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ODOT eyes expansion of Gorge bus service after successful first year

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Half of the four-bus fleet.
(Photo: ODOT)

Turns out there are other ways to solve auto overcrowding and congestion than spending billions on freeway expansions.

The first season of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Columbia Gorge Express bus service has “far surpassed” expectations, the agency announced this morning. “The public response highlighted a significant demand for transit service in the Gorge.”

Launched in May as a way to relieve serious overcrowding of private cars in the Gorge, the service carried more than 30,000 people between the Gateway Transit Center, Rooster Rock State Park, and Multnomah Falls. The service was offered for 18 weekends and it was the first year of a two-year pilot project. There were initially three, 20-seat buses, with a third, 53-seat bus added in July. All four buses had bicycle racks that ODOT says were “used every day.”

We’re gonna’ need a bigger bus.
(Photo: Kate Laudermilk)


A survey of riders underscored how vital and popular non-driving options are for people throughout the region. Here are some selected survey results from ODOT:

75 percent who started at the Gateway Transit Center said they chose the service even though they had a car.
25 percent of riders said the bus was their only transportation option for visiting the Gorge.
63 percent of Gateway Transit Center riders started their travel on public transit.
63 percent of riders came from outside the Portland area.

This bus service didn’t just provide options for people who needed it, it also improved access for people who still chose to drive. ODOT says over the past two years overcrowding has forced closure of parking lot at Multnomah Falls 181 times — 129 of which were on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

With this success, ODOT plans to make changes and improve the service. In a statement released today the agency said they’ll move the transit stop closer to existing bus and light rail stations, provide new shelters and benches at the two stops in the Gorge, and have a staff person at stops to answer questions. In 2018 ODOT says they’ll consider expanding the service to Hood River with new stops possible at Bonneville Dam, Cascade Locks, the Eagle Creek hiking area, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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