The Link

A The LINK bus prepares to embark from The Dalles Transportation Center on Chenowith Loop Road, where an hourly “fixed deviated route” begins service at 7 a.m. every weekday.

On April 29, the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District implemented its new deviated fixed route serving The Dalles. The bus route serves five stops: at The Dalles Transit Center, Goodwill, Columbia Gorge Community College, Mid-Columbia Medical Center and the Veterans Service Office.

Charlotte Sallee, transportation operations director for the MCEDD, said the only public transportation service offered before was Dial-a-Ride. The new route offers better service for community members, she said.

“We’ve always had a door-to-door service for 22 years,” said Sallee. The new route runs every hour but still makes house calls. “It makes its loop every hour but part of it is being a deviated route. That means that if you call in, we can pick you up within a quarter mile of the route,” she said.

When Dial-a-Ride services are unavailable, the deviated fixed route gives community members another option of transportation, said Sallee.

Jessica Metta, deputy director for MCEDD, said this is the first step to establishing a public transportation system in town. She wants for the community to first get used to the idea of a transit system.

“This is kind of the first step to getting the community used to the idea, and see if we can get the ridership that we need to help it operate, and then go into a regular route,” said Metta. “We’ve only been doing it since the end of April, and as soon as we started talking about it everyone was like, ‘this is great. I want to stop here, here, here and here.’”

Jaime Reed, deviated fixed route rider, said the route helps her get around since she doesn’t have a driver’s license. Before, Reed would use the Dial-a-Ride service to move around town.

“Literally, I could be at my house and I could be like ‘oh, it’s 12 o’clock,’ I could ride down to the bus stop, and they’re going to be there to pick me up and I could go anywhere in town on it,” said Reed. “This route has a bike rack on the front, so I don’t have to ask if I could bring my bike. Wherever it doesn’t go my bike and I go.”

Funding for the new system comes from federal and state grants. House Bill 2017 is one of those sources of funding.

Passed on July 5, 2017, the package aims to maintain and improve Oregon infrastructure with $5.3 billion over a 10-year span.

“All of the revenue comes from federal and state grants. We do get a little bit of support from the city of The Dalles, which has been really valuable, and fares, which are $1.50,” said Sallee. “Besides the deviated fixed route, we’re also doing a weekly shuttle to Celilo and Lone Pine to bring folks here for shopping. We are about to start our south county shuttle to go from Maupin, Tygh Valley and Dufur to The Dalles for shopping. We’ve been able to start these new services because the Oregon legislature passed the house bill.”

The deviated fixed route brings in 350 to 400 riders a month, said Metta. Combined, the route and the Dial-a-ride services had around 6,000 riders last quarter.

Passengers can pay with cash or via the Hopthru app. It’s just another way to give the community an option to make it easier for them to use our service, said Sallee.

“You don’t have to worry about having a $1.50 in cash, I never carry cash, but I have my phone all the time,” said Metta. “You can buy one ticket, or buy a ten punch pass.”

App use is increasing, but it’s more the younger generation that’s using it, said Sallee.

“There’s so much more we could do. I mean, there’s just a big need out there,” said Metta. “But it’s what we have funding for.”

The new deviated fixed route is the first step to moving forward, and it’s one of those things where it’s just bit by bit, piece by piece, to accomplish the overall goal, said Sallee.

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