Gales Creek, TRANSPORTATION, Washington County

Ride Connection plans public transit expansion in rural western Washington County

A Ride Connection bus drives through Banks on July 11, 2018. Photo: Chas Hundley

In early 2021, the nonprofit organization Ride Connection plans to expand their offerings of rural public transit options, which includes bus routes in Banks and North Plains that connect to the wider TriMet service territory, door-to-door services in rural unincorporated western Washington County, and a free bus route in Forest Grove called GroveLink. 

The expansions would be funded by Statewide Transportation Improvement Funds (STIF) and House Bill 2017 funds that come from a new 0.1% employee payroll tax.

Presently, WestLink is a free bus route that links Banks, North Plains, and Forest Grove to the Hillsboro Transit Center, which places riders into a position to travel nearly anywhere in the Portland Metro area using TriMet. The current route, which includes two stops in Banks, one stop in North Plains, and one stop in Forest Grove before arriving in Hillsboro in the morning and evening could expand and offer more transit options. 

If enacted, the proposed expansions would mean that there will be two stops in North Plains, two new mid-day round trips on weekdays, more stops in Forest Grove to link with TriMet Route 57 and the free GroveLink bus route, and deviations in Banks and North Plains for pickups and dropoffs would be permitted. 

“We did hear input on the Westlink expansion that people would like earlier and later times than what will be offered. This is not currently in the scope of the Westlink expansion, but we will certainly consider this as new funds become available,” Ride Connection’s Planning Supervisor John Whitman said in an email to the Gales Creek Journal.

Another staple of Ride Connection’s services are the door-to-door services that allow residents in rural unincorporated western Washington County to request a ride at certain times from their home to destinations (and vice-versa) in Forest Grove, Cornelius and Hillsboro as far as 10th Street in Hillsboro. For trips to and from medical appointments, that region is extended as far as NW/SW 185th Ave in Hillsboro.

Under the proposed expansion, the requirement that door-to-door services be requested only at certain times would be done away with, and the current service territory for rides would be expanded for those unable to use traditional public transit options to as far as SW 185th Avenue going south to SW Kemmer Road (at Cooper Mountain Nature Park), west to SW 175th Avenue and south to SW Roy Rogers Road. For medical-related rides, rides could be requested as far east as the Willamette River. 

The current “rural to urban” rule would also be eliminated, meaning a resident in, for example, Gales Creek could request a ride to the city of Banks for a job interview under the proposed expansion.

Finally, Forest Grove’s free GroveLink bus route would be expanded under the proposal, adding stops on the existing route and expanding to Cornelius and eastern Forest Grove, as well as earlier and slightly later service times. 

A full overview of current offerings and the proposed expansions can be viewed at rideconnection.org/washcoexpansion

The nonprofit solicited feedback from rural residents on the proposed expansions by way of an online open house and survey, eventually receiving 16 responses before the survey was closed shortly before Thanksgiving Day, according to Whitman. 

“Response to the proposed expansions was very positive, with many excited about the new flexibility these transportation options will give them,” Whitman said.

“The expansions were seen by respondents as increasing the flexibility, convenience, and reliability of service,” Whitman wrote.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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