Jeff Knapp: Enhancing transportation

bennymarty/ Can Stock Photo
bennymarty/ Can Stock Photo

Living and working in a rural community the size of McMinnville has its benefits. I am lucky enough to have the ability to walk the tree-lined streets of our lovely city and arrive at my office in less than five minutes after walking out my front door. Most of my day-to-day trips are contained to a five minute walk or drive. Trips back to the Portland metro area and dealing with the traffic always result with me returning to McMinnville and kissing the ground.

That being said, it is my job to entice visitors to McMinnville and to inspire them to brave that exact traffic I myself try to avoid whenever possible. At Visit McMinnville, the city’s destination marketing organization, our goal is to enhance the economic vitality of McMinnville by promoting us as a year-round, overnight visitor, convention and event destination. Located in the heart of Oregon Wine Country, our community benefits from the 220-plus wineries within a twenty-mile radius. Formerly more of a seasonal destination, wine tourists from around the world now flood our valley year round.

Our location, one hour from Portland (which has become an international food and beverage destination) and one hour from the beauty of the Oregon coast, should have us on the “must-see” list of every visitor to our lovely state.

We continue to see significant investments and growth in the surrounding tourism industry. With this increase, there is a widening gap in the need for convenient local and regional transportation. For us to fully recognize the benefits of tourism to our area, our transportation systems and options need to improve.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Jeff Knappis the executive director of Visit McMinnville, a position he took after more than a decade in the service and hospitality industry. He lives in McMinnville with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Vivian.

We — like many — are excited about the completion of the first leg of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass, about to open later this year. However, that is only a Band-Aid. We will only see the full benefits of that bypass upon completion of the next two phases. Given the budget challenges in the Oregon Legislature, we desperately need support from the public to explain how investment in the next phases of the bypass will have a great return for Oregon in the future.

There are quite a few opportunities in McMinnville to uplevel transportation services. We stand to see real benefits in both job creation and the economic ripple effect of having visitors safely and efficiently accessing what all our local tourism stakeholders have to offer.

Some areas of opportunity to consider:

* Ridesharing like Uber or Lyft — Did you know that both those services are currently offered in McMinnville and surrounding areas? I took a ride the other day to try it out. Services like these could offer jobs to responsible drivers that meet the required standards and provide an instant network of transportation throughout the town and valley. It is a simple signup and inspection process and costs nothing to get started. Just visit either of their websites for more info.

* Private Taxi/Shuttle Services — The easier we make it to get around Yamhill County and to and from PDX, the better.

* Bike Rental — Did you know that there are no places in McMinnville to rent a bicycle? Guests hoping to cruise around town or to cycle the pastoral countryside have to bring bikes with them — and many do as cycle tourism continues to grow in the area. 

* McMinnville Municipal Airport — The airport is a huge asset to our community. The continuing expansion and promotion of that resource will be a critical piece of the puzzle as our city grows. The airport was once home to daily commercial flights. These days, its traffic of private jets and charter flights is increasing as appeal of Oregon Wine Country expands around the globe. Improvements to the facilities there can pay great dividends.

* Rail — Can you imagine a passenger rail line supporting visitors? McMinnville once had a passenger line, the Oregon Electric, that connected Portland to McMinnville. If they could do it then, how might we do it again?

* Tour/Van Services — We have several great tour companies locally. However, the majority of those services are based out of Portland, leaving local dollars on the table.

It is an exciting time in McMinnville with many possibilities on the horizon. I look forward to seeing how things develop over the next couple of years. Next time you hear from me, I will probably be writing about autonomous vehicles. Until then….