VBJ Editorial: Supporting C-Tran means economic vitality

While reserves and services shrink, riders become disconnected

Think of an international cultural and economic hub that does not sport a comprehensive public transportation system. New York City has the Subway, London has the Underground. Paris and Tokyo have their respective Metros. Here on the West Coast, San Franciscans have too many options to name.

Ah ha! you say. Seattle and Los Angeles have nearly laughable regional public transportation systems, and they are the most commercially successful economic markets on the Pacific Coast. Well, not for long. Los Angeles ranks number one in MSN’s list of least drivable cities, while Seattle is ninth. Because these cities are so congested with commercial and noncommercial traffic, international and domestic market opportunities are fleeing both areas and meeting up in the middle at the ports and industrial parks of Tacoma, Vancouver and Portland.

When computers are crowding the road, economic vitality is stuck in traffic.

The Vancouver Business Journal has joined the ranks of business leaders such as Mike Worthy, president and CEO of Bank of Clark County, and Tom Mears, CEO of Holland Inc., and politicians Craig Pridemore, Jim Moeller and Bill Fromhold and both the local Republican and Democratic parties to support the increase of sales tax by 0.2 percent to get C-Tran rolling again.

The Sept. 20 measure puts two cents on every ten dollar purchase, saving the jobs of 150 C-Tran employees and keeping the smaller communities of Clark County connected to the central hub in Vancouver. Two cents. The measure keeps citizens, who are being pushed further outside of the city due to housing prices and shrinking land, on the road to their jobs and to shopping hubs. If people aren’t on the road, they are not your customers.

C-Tran has made a series of service reductions, cut-backs and fare increases since losing 40 percent of its budget when voters approved Initiative 695 in 1999. At the time, the agency had reserve funds of $72 million, but began to cut into them to maintain some services. By the end of the year, available reserves will reach $23.6 million, plus a $17 million reserve limit mandated by the C-Tran board. Regardless of a yes or no vote this month, reserves will reach the $17 million limit by 2011, due to planned capital projects, including relocating its Seventh Street transit center, bus replacements and system upgrades.

C-Tran has done – and continues to do – its job. Now it’s our turn.

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