Columbia River Gorge

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

by on October 16th, 2017 at 4:21 pm

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:[Read more…]

Here’s a handy guide to which Gorge trails have reopened after the fire

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on October 3rd, 2017 at 11:15 am

Still from a KGW video assessing damage to the Columbia Gorge.

You’ve probably heard by now that despite last month’s conflagration in the Columbia River Gorge, Portlanders’ worst fears about the destruction didn’t come true.

But keeping track of where you can and can’t hike and bike through the Gorge right now is more complicated than usual. That’s where the Friends of the Columbia Gorge come in.

[Read more…]

“A pit in my stomach”: ODOT official shares latest on fire damage to Historic Columbia River Hwy

by on September 7th, 2017 at 9:34 am

The beautiful Oneonta Tunnel that just re-opened to biking and walking in 2009 isn’t looking so good right now.
(Photo: ODOT)

The Eagle Creek Fire is still raging in the Gorge and we’ve been reaching out to sources to find out how much impact it has had on the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail. Just one year ago we joined a big group of riders and dignitaries for a triumphant centennial celebration of the legendary road. And today it feels like it’ll be another hundred years before things are back to normal.

The good news is not all has been lost. Reports yesterday from fire officials were heartening. But what about those pictures of our dear Oneonta Tunnel engulfed in flames?! We’ve been as eager as you to know more.

This morning I heard back from Kristen Stallman, the outgoing Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Stallman has worked on the Historic Highway project for years and her connection to it transcends her job title. Here’s what she had to say about where things stand today (emphases mine): [Read more…]

Reflections on the Eagle Creek Fire from ‘Gorge Getaways’ author Laura Foster

by on September 5th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Eagle Creek in 2015.
(Photo by Debbie Asakawa)

Laura O. Foster is author of Portland Hill Walks and Columbia Gorge Getaways. She lives in the west hills above Highway 30 north of Sauvie Island. Last summer Foster shared tips on riding the ‘Trail of the Gods’ from Stevenson (WA) to Cascade Locks.

The Columbia Gorge. Three Days Ago. Today.

1:00 a.m. today: The smell of burning forest punched through an already-uneasy sleep. I stepped outside, sniffing, looking through the dark for flames, afraid our land was on fire.
[Read more…]

Ash from Eagle Creek Fire adds to poor air quality in Portland: Is it OK to ride?

by on September 5th, 2017 at 8:03 am

cycling bad air.jpg

A woman wears a mask while cycling on North Vancouver Avenue this morning.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Rode today with a mask, but some eye protection is needed. My eyes started to itch after a while.”
— Alex Fallenstedt via Twitter

Larch Mountain, Crown Point, Cascade Locks — to people who love to ride bicycles, these places are more than cherished icons of Oregon’s beauty. They are ride destinations and inspirations.

The Eagle Creek Fire that’s still burning out of control in the Columbia River Gorge is having an emotional impact on many of us. People who live and work in the Gorge are struggling right now. And for those of us with emotional bonds to those places forged by hours in the saddle we can only watch in horror as the damage spreads. Even if we could put it out of our minds, the ash falling in Portland makes it impossible to ignore.

That ash has mixed with bad air quality (at hazardous levels last I checked) has many of you wondering if it’s safe to bike in the city. The answer is yes, but…
[Read more…]

Riding ODOT’s Columbia Gorge “Not-So” Express Bus

Adam by on July 10th, 2017 at 4:26 pm

“The new service has potential but unfortunately misses the mark at nearly every step of the way.”

This past weekend, my family and I decided to try out ODOT’s new Columbia Gorge Express bus and spend a few hours at Multnomah Falls. After our experience, I unfortunately cannot personally recommend this service.

We decided to take the 12:55 pm bus from Gateway TC. Getting to Gateway car-free already meant a bus and a train from where we live. Unfortunately, our Columbia Gorge Express bus was 20 minutes late – not arriving until 1:15 and departing around 1:20. Tickets are purchased pre-paid but don’t actually guarantee you a spot on the bus. After a minor hassle with the ticket checker about the tickets being purchased for the wrong day (the website makes you pick a day, but specifies the ticket is in fact good for any day in the current season), we were aboard.

The bus first made a stop at Rooster Rock park to pick up and drop off passengers. There was not room for everyone, so many were left waiting for the next bus. After this ten minute stop, we were finally on our way to the falls. Upon coming up to the falls, our bus driver informed us that since the parking lot at Multnomah Falls was full, that we would not be able to exit the highway here, as there would be no room for the bus to turn around. We instead had to make a 20 minute detour to the next exit, get off the highway, then get back on the highway so that we were facing the correct direction.

