Mt. Hood bus service wants input
Community opinion could expand bus routes to three new counties
Mt. Hood Express wants to hear from you.
The bus service held community meetings in Sandy, Welches and Government Camp to discuss expanding routes and services. The bus service currently runs from Sandy to Timberline Lodge.
Jacques Livingston, of Clackamas County Health Social Services, overseas the Mt. Hood Express project.
Yes, were interested to look at the viability of expansion, Livingston said. But we dont want to expand at the expense of cutting what we already have.
The express hired LSC Consultants out of Colorado to look at the transit systems, collect data and survey residents about what they would like to see with the transportation service in the future.
The focus here is on two things: how the Mt. Hood Express as a system should be organized in terms of governance and institutional structure. So right now its under the county; the question is should it be long-term under the county or some other organization? With that goes the funding question, having sustainable funding to keep it going. The funding sources are somewhat dependent on how you structure the organization, said A.T. Stoddard with LSC. The other is what should the service look like. So were working on both of those.
In recent years the express experienced a surge of riders when it expanded its route from Rhododendron to Mount Hood. Ridership nearly doubled from about 20,000 riders in 2013 to more than 40,000 in 2015. In October of 2014 the name changed from the Mountain Express to the Mt. Hood Express.
The transit system isnt just for skiers and mountain bikers, even though the busses are equipped for both. The bus ride offers a $2 pass, which is a huge resource for low-income communities needing to commute up the mountain. Each pass costs $11.61 in operating costs but grants save users $9.61.
We did a survey last fall and found a large contingent of riders, who were commuting up to their jobs but didnt have a car they could use, Livingston said. So really they were dependent on transit.
If the express expands again, it could add service routes to Multnomah and Hood River counties as well as the Warm Springs Reservation area. But Livingston and Stoddard dont want to get ahead of themselves. They and their team are taking the issue to Oregonians with meetings and surveys. Over the July 18-20 weekend the group surveyed bus riders, but is also hoping to reach those off the bus through its online survey. The survey is available at lsccs.com/projects/mthood/ and asks what changes residents want to see to enhance services.
The express also is looking for more sustainable funding sources.
How do we take care of a service that has been very well received and keep it going? asked Livingston. Mt. Hood Express currently receives funds through grants from ODOT, the Federal Land Grant Access Program and contributions from private partnerships like mountain area resorts.
ODOT really supports us trying to get as many cars off (Highway) 26 as possible, Livingston explained.
More community meetings will be held in September and January. By spring 2016 the express hopes to have a comprehensive plan.