Mountain Express reaches 100,000 milestone

by: Lisa K. Anderson Mountain Express Line cookies were a highlight with those who attended the 100,000th rider celebration Thursday.

During its first month of service, the Mountain Express saw 69 riders. Now, seven years later, the Express sees more than 2,000 monthly riders, and has reached its 100,000th rider.

'We're very fortunate to have the level of service we have for the size of community we have,' said Julie Stephens, Sandy city transit manager. 'We've created a network of transportation opportunities for folks.'

At a celebration Thursday, the Mountain Express Bus Committee and Clackamas County representatives reiterated the uniqueness of the Mountain Express in its ability to fit the needs of a rural population.

From Rhododendron, the bus links Mount Hood villages with Sandy, Estacada and points beyond.

Jamie Damon, a Clackamas County commissioner, spoke to the need the Mountain Express fills for after-school youths, seniors and disabled community members on the mountain.

'They come to Sandy as a destination,' she said. 'For shopping, the theater, to get prescriptions filled.'

Stephens said on a recent ride, the Mountain Express was 'very full with standing room only.' She hopes to see 'continued funding to provide the resources to match the need.'

Six months ago, the express added Saturday service, and transit representatives including Stephens hope to see the continued expansion of services. This may include early morning or late evening rides, and service to Government Camp.

Mountain Express service, which began with a single bus, was originally operated by the city of Sandy. In 2009-10, the Express added two new buses, one of which was purchased with federal stimulus funds.

Previously, when the single bus broke down, the Express would borrow a Sandy Area Metro bus, which was not a permanent solution.

The Express now operates through a partnership of Clackamas County Social Services and the city of Sandy, running six times a day during weekdays and four times a day Saturdays. This averages 62,700 miles a year.

Funding for the Mountain Express comes from a state contract for Federal Rural Transportation funds, Clackamas County Social Services, Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, local fundraising contributions and volunteer time.