Free, flexible bus will offer door-to-downtown service when able

by: COURTESY GRAPHIC: RIDE CONNECTION - The two new, 14-passenger GroveLink buses will feature this sleek design, which is meant to represent the sun setting (or rising) behind a green hill.They won’t rub your feet or treat you to dinner, but the drivers on Forest Grove’s new local bus route will still go far beyond their TriMet brethren when it comes to customer service.

They will stop for you on residential streets if you wave them down, and if they’re ahead of schedule, they will pick you up at your front door or even go blocks out of their way to drop you directly at your destination.

All this will be brought to you free of charge, starting Monday, Aug. 19.

That’s when GroveLink—the new, fareless, weekday transit service operated by the nonprofit Ride Connection—will begin ferrying Forest Grove residents from their far-flung homes to popular destinations and back.

GroveLink was selected as the bus line’s name, from a total of 118 suggestions made this summer through a Ride Connection survey about the transit service.

A total of 329 people completed the survey, said Lydia Corran, outreach specialist for Ride Connection. Given the city’s 21,500 residents, 329 may sound skimpy, but in survey terms, it’s a very good number, she said.

Of those, 71 percent — 219 respondents — said they would use the service.

Based on survey requests, route stops will initially include Forest Grove High School, the TriMet connection at 19th Avenue and B Street, Pacific University, Safeway, Bi-Mart, Viasystems and the Pacific Avenue-Yew Street intersection, which is as close to Wal-Mart as the official route gets.

These were the most popular destinations mentioned.

But survey respondents named a wide range of other places they’d like the bus to take them: the library, Theatre in the Grove, Thatcher Park, the aquatic center, Maggie’s Buns, the liquor store, Goodwill, the Grand Lodge and Tuality Hospital.

Other stops on the official route will likely be added later, after user patterns and requests take shape, Corran said.

And there may be deviations. “If only two people are on the bus and they want to go to Wal-Mart and they’d prefer not to walk that far — if he has time, the driver will take them there,” Corran said.

To accommodate peak ridership, two buses will operate from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:30 to 7 p.m., dropping to a single bus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Of the survey takers, 145 identified themselves as “commuters” and 127 as “senior citizens.”

Corran was surprised to see that so many people — 120 — were already using TriMet’s Line 57, especially given how far away from that route many lived.

Even better, 165 said they would use TriMet if a local transit service could connect them to it. A full 70 percent (212 survey takers) said they would use the community transit service to get to the MAX line in Hillsboro (by connecting with the 57 bus line).

Corran said she was surprised to find that 44 percent of the survey takers said they would not be more likely to use the local transit service if it picked them up at their front door.

“We expected that to be close to 100 percent,” she said. “I think it kind of shows people understand the value of transit.”

In lieu of a front-door pickup, 20 percent of survey respondents said they’d be willing to walk only one block or less to get the bus; 62 percent said they’d walk two to four blocks; 12 percent would hike five to seven blocks and 14 intrepid, exercise-loving transit fans said they would walk eight blocks or more.