express lanes because the land is too narrow. If you add MAX or BRT you wind up with nothing within walking distance of any stations, and stations that are nearly impossible to get to due to all the traffic. There’s no good way to do feeder buses in most locations because the road system is set up to feed I-5 and meanders badly in most other places.

        This is an example of why I participate here rather than in a Portland forum: the people here are more transit literate and seem to get decent results sometimes.

  3. Good article and great news, but the headline is much worse than the click bait satire that got a bunch of panties in a bunch. Calling something “true” BRT is silly. Many would argue that without grade separation, it isn’t BRT, but that’s not the point. What the folks in Vancouver are adding is very good, and will probably result in a huge improvement without costing much money. Adding grade separation might not make much difference at all, while costing a bundle. You could then brag that it is “real BRT”, but what’s the point. The key elements — the things that work well there — are off board payment, level boarding and signal priority. My understanding is that headways will peak at 10 minutes, which basically mean that the Roosevelt HCT project will be more BRT than this “true BRT”, which seems silly given all the fuss and disappointment over the initial plans.

    I have contributed to the semantic problem as well (with an essay I wrote way back when) and for that I apologize. It is unfortunate that we don’t have a great shorthand way of describing various transportation improvements, so until then, I would just call a project like this “Enhanced bus service” followed by a description of the enhancements in the text. Or how about “DOLSH” (stop Diet, Off board payment, Level boarding, Signal priority and improved Headways). OK, not great, but good enough for the rest of my comment.

    I find it interesting to see what can happen when you just add DOLSH. I think it can make a huge difference. The other day while discussing Link in the Central Area, I mentioned that it made more sense to take the 48 from the U-District to Rainier Valley than to take the train, just because you avoid the transfer and the train takes a round about route. Mike corrected me, saying the train is faster, because the bus makes so many stops. But with DOLSH, that probably isn’t the case, unless traffic is really bad. Basically you would take whatever is easier to get to. In other words you would take the train or the bus, but not both (as a lot of people I’m sure do right now). I think there is a lot we can do with DOLSH, although we probably need a better acronym.

    1. How about ARR (Almost Rapid Ride)? I like the sense of disappointed I get when I say that word. :>) Maybe ARGH would be better… Almost Rapid Got Hosed…

    2. DOLSH definitely sounds like the weather we’ve been having down here for the Vine opening week.

      1. Yes, but even that is confusing. You basically have a scale, and nothing else. Is it bronze because it has off board payment, but not much in the way of grade separation? Or maybe it is bronze because it doesn’t run very often.

        Besides, the big problem is that you have a grading system, which requires someone to grade it. Most agencies don’t bother; RapidRide and Swift haven’t been graded, for example. Not that I’m complaining about the system. I think it has its purpose. But given the fact that there are dozens if not hundreds of enhanced bus systems — most of which will never be graded — and only a handful of light rail systems, maybe people are spending too much time evaluating the wrong thing. Maybe we should have a grading system for subways that includes things like bus integration, optimized stop spacing, headways, etc. If this bus line proves to be too slow and a result doesn’t save people the kind of time they wished it did, I don’t think it is a huge loss. The amount of money spent really isn’t that big. It is nothing like a poorly designed subway.

    3. I’ve seen the term “BRT lite” thrown around for these kinds of projects (Swift, The Vine, HealthLine, etc.) that are above what RapidRide looks like but well below international peer systems.

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