Commuters in Vancouver, Washington are saving time by riding The Vine.
The Clark County Public Transit Benefit Area Authority (C-TRAN) launched service on Jan. 8 on The Vine, its new bus rapid transit (BRT) system that offers enhanced transit services using low-floor, 60-foot-long hybrid buses operating in mixed traffic.
“The new service greatly improves capacity and travel times, and will cost less to operate than the previous bus service,” said Stefano Viggiano, project manager. “It also provides improved safety for users of all travel modes and is expected to support greater economic growth and development for the area.”
The opening marked the culmination of a six-year effort to bring improved transit services to Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, the most heavily used transit corridor in C-TRAN’s system. WSP USA designed the BRT.
“Prior to this project, two previous fixed local bus routes carried more than 30 percent of C-TRAN’s ridership,” Viggiano said.
The $53 million line is the first BRT system to serve the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. The six-mile route serves 17 stops and stations along the Fourth Plan and Fort Vancouver Way corridors between downtown Vancouver and the Vancouver Mall.
The Vine BRT offers numerous other benefits, including:
The project also features GPS-based transit signal priority and off-board fare collection.
In addition, the project relocated the Vancouver Mall Transit Center, creating an eight-bay facility that includes a covered walkway connecting the station and the mall entrance.
Even before planning began on The Vine BRT, WSP was working with C-TRAN, initially serving as the primary sub-consultant for the 2009 Clark County High-Capacity Transit Study that led to the idea of bringing BRT to Vancouver.
“That study investigated priority corridors for high-capacity transit improvements, established BRT as the preferred high-capacity transit mode, and identified Fourth Plain Boulevard as the highest-priority corridor for BRT implementation,” Viggiano said.
In 2012, the firm completed the Fourth Plain Transit Improvements Alternatives Analysis, which led to the selection of a locally preferred alternative for the Fourth Plain corridor. One year later, WSP was selected to provide final BRT design, which eventually led to the project’s approval for the maximum of 80 percent federal funding through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Small Starts Program.
“The WSP team completed the Alternatives Analysis approximately $150,000 under the contract budget and within a tight 13-month schedule in order to have a locally preferred alternative in place by July 2012,” Viggiano said. “The deadline was driven by a November 2012 project funding vote, which was successful.”
To meet this critical deadline, the project team worked closely with community stakeholders. “Early stakeholder involvement brought forth many concerns and issues during the initial planning phase and therefore, could be addressed early in the process,” Viggiano said.
Through completion of the project in January, WSP was also responsible for station design, urban design, traffic analysis and transit signal priority, environmental analysis and documentation, cost estimating, a maintenance facility plan expansion and remodel, community outreach and public involvement support, scheduling, risk management and design services.
Introducing a new transit mode to the region meant that public involvement and approval was critical to the success of the project. Initially, the plan did meet with opposition, particularly among business owners along the proposed corridor who were concerned about the impact of a BRT line along their street.
“That initial strong concern was built largely on presumed impacts,” Viggiano said. “Those concerns were addressed through extensive outreach, including door-to-door communication with businesses along the corridor.”
Visualizations were used to help convey the project at public meetings, and help the community understand this new transit mode. One innovative approach involved the use of an interactive station design at community meetings.
“Options for station locations, such as far side versus near side, or median versus curbside, as well as the perspective from which the station is viewed – such as from a passing car, or from above – and shelter designs could be manipulated in real time at the public meetings to respond to suggestions from those attending,” Viggiano said. “This allowed for immediate response to suggestions and questions.”
In addition, a stakeholder committee, which started out skeptical of the project, eventually gave the project its full support, voting unanimously to support the locally preferred alternative.
By incorporating functional public art into the BRT stations, The Vine was able to make a connection to the community. The art, which links to the history and natural features of the area, is included in the pavement and windscreen design.
So far, response to The Vine has been favorable from both the public and from C-TRANS … a satisfying conclusion to a valuable and beneficial project for everyone involved.
“Personally and professionally, it is always most rewarding when a transit project is followed from initial planning and concept through to the implementation of revenue service,” Viggiano said. “Spending that much time with a community and working with the client creates a very strong sense of satisfaction when a project is successfully completed.”
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