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CET cuts bus routes, seeks input from public

Madras-Redmond connector trips increase

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Bus driver Rondha Madrigal, back, marks her choices for solutions to Cascade East Transit’s funding troubles.


   As of Oct. 1, Cascades East Transit has dropped several bus runs and stopped picking up passengers outside of the immediate Madras area due to a funding shortage.
   Scott Aycock, transportation planner for the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, which began operating the public transportation service in 2008, conducted three informational public meetings on the changes -- Sept. 27, and Oct. 2, after the Pioneer's deadline.
   Aycock said that CET is losing about $320,000 from a variety of funding sources. "We've already done every single cut we could to central services," he said. "The only thing left to do is cut service."
   After an analysis of the community connector shuttles, Aycock said they decided to cut runs that typically transported four or fewer people, in addition to the local bus service outside urban growth boundaries or city limits.
   Among the runs that were cut were four northbound and four southbound runs from Madras to Indian Head Casino and Warm Springs, and from the Tribal Administration Building to the Warm Springs Wellness Center to Madras. Two northbound runs (departing at 7:53 a.m. and 4:42 p.m.) and two southbound runs remain (departing at 8:25 a.m. and 5:11 p.m.).
   The buses run daily from Monday through Friday, from about 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Passengers do not need to call ahead for city to city service, but must call a day ahead to use the dial-a-ride service within communities, which take people from their homes or from bus stops to businesses or appointments.
   The Culver/Metolius to Madras runs were also cut from three to two daily, at 3:17 p.m. and 4:42 p.m. southbound, and 7:35 a.m. and 10:08 a.m. northbound.
   The Madras to Redmond service lost two runs, but five remain, with the earliest southbound leaving at 6:37 a.m. and the latest leaving at 6:02 p.m. The earliest remaining northbound run leaves at 7:17 a.m., and the latest departs at 6:42 p.m.
   "It's going to hurt people," said Aycock. "What we did is try to do it in ways to hurt the fewest people. Our goal is going to be basically to hold the line."
   Rondha Madrigal, who has been a driver for CET for about four years, was concerned about the loss of bus service to outlying areas, where a couple of her regular customers live, including one in a wheelchair.
   "Those people do use it and do need it," she said.
   Aycock said that about 90 percent of the riders live with the communities, with about 10 percent outside. "We make hard choices based on services used the least, that end up costing the most per rider."
   The Madras-Redmond shuttle trips have increased from about 650 in January 2011 to 1,400 in April 2012, but Madras to Warm Springs trips have steadily declined, he noted.
   While the city of Bend supports the system with a little over $1 million annually, Aycock said that CET receives $5,000 from Madras, $500 each from Culver and Metolius, $38,000 from the state special transportation fund that is dispersed by Jefferson County, and $5,700 from the Central Oregon Council on Aging, in addition to several other funds that have been reduced or cut entirely.
   The annual cost of the local public buses in Jefferson County total $197,266, and the cost of the Madras-Redmond community connector, $203,899. For the coming fiscal year, Aycock said they were anticipating a deficit of $35,410 before the service cuts.
   Current fares are $6.25 for a day pass ($5 for seniors or disabled persons), or $1.25 for a single ride ($1 for seniors/disabled persons). Monthly passes are $35 or $25 for those eligible for discounts.
   For more information about Cascades East Transit, call 541-385-8680, or visit www.cascadeseasttransit.com.