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Bus service, advocacy group are latest signs of cycling boom in Mt. Hood area

Posted by on January 10th, 2014 at 11:25 am

Come aboard (with your bike),
they’re expecting you.

The City of Sandy and the Mt. Hood area are in the midst of a transportation revolution and bicycling is playing a major role.

Thanks to the huge success of the Sandy Ridge Trail System, the burgeoning popularity of adventure road riding, and bicycle tourism efforts, cycling has reached a tipping point. The excitement around cycling has spurred investment and attention from government officials, inspired a new bike advocacy group, and has had an economic impact on area businesses. Add to that the Oregon Department of Transportation’s ongoing work on the Mt. Hood Multimodal Transportation Plan and you’ve got the ingredients for change.

Two developments we’re keeping tabs on in this area are the launch of a new, bike-friendly bus service along Highway 26 and the growing energy around the Mt. Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition.

“I feel big things about to happen for the villages of Mt. Hood, Government Camp and Timberline Lodge! I can’t help but feel a certain electrical charge in the air while thinking of all the cycling possibilities.”
— George Wilson, Mt. Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition

In early 2013, the Mt. Hood National Forest partnered with Clackamas County to win a $460,000 grant through the Federal Lands Access Program to improve bus service on the Highway 26 corridor. Now that service, the Mt. Hood Express, is up and running. The service is getting ready for the spring season with new buses, a new schedule, and very welcoming attitude to bike riding customers.

Here’s how the Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs office announced the new bus service in their newsletter sent out this morning:

Bring the Bike, Ditch the Car: Mt. Hood Express Bus

Biking on Mt. Hood this year? Utilize Mt. Hood Express, a bus service for communities along Highway 26, running from the city of Sandy east to Timberline. New buses are equipped with plenty of bicycle and gear storage. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can ditch your car and hitch a ride to many Mt. Hood National Forest and Skibowl mountain bike trails.

The Mt. Hood Express runs every day (except Christmas and Thanksgiving). The western-most stop is on Highway 26 and 362nd (Forestry Center). From there, the bus travels east about 36 miles to Timberline Lodge and Ski Area with nine stops along the way. If you take the TriMet MAX Blue Line to the Cleveland Ave Station (end of the line) in Gresham, the Mt. Hood Express stop in Sandy is an easy, 10 mile bike ride away (and much of that ride is on the Springwater Corridor!). Fares are $2 one way (have exact change). Check out MtHoodExpress.com for more info.

The other exciting development is the newly formed Mt. Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. This is a group of volunteers who came together last fall to lobby ODOT and Clackamas County to think twice about chip-sealing Barlow Road — a popular place to ride. Now they are focused on developing a new bicycle and pedestrian master plan for Mt. Hood and surrounding towns.

Sandy Ridge loop-9
There are a lot of great roads to explore between
Sandy and Mt. Hood.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Coalition leader George Wilson has actively pursued partnerships with major political and business leaders in the area including; Oregon State Representative Mark Johnson, Clackamas County Transportation Engineering Manager Mike Bezner, Director of Public Affairs/Timberline Lodge Jon Tullis, the Villages at Mt. Hood Board of Directors, Mt. Hood Skibowl Owner Kirk Hanna (yes that Kirk Hanna), the Executive Director of Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs Danielle Cowan, and others.

In a recent email to supporters of the Coalition, Wilson wrote:

“I feel big things about to happen for the villages of Mt. Hood, Government Camp and Timberline Lodge! I can’t help but feel a certain electrical charge in the air while thinking of all the cycling possibilities for our Hoodland communities. I’m proud to say there are several major players who are able to see the vision and benefits of becoming a cycling friendly community.”

Here’s a list of the group’s goals:

  • Advocate and seek funding for a Bicycle/Pedestrian a Master Plan, with safety being paramount.
  • Repair and improve our deteriorating roads to restore them to acceptable standards by eliminating pot holes and road defects that have become a danger to vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Develop partnerships with like-minded organizations that understand the value of cycling tourism.
  • Provide future bike lanes and or bike/ped pathways that connect the villages of Mt. Hood.
  • Support Timberline Lodge, Skibowl and the National Forest Service in their efforts to build a well thought-out plan for an improved Mountain Bike Skills Park.
  • Plan and develop a paved bicycle pathway that parallels Hwy. 26, allowing cyclists to ride from Welches to Government Camp/Timberline Lodge, with the ultimate goal of making the connection to the Spring Water Corridor, connecting Portland to Mt. Hood via bicycle.
  • Improve existing mountain bike trails from Timberline Lodge/Skibowl to Welches.

It’s exciting to see so much momentum for bicycling, walking, and transit access improvements along the Highway 26 corridor in and around Mt. Hood. On January 25th, the Mt. Hood Villages Town Hall meeting will focus on cycling and bicycle tourism. We’re sending BikePortland News Editor Michael Andersen to the meeting and stay tuned for his report.

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Comments
  • Kiel Johnson January 10, 2014 at 11:59 am

    i want a bike friendly bus service to hood river!

