Yachats-Florence bus service to start in July

Florence and Yachats will begin a one-year trial transit service starting July 1, because of a $290,110 pilot project grant received by Lane Transit District (LTD) from Oregon Department of Transportation.

According to LTD Accessible Service Specialist John Ahlen, the grant will fund connecting the last stretch of Highway 101 not currently served by transit service.

Ahlen met with about 12 local and regional transit personnel and area citizens during a stakeholder meeting at Florence City Hall Thursday to receive input on a proposed rider survey scheduled to be posted on the LTD website in next week.

The survey is designed to receive potential rider input in several categories, such as preferred days of the week and hours the service would run; the primary reason for using the service, such as shopping, medical recreational or employment; and rider location and demographics.

In preparation for the July launch, LTD has ordered a 25-foot Ford E450 Eldorado Aerotech with a 1,000-pound Braun lift to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The vehicle would also have one or more bicycle racks.

Ahlen said LTD has contacted four prospective operators, Rhody Express, Lincoln County Transit, Pacific Crest Bus Lines and Caravan Airport Transportation for bids for the one-year contract.

“We are going to be holding a short competitive bidding process,” Ahlen said. “If the pilot project proves viable, then we would go out for a larger competitive bid.”

The Yachats terminal will be at the intersection of Third Street and Highway 101, the southern most service point for Lincoln County Transit.

Ahlen said, “People can get right off the connecting bus in Yachats and hopefully get right on connecting service for Florence.”

At this time, the Grocery Outlet parking lot on 20th Street and Highway 101 is the proposed Florence termination point.

“We’ve had really strong feedback for Grocery Outlet being the turnaround point. It is the more appealing option because it is between the northern and southern loops of Rhody Express service. That gives people the most options to connect,” Ahlen said.

During the meeting, several participants suggested the route might include stops at Peace Harbor Medical Center off Ninth Street and the Fresenius Kidney Care dialysis center on Kingwood Street.

Yachats does not have a hospital or dialysis center. The closest facilities are in Newport.

According to Ahlen, adding the hospital to the stops would add about a half hour to the Florence end of the trip. He is more in favor of persons wanting to go to the hospital or dialysis center get off at Grocery Outlet and take the Rhody Express.

“We would have to make sure there is not too long a wait to catch the Rhody Express. If you had to wait an hour, that would be a rough wait,” he added.

The option of having the service stop at popular tourist destinations along the route — such as Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center, the Hobbit Trail and Sea Lion Caves — was also discussed.

“Some things we are only going to learn by actually rolling out the pilot project itself,” Ahlen said.

LTD has not yet determined the fare for the one-way or roundtrip service.

The next meeting is scheduled for May 16 in Yachats.

For more information, contact Ahlen at [email protected]

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