CRC Open House Question # 2

Do you agree with the staff recommendation for transit?


  • Bus Rapid Transit with express bus service
  • Light Rail Transit with express bus service

Note that this is not a question of which of the two do you prefer, but whether this is the right set of options to be carried forward into the DEIS.


14 responses to “CRC Open House Question # 2”

  1. I can’t find much to argue with here. It certainly seems like extending our LRT system into Clark County is a logical progression, but I think it’s fair to see how BRT costs out in comparison (where would it terminate on the Oregon side?).

    It will be interesting to see what Express Bus adds in terms of route flexibility.

  2. If transit riders are not charged or tolled for their share of bridge decking and a proportionate share of bridge superstructure, NEITHER should be included in the project. Taxpayer subsidies for any transit option must end on the Oregon side of the Columbia Riverbank. Transit users MUST help pay for any upgraded river crossing by paying for any transit infrastructure alternative.

    As for the choice between light rail or BRT – both have their pros and cons.

    Light rail infrastructure is already established on the Oregon side, a pro, but not on the Washington side, a con. Light rail as currently exists in Portland is not a truly regional operational system and only facilitates ridership in directions to and from downtown, a con. As an example, no Max trains go directly between the Expo Center and Gresham, or are planned to go directly between the Expo Center and Clackamas Town Center when that line is completed.

    BRT is more flexible that a fixed rail system, a pro. BRT can serve more neighborhoods in Vancouver without building a fixed track infrastructure, another pro. Due to the one sided political forces in Portland, BRT would probably duplicate Max alignments on the Oregon side serving only downtown rather than being multi-declinational and serving other eastside and Westside town and employment centers, a potential con.

    If and only if the funding source for either light rail or BRT is transit based, both options should be carried to the to the end of the crossing project with further study to be included on how these options can better and directly serve a more of the land mass in the region than just augmenting to and from downtown Portland to downtown Vancouver service.

  3. Vancouver does not have an effective Downtown Transit Center. Currently Tri-Met buses connect with C-Tran feeders in donwtown in less then adequate infrastructure and it just works. However C-Trans 134th Salmon Creek Transit Center is an very effective transit Center with excellent point-to-point service.

    The C-Tran Transit Center at 162nd is an excellent facility. The proposed 99th Street C-Tran Transit Center that will be just off of I-5 will be very good and effective.

    These C-Tran facilities adapt to the needs of their riders without the need for Light Rail. The time that it takes with direct connections with BRT could end up being half of what the time it would be for trying to accomplish the same thing with a transfer to MAX/LRT. That could make the difference in making transit is a better option then using a car.

    I have had a very high ranking person in the CRC Project effort tell me that the CRC Project without MAX/LRT included is “Dead on Arrival”. So when people talk about what is best, they are only moving their lips, what they are talking about is that the CRC Project will have Light Rail included or it will not happen.

    Washington DC and a lot of the world has been sold that Portland is the “Poster Child of Rail Transit”. It is only natural that Vancouver Washington should get with it and connect to the MAX/LRT system, but we all know that it is not that simple. If we want Washington DC to pony-up more then their fare-share, to reduce our burden we have to have MAX/LRT on this bridge or any new bridge that crosses the Columbia River and that is just a fact of life.

    We do not have to replace the Interstate Bridges with a CRC Project to get Light Rail extended into Vancouver. An alternate local arterial between the I-5 Bridges and the BNSF is also “Dead-on-Arrival” because of it negative impacts on river navigation and you just have to talk to the Coast Guard to believe me on that.

    I come back to the real solution and that is this replacement of the BNSF RR Bridge with a new Bi-State double deck multi-mode arterial 3rd bridge and corridor. This provides more options and opportunities for everyone including the Light Rail advocates then what the CRC Recommendation do.

  4. I think whether those options are adequate depends on how you define the purpose and need. Looking at just the bridge influence area, then the issue is which works best getting people across the bridge. But if you look at transit as an alternative for getting people to their ultimate destination, then the real weakness in the transit system is not getting people across the river. Its getting people to their destinations on either side.

    Neither light rail not BRT really add much access for people in Portland to job and commercial centers in Vancouver. The Vancouver transit system seems to depend heavily on park and rides for trips crossing the river. Of course, there is little reason for people in Portland to want to get to a Vancouver park and ride.

    On the Portland side of the river, the transit and pedestrian networks in job centers along the Columbia is weak at best. Improving the transit connections in Portland would have a lot more impact on transit use than any changes made in river crossings. And it would benefit transit users on both sides of the river.

    It seems like an awful waste of money to go forward with a study just to choose between the two methods of transit on the bridge. You could probably include facilities on the bridge for both options for less than it will cost to study them. BRT, afterall, is really just a traffic lane on the bridge, and light rail would be rails in that traffic lane. Of course there are costs involved in connecting them to the networks on each side, but a focused examination of the larger transit picture would provide better answers for that purpose than an EIS on the whole bridge will.

