CAT and Meadows partner for free Gorge to Mountain Express

CAT and Meadows partner for free Gorge to Mountain Express
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Mt. Hood Meadows is partnering with Columbia Area Transit (CAT) to expand Meadows’ seasonal shuttle into the Gorge to Mountain Express that services stops along Highway 35 between Meadows and the Event Site.

Service will start Dec 16 with some test runs, and full launch with holiday service will begin Saturday, Dec. 21. Mt. Hood Meadows and CAT have chosen to provide the service free this year in order to encourage ridership, said CAT Executive Director Patty Fink.

“We’re just trying it out and we’ll see what kind of ridership we get,” said Fink.

Stops in Hood River include CAT Park & Ride (224 Wasco Loop); Port Event Site and CAT transfer area; and the Marina. Passengers can park in these areas for free, Fink said.

In addition, CAT we will have “Kiss & Ride” locations on Neal Creek Road in Odell and near the Town Hall in Mt. Hood and in Parkdale, where passengers can board the bus but don’t have permission to park their cars at the stop.

CAT has secured a FLAP grant to fund the demo line through the current snow season, which Meadows has agreed to match.

“What’s happened was that the mountain, and the community and the region is kind of a victim of our own success: We have more folks that have moved here, a lot just in the last decade, and it’s getting difficult to maneuver around the mountain, no matter which approach you’re coming from,” said Meadows CEO Matthew Drake during a presentation at the Port of Hood River’s Nov. 5 commission meeting.

Meadows began shuttling staff and customers to and from its spot on Mount Hood right when they first opened their doors in 1968. The shuttle service began as a single international harvester van driven by Drake’s mother and has since evolved into four buses running a route between Meadows and the Event Site.

“Nobody buses more people to the mountain than Mt. Hood Meadows, and we have for 52 years,” said Drake, adding that multiple studies over the years have confirmed the success of Meadows’ transit strategy.

While Meadows is technically turning the operation over to CAT, Meadows will be physically operating the service as a vendor.

Meadows has secured additional vehicles to add on to its current shuttle fleet for use in this pilot program, which Fink said will likely run until the end of spring break, depending on this year’s snowfall.

“We don’t have the capacity to do it ourselves,” Fink said about the decision to contract a vendor. “They (Meadows) ended up coming in with (an offer) that was below the other vendors and had an implementation date that allowed an earlier start date for the service.”

When asked about the possibility of extending the line past this season’s demo, Fink said, “It’s partly based on ridership and how the service performs and the community’s embracing it.” She said that her ultimate goal is to see the line extended into a year-round service and described CAT’s “vision around the mountain”: Full public transit service between Portland and Government Camp. “This is sort of an interim step to get there,” she said, adding that CAT hopes to extend service to Government Camp starting next year.

For more information, visit www.ridecatbus.org.


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