For the first time since 2011, La Grande will have a Saturday bus program. The program is set to launch this weekend at 10 a.m. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Back for first time since 2011, service will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Those needing a ride on Saturday will be able to turn to La Grande’s public transit.
Community Connection of Northeast Oregon plans to launch Saturday bus service this weekend beginning at 10 a.m.
The recently created Union County Public Transit Advisory Council voted unanimously last week to reinstate the program, which was dropped in 2011 due to funding cuts. The program is funded with $94,500 in Oregon Department of Transportation grant money through the biennium.
“We’re putting motivated passengers in our downtown core in doing this,” said Frank Thomas, Union County transit manager.
The project is also funded in part by local partners — Union County, the City of Island City and the City of La Grande.
“I’m so grateful for those partners,” Thomas said.
Saturday service will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though there is a possibility for expansion if funds are available. In addition to the fixed route, the program will also support paratransit services, which provide direct pick-up and drop-off services for those unable to ride on the fixed route.
“Those were the peak hours when we had this program previously,” Thomas said. “It’s about a three-year dream come true for me. I’m pretty darn happy about it.”
Daniel Bullock, a junior at Eastern Oregon University who serves on the advisory council, said this will help a need for the underprivileged and elderly populations of La Grande.
“All of us on the council thought there was a need,” he said. “We’d like to be able to prove this is needed and is a benefit to the underprivileged in our community.”
Bullock says he knows what it’s like to rely on public transit.
“When the buses weren’t running, you ride a bike or walk,” he said.
The EOU student also noted that because of the recession there are residents who didn’t previously have a need for the service but do now, something that is evident at local food pantries as well.
“We are in this together,” Bullock said. “In a smaller community you can touch each other.”
Bullock plans to put up fliers on the EOU campus to let students know the service is available. Students ride for free as some of their fees pay for the service. Bullock says it will be a benefit for EOU and others who need a ride on Saturdays.
“Those peoples’ lives don’t end on Friday,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a real plus for the community.”