  5. If Interstate MAX had been built by a private investor, they would have insisted that C-Tran express bus service turn around at the Delta/Vanport station. But TriMet has been a “good guy” on this and agreed to continued express bus operation, even when MAX gets to WA. I think they figure, correctly, that over time lightrail offers a more reliable product that buses in regular freeway lanes whether I-5 or I-84. Most of the trips across the river are not served by C-Tran express buses; they offer no connections to Rivergate, Swan Island, Lower Albina or the Interstate Corridor. This will improve when the C-Tran 4 Limited and regular 4 turns around at Delta/Vanport.
    The big downside to BRT is that it will force an added transfer to MAX somewhere, probably on Hayden Island. The best solution is to get MAX across the river to a central transfer point somewhere north of downtown Vancouver, then C-Tran can reconfigure their local, limited and express service to get folks to MAX. Regardless they will continue to run from P&Rs to downtown Portland, but again, these “premium” routes, loved as they are by riders, have limited utility for most Clark county residents who work in Portland.

  6. Yes.

    I don’t seriously think that a tram is a good idea, and while I personally support Light Rail Transit (LRT) over Bus Rapid Transit (BRT,) I think that it is good to study this sort of thing. I think they are going to find that BRT that connects to LRT at expo is a non-starter by nature of the transfer itself, (adding 5 minutes to everyone’s travel times while you switch between vehicles isn’t a way to run a rapid transit system.)

    However: The only advantage that they list for BRT over LRT is the slightly lower capital costs, at expense of higher operating costs and lower ridership. If the CRC group seriously thought that capital costs were a reason to advance various alternatives for further study, they’d advance most of the alternatives, because most of the alternatives have lower capital costs that they one they are recommending… So it looks like the CRC transit group is using different rules than the other groups, and that is kind of worrisome for many reasons…

  7. I think if BRT is going to be used, we might want to look at a project in San Diego, CA scheduled to open this year with BRT running in express/HOT (high occupancy or toll) lanes running in the median of I-15. If you want to bypass traffic, you either need to carpool, take BRT, or pay a toll. The toll is determined at a rate to keep the lanes moving at about the speed limit, reasoning that many people who will pay $2.00 to save 10 minutes won’t spend $8.00 to save 15.

    In this setup BRT/HOT lanes could probably be added from I-5 down to near the existing Interstate Max line. It would likely cost about the same as LRT to and through Clark County.

    A huge advantage is that the toll payers can help finance the project as well, and it would add an express lane in each direction bypassing the current interchange problems. It’s a great way to increase capacity without a huge price tag.

    I know tolls aren’t popular, but removing the tolled vehicles from the main lanes should help free them up also. If there’s a clause that they can’t remove any free lanes, it seems like it would work to serve the most people at the lowest long term cost.

  8. If there’s a clause that they can’t remove any free lanes

    I don’t think there are going to be any free lanes. The only reasonable way to finance the local match is by tolling the bridge.

  9. “Taxpayer subsidies for any transit option must end on the Oregon side of the Columbia Riverbank.”

    Why? The taxpayer subsidies for non-transit options doesn’t end at the Oregon side.

    Or do you mean Oregon subsidies must not be used in Washington?

    One thing I always like to point out is that people simply like trains better. I know many people in the suburbs who use MAX to get to work, but before MAX was available they drove because they just simply do not like riding a bus.

    For many people a bus is the worst of both worlds. You have to wait for the bus, make transfers, and sit in crowds. And you are still stuck in traffic.

    Trains ride smoother, have dedicated ROW usually, and generally are PERCEIVED as being more reliable.

  10. How about the mayor of Vancouver put light rail back for a vote in Vancouver (an actual LRV line that extends beyond downtown Vancouver).

    If it passes, we move LRT forward.

    If it fails, that means if MAX were extended it’d be a really expensive expansion just to dead end, so there’d be no point in building it.

    We can study it for a zillion years, but someone has to pay for it. Should we waste time, energy and money on studies that the public shows no willingness to fund? The last time I checked it wasn’t my responsibility to move transit into Washington (I am a Tualatin resident and a resident of the TriMet boundaries). TriMet’s mission isn’t to do a dime for Clark County, and the only reason it does what it does (the line 6) is because C-Tran pays TriMet to do it.

    The alternative is to create a bi-state transit agency (along the lines of PANY-NJ). Which, also requires voter approval.

  11. How about the mayor of Vancouver put light rail back for a vote in Vancouver (an actual LRV line that extends beyond downtown Vancouver).

    I think this hits the nail on the head. For light rail to be useful, there needs to be political will on the Clark County side of the river. And that extends beyond putting light rail on the bridge. They need to integrate the rest of their transportation and land use decisions into the region as well.

    They created seven freeway lanes ending at a 3 lane bridge. There is little reason to think they will resist adding more lanes if the capacity is there to get people across the river. Until there is some evidence that Vancouver is going to develop a robust transit system with the dense development patterns that requires, just extending light rail across the river to Vancouver won’t fix much.