More bike capacity among possible upgrades for ODOT’s Gorge Express bus service

Riders board the Columbia Gorge Express.
(Photos: ODOT)

Despite an early end to the season due to the Eagle Creek Fire, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Columbia Gorge Express bus service was a hit once again this past summer season.

Jake Warr from ODOT’s Rail & Public Transit Division manages the program. He got in touch with us to share an update on this year’s usage stats and a photo of the newly upgraded buses.

“The second season of ODOT’s Columbia Gorge Express pilot service further confirmed that public transit to the Gorge is in high demand,” Warr said. “In fact, before the Eagle Creek Fire forced an early end to the season, the service was on pace to beat last year’s ridership totals. A few tweaks from the 2016 season helped accommodate and support this ridership growth, including the use of larger buses and the option to pay fares with cash.”

Here are the stats based on ticket sales and rider survey:

➤ Gorge visitors took over 27,000 rides on the bus between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, equating to an average of 557 rides per day of service (a 10% increase over 2016).
➤ 99% said they would recommend the service to others.
➤ Over half of riders from Gateway Transit Center had no other transportation option to visit the Gorge.
➤ 65% of Gateway riders started their trip on TriMet, illustrating the importance of that connection to the regional transit network.
➤ 90% said the service, which cost $5 roundtrip from Gateway Transit Center, was an excellent value.
➤ 60% came from a state besides Oregon, 28% from the Portland Metro, and 8% from outside the U.S.


A major upgrade to the buses this summer.

Warr says these “encouraging” results will help ODOT plan for the future. Next season they’re considering extending the range of the buses to more Gorge destinations, operating more days of the week (not just weekends), and maybe even during other seasons (fall colors perhaps?).

Warr also says ODOT wants the service to better accomodate bicycle riders and they are looking into using trailers to carry more bikes!

Stay tuned for a survey about the expanded bike service.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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5 years ago

I LOVE this service. Makes it so much easier to live car-free in PDX, and you don’t have to worry about abysmal traffic and parking conditions at Multnomah. We used it over 10 times this year, and would use it even more if it went to Hood River!

5 years ago

if they’re using full size tour buses then they should be able to fit a lot of bikes in the underside storage… I can’t imagine they get much baggage other than some backpacks, which most people take inside the bus with them…

5 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

In my parents’ region in Germany they use these trailers for select buses on the weekend:

Probably makes loading and unloading much easier than using the luggage compartment.

5 years ago

And to think what a passenger rail line between PDX and The Dalles could be with stops at Mult Falls, Cascade Locks and Hood River along the way.

5 years ago
Reply to  BradWagon

Can’t do that. It makes far too much sense!

Chris I
Chris I
5 years ago
Reply to  BradWagon

More capacity is needed. Much of the line is single-track, and already quite busy with freight. If this were Europe, the state would work with the rail operator to fund a build-out of complete double-track between the cities, in exchange for guaranteed operating rights for passenger trains. ODOT would rather spend the money to add lanes to Interstates instead.

Cory P
Cory P
5 years ago

I love this service. I had always wanted to skate out to the gorge but the idea of a round trip over the mountain was more than I could handle. With Gorge Express I can skate one way and catch a ride home. It’s fantastic!