Route 39: From Community Concern to Cross-Sector Action
In late March 2019, members of the Rose Village Community Health Worker (CHW) team surfaced a community concern about a proposed change to C-TRAN bus service in Vancouver, Washington that threatened to cut their neighbors off from essential services. C-TRAN had proposed to completely end service on Route 39, a crucial transportation line for residents of Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood.
For Rose Village residents, route 39 provides affordable, safe and ADA-compliant transportation to everything from healthcare services and schools, to healthy foods. That includes PeaceHealth Family Medicine, CVAB, the VA, The Free Clinic, Jim Parsley Community Center, Boys and Girls Club and the post office — to name a few.
The CHWs were very concerned about the impact of C-TRAN’s proposal on their neighbors. They knew that unless the community spoke up, C-TRAN would move ahead. However, as members of the Healthy Living Collaborative (HLC) Policy Committee, they also knew that they could make a difference.
The policy committee is a group of cross-sector partners who collaborate to identify and advocate on policies that impact health. CHWs play an important role on the committee because of their trusted role in their neighborhoods. That role uniquely positions them to identify community concerns at the neighborhood level and elevate them to the policy committee for consideration.
The committee voted to act, activating the collective strength of HLC’s umbrella organization Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health (SWACH), the CHWs, HLC and its 60+ partners. The partners leapt into action, writing letters, advocating on social media and organizing stakeholders to give testimony at a series of C-TRAN hearings. At the hearings, C-TRAN heard directly from CHWs and neighborhood youth about the impact of a Route 39 termination on Rose Village’s families, seniors and individuals with disabilities. SWACH’s executive director and other leaders also spoke at the hearings. Stakeholders reached out to local elected officials and C-TRAN leadership. Stories and letters appeared in The Columbian newspaper.
In Mid-May C-TRAN responded with a counter proposal to provide scaled-back service to Rose Village, with a supplemental dial-a-ride where residents can receive door-to-door service for the same price as a regular bus fare. The C-TRAN board adopted the proposal.
While the community continues advocating for full service on Route 39, this compromise leaves the door open for continued conversation between C-TRAN and Rose Village residents and advocates. It also helped kickstart conversations about how C-TRAN can improve its process for seeking community input on future proposals.
Thank you to all who wrote letters, spoke at the hearings, shared on social media and informed their friends and neighbors about this issue. And special thanks to the Rose Village CHWs, whose tireless advocacy continues making Vancouver a healthier place to live, work and play.