By RUBY BRUNK
You may have seen one of the C.A.T. (Columbia Area Transit) buses around town over the past few years, but chances are you haven’t traveled on one.
Hood River is the proud owner of six C.A.T. buses and one 48 seater Sno-C.A.T., but most days only three of the six buses are in use. The buses are state vehicles, part of the Hood River Transit District. They do not run a regular route, but are actually more of a taxi service.
Because C.A.T. Bus fares are one-way $1.25 in town, $1.50 to Odell, $2 to Parkdale, and most passengers are “regulars” who don’t have a vehicle and wish to run some in-town errands.
An example of how frequent these “regulars” can be, one woman uses the C.A.T. Bus five days a week. This woman walks to work every morning from her home on the Heights, and rides the C.A.T. Bus back to the Heights each evening after work.
“(The C.A.T. Bus) is very dependable, very reliable, and always on time.” she says. “I don’t know why more people don’t use it.” The C.A.T. bus also transports a group of students to St. Mary’s Academy in the Dalles almost every morning.
Columbia Area Transit also has special events like the bus to Clackamas Town Center that runs once a month, and the Christmas Light Bus that passengers rode to see in-town Christmas lights.
C.A.T. Buses are especially useful for senior citizens. In fact, 90 percent of all C.A.T. Bus passengers are people over 65. The C.A.T. Buses are wheelchair accessible, spacious and comfortable. Seat-belts are required. Door-to-door service, and bus drivers that help with packages and groceries are other reasons why this transportation system is so useful for the elderly.
Parkhurst house resident Fayette Daniels frequents the C.A.T. bus almost three times a week. She takes regular trips to K.V. Ceramics, where she is a self-proclaimed “pottery queen”, but also uses the bus for day-to-day errands.
“I have to go to Hi-School Pharmacy tomorrow and mail a package,” she says to bus driver John Philip.
“Just call (the C.A.T. Bus office) and ask for the nice bus driver,” Philip jokes. “They’ll know you’re talking about me.”
Philip works part time for C.A.T. and has been doing so for three years.
“I don’t know what could be better,” he says, “I drive in circles for a living.”
The C.A.T. Bus system is practical, safe, and easy on the wallet for most riders. But what really makes the bus, according to most passengers, is the driver, and C.A.T. Bus drivers seem to really care about their passengers.
Perhaps one “regular” put it best when she said, “They go above and beyond the call of duty.”