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.