Connecting Florence and Eugene

New bus service begins in February

Feb. 2, 2020 — The City of Florence Transportation Committee received some exciting news at the Jan. 30 committee meeting at Florence City Hall.

Kelly Clarke from the Lane Coalition of Governments (LCOG) presented the committee with information regarding a new program for bus connector service between Florence and Eugene.

According to the LCOG website, “LCOG serves as a regional planning, coordination, program development and service delivery organizations in local communities across Lane County. Local issues often cross jurisdictional boundaries and can be most effectively addressed by communities working together within a regional forum.”

The pilot program will originate outbound service at the Eugene Amtrak Station in downtown and make it’s way along Commerce Street to Highway 126. There are only two opportunities to disembark along the winding road, one in Veneta and one in Mapleton, before arriving in Florence. Florence will have stops at Three Rivers Casino Resort and Old Town Park before ending the trip at Grocery Outlet.

The Florence to Eugene connector route has been a topic of discussion in both communities over the years, but the right combination of funding and customer demand have coalesced to make the project a reality this year.

Clarke said, “This started with a feasibility study that we started in 2017 to look at the feasibility of a bus route between Eugene and Florence. Through that study, we conducted a public survey, and we had a lot of public involvement with that. We had over 1,500 people respond to it, which is really great for that type of survey, and there was overwhelming support for the idea.”

The grant application submitted by LCOG for funding approval is comprehensive and includes many reasons for the state to grant the money needed to initiate the route. This included a reference to the Florence Transportation Plan, which was mentioned by Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell during the discussion.

“We have a very well thought out transportation systems plan, but we need the data updated and we would like to have the council reconsider some decisions that were made by the previous council to see if that is still the public will,” she said to the Transportation Committee.

According to Clarke, the timing of the decision was good to pursue the needed funding for the establishment of the connector service since Oregon has a new program that might support the request.

“As we wrapped up the study, the state had just authorized a new payroll tax called the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan,” Clarke said. “As that tax was coming into play, and how to apply for funding was being solidified, we were able to roll the findings from our study into our grant applications.”

The grant application also pointed to the broad cross-section of the community which sent letters of support for the project and the grant application.

Organizations listed as supporters in the paperwork sent to the state included the City of Eugene, the City of Florence, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, Lane Community College and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.

The application also highlighted the need for options for seniors who cannot or choose not to drive on Highway 126, as it annually ranks as one of Oregon’s most dangerous and deadly roads.

Clarke thanked the Confederated Tribes for its decision to donate the use of a transit bus for the initial stage of the program. She also stated that a new bus, purchased specifically for the Eugene to Florence trip, will be added in the future.

Transportation Committee members also asked that Clarke consider extending the connector route to the Eugene Municipal Airport. This would be done primarily to facilitate travel from Florence to the airport.

Clarke was open to exploring the possibility, but also felt the early timing of many of the flights leaving Eugene would present a logistical problem to the implementation of the idea.

The cost for a one-way ticket on the new line is $5 and the trip will take under two hours.

Runs from Eugene to Florence will begin at the Amtrak Station at 7 a.m. and at 4:10 p.m. and leave Grocery Outlet for Eugene at 9:06 a.m. and 6:06 p.m.

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