Transit Union 757 urges ‘yes’ vote on Washington’s Proposition 1

VANCOUVER — Paul Van Dyck rides a C-TRAN bus or van to work each day to Southwest Washington Medical Center, where he is employed as a medical transcriptionist. A Vancouver native, Van Dyck, 56, is a graduate of the Washington State School for the Blind. Sight impaired, he gets around town with assistance of his 90-pound Golden Retriever, Addison, and the bus system.

Van Dyck joined fellow bus riders, community and union leaders, and non-profit directors at a rally Sept. 20 to show their support of C-TRAN Proposition 1 that will appear on the ballot Nov. 2. Prop 1 is an 0.3 percent sales tax increase dedicated to public transportation and paratransit in Clark County.

“Public transit is absolutely essential for me,” says Van Dyck. “If I can get there, I can do the job. Having good public transit keeps me employed. I add to the community. We own our own home, we give back, and I am a taxpayer.”

Approximately 264 C-TRAN bus operators are represented by Portland-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. According to Secretary-Treasurer Tom Wallace, as many as 110 union drivers could lose their jobs if Prop 1 fails.

“Passage of Proposition 1 will ensure that buses and paratransit systems across Clark County remain in place,” Wallace told the Northwest Labor Press. “This would be only the first tax increase for public transit since 1981, when it was created.”

Wallace said the sales tax increase of 0.3 percent amounts to only three cents on every $10 purchase.

If it fails, transit officials say they will be forced to reduce services by 46 percent, which means elimination of all direct commuter service from Clark County to downtown Portland; elimination of all weekend service; severe cutbacks in service for disabled citizens, and elimination of nearly all suburban bus routes.

“The employees and customers of so many businesses depend on C-TRAN,” says Mike Worthy, chief executive officer of Bank of Clark County and co-chair of the YES for C-TRAN Committee. “As our community continues to grow, access to public transportation will become more and more important for all of us. We can’t afford to neglect a community asset like C-TRAN.”

In 2000, due to the loss of funding from license fees following passage of Washington Initiative 695, C-TRAN was forced to eliminate 78 family-wage staff positions, service to some areas, and it increased passenger fares twice.

Approval of Proposition 1 in November will allow C-TRAN to maintain its current level of service with some enhancements, such as proposed service to Ridgefield, La Center, Yacolt/Amboy and additional service to Battle Ground.

That will be good news for Dorothy Kephart. An active senior in her 70s, Kephart gave up driving after 50 years on the road, and now depends on public transportation. “I saw the bus going by my house and thought I would give it a try. It was so convenient.”

She now rides the bus at least five times a week to church on Sunday, to and from the YWCA where she volunteers, to medical appointments in Portland and to run errands, such as shopping.

If Proposition 1 is defeated, C-TRAN will be forced to cut service north of 78th Street. Kephart lives almost two miles north of there. She says that in nice weather she has walked to 78th for the exercise, but if she’s not feeling well or the weather is bad, that is not an option. Other residents of Clark County will likely face similar difficulties.

ATU Local 757 is on board supporting YES For C-TRAN Proposition 1 and encourages union members and their families to support it too. Union members soon will be leafleting homes and standing on street corners with YES For C-TRAN signs to encourage a yes vote on Proposition 1.

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