Photo by Ben Mitchell
Hood River Meadows parking lot fills with cars as a skier passes by in February 2014. A transportation plan by LSC consultant group proposes to connect Clackamas County's Mt. Hood Express with a new route between Hood River and Mt. Hood Meadows.
As of Friday, September 25, 2015
A transportation consulting firm has proposed a mountain-wide transit service plan which would connect Hood River to Mt. Hood Meadows.
LSC Transportation Consultants Inc. has been working with Clackamas County and the Mount Hood Transportation Alliance to develop a transit service plan for the entire region. For the last two years, the agencies have operated Mt. Hood Express, a bus service that runs west to east from Sandy to Government Camp and Timberline Lodge.
A new plan aims to better connect existing routes within Mt. Hood Express and also toss Hood River and Warm Springs into the mix — routes would branch off north to Hood River and south to Warm Springs.
Transportation leaders met in Hood River on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to discuss new route options and weigh the benefits. Included were A.T. Stoddard of LSC, Teresa Christopherson and Jacques Livingston of Clackamas County Social Services, Steve Warila of Mt. Hood Meadows, and Peter Cornelison, Hood River city councilor.
Speakers indicated the primary goal of a route from Hood River would be to provide a link for skiers, visitors and employees to Mount Hood Meadows resort.
Options included a daily round-trip service between Hood River and Timberline Lodge, a van pool service to Timberline, and — most discussed — an extension of Clackamas County’s Mt. Hood Express, which would run weekdays to Meadows.
The short-term plan for a Hood River route would be van pools, with a full extension of the Mt. Hood Express’ bus service as the long-term objective.
Warila, mountain operations and planning director at Mt. Hood Meadows, said the company currently uses school buses to transport employees; most commute from the south side of the mountain.
The Meadows fleet totals eight 55-passenger school buses and six 15-passenger shuttles for its employees and guests, according to the LSC report. About 1,200 employees a year use the transportation system to get to and from work.
Parking capacity at Meadows hasn’t posed a threat lately, Warila said, due to the lack of snowpack at the resort. “It was starting to ramp up,” he said, but “the last two winters were bad without snow.”
Cornelison expressed interest in a bus from Hood River to Mt. Hood Meadows for skiers. “I know there was fair interest in the CAT (Columbia Area Transit) bus that used to run to Meadows,” said Cornelison.
Christopherson said if recreation was the purpose, “We pretty much need consistent service. If no bus runs for five hours … people don’t want to deal with that.”
The top obstacle of a new route, especially a full-fledged bus program, would be the cost — LSC estimated the most basic connection from Mt. Hood Express to Meadows would cost an additional $41,442 operating cost per year.
ODOT grants and federal funds are limited for recreation and worker commute transportation services, speakers said.
Governance for a larger, mountain-wide service area has yet to be finalized.
Cornelison suggested CAT, which is part of Hood River County Transportation District, could play a role. Once the groups finalize a transit plan, it will go before the Hood River County Board of Commissioners next year, Cornelison said.
LSC is seeking public input on the project. For more details on the Mount Hood transportation project, go to www.lsccs.com/projects/mthood.