Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
The Mt. Hood Express transit line from Sandy to Timberline has two sleek new $140,000 buses to replace the clunkers of last year.
The new public buses are running seven times per day at $2 per ride, with stops in Welches, Skibowl, Government Camp and Timberline. Because they are part of a Clackamas County transportation service, they do not travel to Mt. Hood Meadows in Hood River County. For the full schedule, click here.
The bus line formerly known as the Mountain Express was scheduled to shut down in June 2013 for lack of funding, but a partnership between Clackamas County, ODOT, the Forest Service, the City of Sandy, Timberline, Skibowl and Resort at the Mountain extended and expanded the service with a $476,000 grant from the Federal Lands Access Program.
The renamed Mt. Hood Express (no relation to the chairlift at Meadows) transported 29,896 passengers in Year One, from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014. Teresa Christopherson of Clackamas County says that's about a 50% increase from the year before. "We’re hoping to see another big bump this year," she says, "to show that it is needed.”
The county bought the new buses for $140,000 apiece from Western Bus. They fit 37 passengers, and they have drop-down chains, specialized bike trailers for the summer, and a box mounted on the back of the vehicle to carry skis and snowboards in winter. The storage box will be familiar to anyone who has ridden transit from Bend to Mount Bachelor, because it is the same design.
Unfortunately, not long after the new buses made their debut on Mount Hood, one of them was damaged in a collision and knocked out of service for a while. But Christopherson says no one was injured, the damage was minimal and the bus is fine and back in action.
The new buses will be supplemented by the smaller Mountain Express vehicles used in the past, as well as an old City of Wilsonville bus. But the old whales that clogged up Hwy. 26 last year — 30 years old, heavy, and very slow — have been retired. "I’ll be sad to see those old buses go," says Christopherson. "They kind of belied the name Mt. Hood Express in that they weren’t exactly fast - but they were workhorses. They did the job when we didn’t have anything else.”
Like everyone else, Christopherson is hoping for some snow on the mountain, to bring in more riders. The county recently kicked off a new $5 day pass that gets riders unlimited bus trips on both the Mt. Hood Express and Sandy Transit.
Christopherson says they've heard from people who have traveled to Hood on public transit from as far off as Beaverton, including quite a few riders originating at the Portland Airport. "We didn't market it very heavily, and the service already has taken off," she says. "We are really looking forward to seeing it grow."