New free transit service draws more riders as first week rolls forward

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Hailey Peterson (left) and Makayla Sullivan, both 12, wandered into the News-Times office Monday asking where they could pick up GroveLink. They were tired from riding around town and hoped to catch a ride back to Forest Gale Heights. They and other Forest Grove residents are invited to a grand opening ceremony for GroveLink at 12 noon Tuesday, Sept. 3, in Lincoln Park, off Main Street between 27th and 28th avenues.The number of riders on Forest Grove's free local transit service more than doubled from last Monday (opening day) to Wednesday, then tapered off Friday.

That midweek peak is common for alternative transportation such as cycling or transit, said Lydia Corran, outreach director for Ride Connection, the nonprofit that operates the service.

During its first week, GroveLink provided 18 trips Monday, 24 Tuesday, 44 Wednesday, 33 Thursday and 23 Friday.

Like TriMet, GroveLink counts riders not by individual people but by trips. The 44 “riders” on Wednesday could have been 22 people taking GroveLink to work in the morning and then back home later that night.

During the week, Ride Connection got about 50 calls from people with questions about how to use GroveLink to get to certain destinations, including workplaces, Safeway, banks and more, Corran said.

Some passengers had more personal missions, she said, such as the father and son who wanted to eat breakfast together downtown before the son headed off to Pacific University.

Brochures on the service are going quickly at City Hall and the Forest Grove Library, Corran said.

Bike racks won't be installed on the buses until Sept. 5, but meanwhile, GroveLink drivers are making do. When Makayla Sullivan and Hailey Peterson showed up Monday, Aug. 26, the driver strapped their two small bikes into the empty wheelchair slot.

The 12-year-olds caught the bus to Forest Gale Heights from the stop at Main Street and University Avenue.

“We’ve been riding our bikes a long time and we’re tired,” Makayla said.

Hailey’s mother had read about GroveLink in the paper and the two decided spontaneously to try it out.

They were a little confused about which bus to take (two separate GroveLink buses stop at that corner) so ended up waiting longer than necessary. But in the end, they enjoyed the ride and plan to do it again.

"It didn’t take forever to get there," said Makayla, who liked being dropped off right by her home.

Hailey liked discovering new territory: "It's kind of interesting to see all the different stops and something new to Forest Grove."

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