Boarding the bus back was a confusing mess. We headed to the bus stop area, only to be informed by an ODOT employee that the line was further back. Schedules are posted at the stop but don’t bother using them, since the bus was nowhere near on any semblance of a schedule all day. We waited for 15 minutes before boarding the bus (that was either 15 minutes early or 35 minutes late, depending on how you read the schedule). Again, you are not guaranteed a spot on the bus back, so on busy days you might have to wait a good hour before getting on a bus. On the way back we predictably got stuck in traffic on I-84. Overall, we spent a total of four hours in transit, door-to-door, due to the bus’ lateness and detour, and TriMet’s infrequent Sunday schedule. Perhaps if you are staying somewhere overnight, the hassles might be worth it, but for a day trip, the bus was not very convenient.

The new service has potential but unfortunately misses the mark at nearly every step of the way. It was late, slow, and not well signed. If ODOT is serious about continuing this popular service, they should make the following changes:

    1. Adhere to the damn schedule. 20 minutes late is completely unacceptable for a bus that runs every 30 minutes. Either build in traffic time to the timetables or find some way to improve on-time performance.
    2. Add a dedicated bus turnaround area. The fact that a full parking lot at the falls caused the bus to make a 20 minute detour is unacceptable. This is not going to convince people not to drive and is yet another example of caving to auto interests over all else. Just remove a few parking spaces if needed. Or maybe start charging for parking to better manage demand.
    3. Better signage and waiting area at Multnomah Falls. The waiting area is a dingey pedestrian underpass under I-84. A higher-quality shelter with daylight visible would be welcome here.
    4. Integrate Hop Fastpass. Having to purchase your tickets separately just seems so arcane. We now have a really nice unified transit account for our region. This should be a priority in the next year not just for ODOT, but for all agencies operating in the Portland metro area. This should especially apply to the agencies that opted to secede from TriMet: SMART, SAM, etc.

While I welcome this forward-thinking idea (for a highway building department, anyway) to address traffic concerns at Oregon’s most popular destination, it seems to me that this service is still very much an afterthought by ODOT. If we are serious about getting people out of their cars, then this service falls flat. Unfortunately, the drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits. When the service expands to Hood River next year (in my opinion, a far more useful destination that I do plan on taking advantage of) I hope that ODOT will take the time to make these simple improvements to this service.

Not so fast e-bike riders: Motors aren’t allowed on bike paths in Oregon State Parks

by on July 6th, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-57

Riders on the Historic Columbia River State Trail.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we posted a story about how electric bicycles have opened up new riding opportunities\ in the Columbia River Gorge. But it turns out it’s illegal to ride an e-bike on the Historic Columbia River State Trail — or on any other paved bike path within the Oregon State Parks system.

We’ve since updated that story with a note after learning about the issue from a commenter (Park Chambers, who happens to own Fat Tire Farm and Hood River Bikes) and then confirming the facts in a phone call with an Oregon State Parks spokesperson.

This prohibition of e-bikes on paved trails caught me off-guard. As pedal-assisted bikes gain in popularity, I think the issue merits a closer look.
[Read more…]

E-bike rental in Mosier opens up new riding options in the Gorge

by on June 26th, 2017 at 10:30 am

My e-bike on loan from Route 30 Classics in Mosier.
(Photo: Laura O. Foster)

E-bike Rentals in the Gorge

From Route 30 Classics in Mosier

  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April to October (later if the weather’s good)
  • $15/hour
  • 18 years or older
  • 8 bikes available
  • No reservations taken
  • Racks have bungees for tying down small items; if you bring lunch, carry it in a backpack.

Story by Laura O. Foster, author of Columbia Gorge Getaways.

(Please see note about legality of e-bikes on Gorge paths at end of this story. – Jonathan)

“Everybody comes back loving it,” says Stephen Demosthenes, about his new e-bike rental business in Mosier.

Stephen’s the longtime owner of Route 30 Classics on the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH). In the multi-preneurial way of Northwesterners, he sells vintage Porsches and tee shirts, serves ice cream, espresso and Mosier-made sandwiches (in season), and now rents e-bikes.
[Read more…]

‘Gorge Express’ bus service returns with major upgrades

by on May 26th, 2017 at 9:35 am

The new and improved buses. You can stow your bike down below and get a $5 ride to the Gorge!

In yet another example of the wondrous potential of bus transit, the State of Oregon is starting up their Columbia Gorge Express service starting today.
[Read more…]

ODOT eyes expansion of Gorge bus service after successful first year

by on October 24th, 2016 at 10:31 am

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

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.”
[Read more…]