GroveLink celebrates a year of growth
Some would-be riders still finding out about Forest Grove bus service
Teenagers heading for McDonalds. Latino families traveling from the east side of town to the west. Seniors. Commuters. Swimmers. Shoppers.
These are the many different people who ride GroveLink, Forest Groves local-transit service, which is about to celebrate its first anniversary.
The little green and white buses began running a year ago Aug. 19, providing 18 rides that first day.
In less than two months, ridership had more than doubled, from 142 the first week to 423 in early October. By the end of the school year, weekly ridership numbers had topped 700.
That may not sound like much in a city of 22,000, but the crew at Ride Connection the transportation nonprofit which runs the weekday service think its great for the first year, especially since some people are still just finding out about the service.
One such recent call was from a woman in a local assisted-living facility, said Shaun Feiler, the dispatcher and scheduler for GroveLink. Her story was she hasnt gone anywhere and shes lived there since November, he said.
In addition, I know theres a ton of (riders) getting to the TriMet bus, Feiler said. Thats humongous. Many of them make the TriMet connection at Safeway, one of the routes most popular stops, he said.
After a drop in weekly ridership when school ended, GroveLink has mostly remained in the 500 to 600 range throughout the summer, peaking (so far) at 689 in mid-July.
The summertime drop might be a yearly trend, said Lydia Corran, Ride Connections outreach director, but were very confident that it will go back up, and its not so low that were concerned.
Driver Paul Davis said his ridership hasnt dipped so much as changed. Instead of students going to high school, hes had young female champions from the Forest Grove swim team catching the bus at 6:37 a.m. to get to the citys aquatic center.
To me, anyone whos in high school who gets up that early is a champion, Davis said.
Theres also the young mom who gets on with her baby at 6:34 a.m. to catch the TriMet bus to beauty school in Hillsboro.
And John Abel, the other morning driver, figured out how to connect with more commuters on GroveLinks East Loop, where ridership consistently lags behind the West Loop.
Abel realized GroveLinks morning Yew Street stop was just missing the commuters getting off a TriMet bus a few minutes later and (previously) walking to their jobs. Now that he times it so he connects with them, the number of morning commuters has risen from only a few a month ago to a dozen, including four Viasystems employees.
Abel also picks up McMenamins employees, Safeway shoppers, seniors and his share of teenagers heading for the pool.
In the afternoons, Driver Mario Tellez ferries teenagers to the store or to get ice cream, he said.
Wednesdays draw many riders who plan to attend the farmers market in downtown Forest Grove but who head in a few hours early to run errands beforehand, Tellez said.
He also knows a few riders at Quail Run Estates who depend on GroveLink to get to Bi-Mart or Safeway for their medicine.
Theres been such an overall support or buzz about GroveLink, Corran said. People are seeing that even if theyre not benefitting from GroveLink, they know someone who is.
Few riding, but many supporting
The just-released results of a new citizen survey indicate Forest Groves local-transit service is still not widely used.
In answer to the question, How often do you ride GroveLink, nine people said daily, 13 said once or twice weekly, 40 said once or twice monthly and 624 of the 686 who answered the question (91 percent) said never.
But 485 of those people had at least heard of GroveLink.
And even with the relatively low ridership numbers, when people were asked whether the city should promote sustainable practices even if it means increases to cost of service, 58 percent said yes when it came to GroveLink, with 42 percent opposing.
A majority of respondents opposed cost increases for three other sustainable practices, including curbside food recycling (70 percent no to 30 percent yes), a plastic-bag ban ( 64 percent no to 36 percent yes) and more community gardens (53 percent no to 47 percent yes).
LED street lighting was the only other sustainable practice for which respondents were willing to pay more to promote (55 percent yes to 45 percent no), slightly behind GroveLink's strong showing of support.
We think these results are really positive, said Lydia Corran, outreach director for Ride Connection, which operates the service. "That means to us that theyre happy with the service, that they think its useful even if theyre not using it, which is kind of unheard of.
The 2014 citizen survey, conducted by the city of Forest Grove, covered a variety of city services and was distributed to Forest Grove residents in their June utility bills. Results were tabulated and presented at Mondays city council meeting and are available on the city's website at forestgrove-or.gov/city-hall/departments.html.