The wheels on the bus go around and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go around and round, all through the Gorge!
That’s right, as of Sept. 3, Mt. Adams Transportation Service has a fixed bus route for all residents that goes from White Salmon to Bingen to Hood River, making roughly 10 loops to designated bus stops a day. The bus will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Friday, and the fare will cost $1; children under 6 are free. A second route that goes from Goldendale to The Dalles began on Sept. 4.
“These new fixed-route services are made possible through the Washington State Department of Transportation Regional Mobility Grant that we were awarded, as well as support for matching funds from Klickitat County. The project is designed to improve connectivity between counties and regional population centers and reduce rural inaccessibility by providing operating assistance for new fixed service bus routes that increases access to employment, medical services, education, shopping, and other aspects crucial to quality of life,” said Sharon Carter, director of Mt. Adams Transportation Services.
These new bus routes will connect riders with other public transit services, such as the Columbia Area Transit (CAT) and the Columbia River Express (CRE) that can take travelers into other areas in the Columbia River Gorge, as well as Portland and Vancouver.
“Klickitat County has worked very hard to create an accessible, efficient and easy to use transit system, which isn’t easy to do in rural areas like this, but is absolutely necessary,” said Kathy Fitzpatrick, mobility manager for Mid-Columbia Economic Development District.
“Adding this transit option to our communities will give people a new level of freedom and access that they didn’t have before. Seniors, folks with disabilities or suspended licenses, kids and those who chose not to drive, now have a cost-effective option to get where they need to go, whether that’s a trip to the doctor, school or the grocery store,” said Fitzpatrick.
Prior to this new bus system, people would use the Dial-A-Ride bus, which wasn’t very reliable.
In terms of the bus fare, for those who don’t carry cash on them, there is a smartphone app called Hopthru, where you can purchase tickets to be scanned when you board the bus. Eventually, there will be physical bus passes available to individuals; employers can buy annual passes for their employees as well.
“Housing is a big issue in the Gorge, many people work in this area but can’t afford to live here so they commute from other areas, this new transit system gives another option to those commuters,” said Fitzpatrick.
More urban areas, like Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles have been working hard at making their cities more public transit or ride-sharing friendly, both to reduce traffic and address the impact on the environment by individually driven cars. Los Angeles recently introduced electric scooters to its city streets, while Portland and Seattle have been experimenting with bikes its citizens can rent, as well as access to ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
So, the question remains, what is the future of transportation for White Salmon, Bingen and other rural areas in trying to address public transportation?
“The future of transportation in our communities is not just this bus system, there are other alternatives we would like to see, but for now making the bus system successful is the first priority,” said Fitzpatrick.
For more information about the Mt. Adams Transit System, you can check out their website at http:// www.gorgetranslink.com/ or the county website https://www.klickitatcounty.org/363/Mount-Adams-Transportation-Service-MATS.