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New transit pass could make you master of the Gorge for just $30


BikePortland contributor Kate Johnson and her bike on a Columbia Gorge Express bus.
(Photo: Kate Johnson)

It’s not exactly one pass to rule them all; but it is one pass to rule the Gorge.

“This pass is the financial piece of a broader plan that seeks to create the actual and political resources necessary to build a comprehensive resilient transit system in the Gorge.”
— Patricia Fink, Columbia Area Transit

At the start of this month, the Hood River County Transportation District (a.k.a. Columbia Area Transit or CAT) launched the GOrge Pass, a golden ticket that allows unlimited rides on the Columbia Gorge Express, every regular CAT bus line, and CAT’s Gorge-to-the-Mountain ski bus.

And from now through May 18th, you can get this annual pass just $30 (or $15 for kids under 17). The price goes up to $90 for the year after that (and $45 for kids), so you should get one right now.

If you’re on the fence, consider that this is about much more than a transit pass. According to CAT Executive Director Patricia Fink, sales of the pass are a vital piece of the transit agency’s vision. Put another way, when you purchase a GOrge Pass you are actively playing a role in making transit between Portland and Hood River better and more accessible to all.

Fink and her colleagues know that great transit service in the Gorge — for residents and visitors — is tied directly to economic development, the fight against climate change, affordable housing, and the severe congestion and parking problems the area struggles with.

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Columbia Area Transit presentation.

On February 11th Fink told members of the Columbia River Gorge Commission about how the pass is such a lynchpin to their goals: “This pass is the financial piece of a broader plan that seeks to create the actual and political resources necessary to build a comprehensive resilient transit system in the Gorge,” she said. “One that not only links and serves the commuter and recreational needs of the Portland Metro area with the mobility and access needs of the Gorge’s rural communities, but also offers rural and urban residents a new way of thinking about how they live and how they travel in the Gorge.”

Late last year CAT was awarded a $1.8 million grant from ODOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund (STIF). The grant requires a local match and it’s only for start-up operations. “The award was made with the understanding that we would have just 18 months to build program ridership and create a more sustainable partnership for funding,” Fink explained to the Commission.

CAT is working with the City of Portland to take over an on-street parking space at Gateway Transit Center to park a bike trailer their bus can pull during peak summer months.

She estimates they need to sell a minimum of 10,000 passes this year and twice that amount each year for up to five more years. As of today they’ve sold 1,343 passes (the program launched February 4th), with over half through large Hood River employers.

It’s an ambitious goal, but Fink and her team are committed to making it happen. And they’re counting on Portlanders who value the Gorge and transit to help. If you love biking in the Gorge, consider that all Gorge Express buses have bike racks and CAT is working with the City of Portland to take over an on-street parking space at Gateway Transit Center to park a bike trailer their bus can pull during peak summer months.

Grab a GOrge Pass and get a ticket for great riding and explorations while doing your part to support better transit service for everyone else. I already got mine. See you on the bus!

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