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • Pete January 13, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      …that stops at PDX. :-)

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • jacob January 10, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    “the Mt. Hood Express stop in Sandy is an easy, 10 mile bike ride away (and much of that ride is on the Springwater Corridor!)” Or just take the $1 SAM from Gresham TC, avoid the ride to Sandy, and spend more time on your bike where you want to, because you want to. Not because you have to, better yet…. Drive there.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Adam January 12, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      What is the Gresham SAM?

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  • Nick January 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    While enthusiasm is warranted, let’s stay realistic about these changes.

    I used the Mt Hood Express extensively during my car-free days. Riding Sandy Ridge, for me, required waking up sometime in the 4-5 am range, out the door on my bike by 5am to catch the MAX from Beaverton Transit. Ride MAX all the way to Gresham. Catch the Gresham-Sandy Bus (runs every 30 min’s) to the Mtn Express Bus stop in Sandy to catch one of the morning buses towards Rhody. Get off at Brightwood stop (which for a while didn’t exist, requiring getting out at Country Club Rd). Pedal to Sandy Ridge Trails. So you’re already looking at about 3 hrs of travel from West Portland just to Sandy Ridge TH.

    Ride Sandy Ridge to your heart’s desire, but keep an eye on the time, because if you miss your 1pm Mtn Express, your next ride out to Sandy comes around 4pm. And you get to repeat the transit time spent on your way home. Additionally, about half the time, the 2 bike racks on the Express were already taken, so I spent the ride holding my bike upright on its back tire in the back of the express bus, pushed up against the emergency exit door.

    So, from SW PDX, to ride Sandy Ridge, I was committed to a 6-hr RT transit ride for about 4 hrs of riding, of which about maybe 1 hour was actually on singletrack since the grind up Sandy Ridge is all pavement. I would finally get back to the house around 4:30pm. Almost 12 hours of transit for 1 hour of singletrack is a poor return on invested time.

    If this is to work and be attractive for Portland-area mtn bikers, the first significant change needs to be increased bus running schedules. Every 3 hours mid-day is not enough. It would also help for Tri-Met and the Express to have an agreement allowing single fare to allow the full ride. As it stands, the trip with all the transit is about $9, roughly the same most of us would spend on gas. Add on a riding buddy, and costs favor driving. I also hope there is more space for bikes now.

    I do share enthusiasm for Mt Hood transit, especially its extension to SKiBowl/Gov’t Camp, but we still have a ways to go to make this a convenient option for many people.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Alex Reed January 11, 2014 at 5:23 am

      Agreed, this service is of limited use right now. I wonder if the agencies could coordinate to have the Gresham-Sandy bus at least sometimes continue to Sandy? That would eliminate one transfer.

      I look forward to using this service myself to allow one-way (net downhill!) Forest-road touring in the summer. But the transit time is less of an issue when weighed against multiple days of fun. Plus I live easy riding distance from the Springwater in Portland.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Todd Hudson January 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Is there any news about status of the Timberline mountain bike park? What’s happening with Bark’s lawsuit to stop it?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Bjorn January 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Timberline posted an update in September regarding their continued hard work to decommission old roads to reduce sediment issues and asking folks to stay off the glade trail on both bike and foot to help that to be successful. A new footpath will be constructed once the road decommissioning is complete.

      It sounds like on the old road hikers were actually contributing to the problem. The new bike trail construction should commence once the lawsuit is over. It isn’t clear to me from their website if that can be accomplished in time for building this summer which would allow us to ride in 2015.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Peter W January 11, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Love the retro look of the bus.

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  • ME Fitz January 11, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    For those of us who live in the Hoodland area, this bus is golden and a dream come true however limited it is. My teenage son takes it skiing regularly. Ski area employees are a significant part of the ridership. It honestly warms my heart to see riders spill out of the crowded bus.
    In October I rode to Timberline and single tracked 18 miles all the way home – sweet. Cheers to the Clackamas County, USFS, Timberline, Ski Bowl and The Resort at the Mountain for making this happen.

    And the Mt Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition – thank you for George for taking this on. We may have lost our chipseal battle this summer but that battle helped build our bike community.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Adam H. January 13, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Why doesn’t the bus go all the way to the Gresham Blue Line station?

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Psyfalcon January 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      They’re probably afraid of duplicating services. Sandy already has a bus running from Gresham to Sandy. http://www.ci.sandy.or.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={26472879-01E5-4802-86CE-70CBDE5F4F86}

      Transferless would be really nice though…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • ME Fitz January 15, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      The SAM bus already does that connection. If the Mt Hood Express went all the way to Gresham, given funding, I expect they would have to reduce the number of runs it makes up the mountain. While no transfer would be slick, the trade off is expensive. There is no taxing district to support this bus like Tri-Met has. Grants, ski areas, Resort at Mt & rider fees…
      The gap between the 915am and 115pm routes is big already – particularly on ski weekends.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul Laak January 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    So.. the big thinking for this was first the winter. I can tell you it is a success. Get to the first stop just in front of the Forest Service in Sandy (in front of the Fred Meyer’s) at 7:30 on a weekend and the small bus will fill up with teenagers being dropped off by parents. The get to Timberline Lodge in just over an hour for $2 one-way! If we had European intelligence, we would run the MAX up to Rhody or Gov’y!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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