C-Tran workshop yields … another workshop

As a reporter, it’s a little disheartening when you can sum up the results of a seven-hour meeting you just sat through with three words.

To be continued.

Turns out, the C-Tran Board of Directors had so much fun talking light rail, bus rapid transit and the Columbia River Crossing, they’re planning to do it again soon. Another workshop meeting on light rail is expected to happen later this spring.

A little background: Last weekend, the C-Tran board held a day-long meeting to discuss some key questions on the $3.4 billion CRC and the light rail extension that’s planned with it. The group also discussed bus rapid transit, another high-capacity transit effort C-Tran is pursuing. The rejection of a proposed sales tax increase last year left those efforts without a clear path forward on local funding.

But despite a hired facilitator, smaller group discussions and a bag of Red Vines (courtesy of Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen), the gathering didn’t yield solid agreement on much of anything — including how to set up the next workshop.

At one point, it was suggested that the board bring in an official from the CRC and the Federal Transit Administration to answer questions and provide information if needed. That’s when County Commissioner David Madore spoke up, appearing to take the suggestion as an affront to objectivity.

“We will get a subset of the facts, and we will get one side of the issue with these two people in the room,” Madore said. “We need to make sure we hear balance.”

Madore, an outspoken critic of the CRC, said the meeting should also include opponents of the project. And it should be televised, he said, and held in a larger venue.

I’m thinking some boxing gloves and a scorecard might also be in order. Can we get Pay-Per-View on the line? Popcorn, anyone?

OK, that’s not what he meant. But other board members appeared leery of staging opposing sides in a high-profile setting, lest the C-Tran workshop become a CRC SmackDown. C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm also weighed in:

“If we make it a debate forum … I think that devolves into the positional,” Hamm said. “I don’t think that gets us to dialogue. I don’t think that gets us to greater understanding.”

Vancouver City Councilor Larry Smith said the meeting could become a “nightmare” or a “dog and pony show” if not done properly.

County Commissioner Steve Stuart attempted to ease those worries by saying the board wants information provided, not presentations or grandstanding. The C-Tran board will, and should, lead the discussion, he said.

But based on last weekend’s first go-round, the board has a long way to go before deciding how to proceed on light rail.

Better bring those Red Vines, Bart.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at eric.florip@columbian.com or 360-735-4541.

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