By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County transit to seek route decrease, free fares

News-Register file photo##Yamhill County Transit Area buses will continue running, although ridership is down. The county is considering a temporary fare decrease.
News-Register file photo##Yamhill County Transit Area buses will continue running, although ridership is down. The county is considering a temporary fare decrease.

With ridership down 60% and staffing levels at 75%, Yamhill County Transit manager Cynthia Thompson is planning to ask the county transit board to consider service and fare reductions in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Thompson said she will ask the county to approve free fares beginning April 6 and lasting for the duration of the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order. Single fares are currently $1.25.

The county board of commissioners, which doubles as the county transit board, will meet Thursday to consider Thompson’s proposal. The county has begun livestreaming its meetings, so people can observe without having to attend in person.

Thompson also is recommending the service temporarily discontinue Newberg local fixed routes 5 and 7, and the first morning trip on Routes 33 and 44. Those leave at 5:55 a.m., for Route 33, and 6:20 a.m. for Route 44. Those changes would also be effective April 6.

The “on demand” service will be available to include riders’ needs, so “no one will be left without a way to get to the doctor or grocery store,” Thompson said.

The transit team is meeting weekly to assess the situation and to review ridership data, and may make further recommendations.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act includes $25 billion in funds needed for essential public transportation services, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced increased flexibility to help transit agencies respond to coronavirus, Thompson said.

In states such as Oregon, where the governor has declared an emergency, “transit agencies may use federal formula funds for emergency related capital and operating expenses,” she said.

Bus riders are being requested to follow safety precautions, including social distancing where possible, and dispatchers may ask health questions to ensure customers are not traveling with COVID-19 symptoms.

“All transit vehicles in service are being cleaned frequently with disinfectant throughout the day and every evening in preparation for the next day,” Thompson said.

Thursday’s meeting is 9:45 a.m. in Room 32 of the county courthouse. Public comments may be e-mailed ahead of time, to BOCinfo@co.yamhill.or.us. People also may call commissioners at 503-434-7501. Packet information is available on the county’s website, at www.co.yamhill.or.us/meetings.

 

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