Transit Agency Announces Free On-Demand Bus Service for La Grande and Island City Residents

Northeast Oregon Public Transportation

Funded by the State Transportation Improvement Fund, the bus overhaul will expand hours, and allow all residents to schedule individualized pickups with their local bus route.

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Starting in July, all residents of La Grande and Island City will have access to personalized bus service.

Northeast Oregon Public Transportation has announced an overhaul to the city of La Grande’s transportation system that greatly expanding the area buses can travel by allowing bus drivers to deviate from the fixed route, up to three-fourths of a mile, to pick up or deliver passengers. As part of the plan, buses will also expand their hours of operation, running 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays.

Kane Lester, the NEOPT’s transportation program manager for Union, Wallowa, Baker and Grant counties, said in an interview with Mass Transit magazine the new system will allows riders to schedule a pickup or drop-off with at least one day’s advanced notice. This means in certain cases riders will no longer have to walk from their home to a bus stop.

According to Lester, the new system was designed based on public feedback, and will be up and running in July “at the latest.” The NEOPT expansion plan will also expand the existing bus route half a mile, and include a stop at the Island City Elementary School.

The announcement comes after the transit stopped charging fees for riders in 2019, expanded operating hours, and added another bus to its route. Both the 2019 improvement and current improvement are funded by the State Transportation Improvement Fund, which collects a  0.1% employee payroll tax to fund public transportation projects.

Lester says riders will continue to be fareless once the system is in place.

The fund was established as part of House Bill 2017, which was enacted to provide a consistent stream of funding for the improvement, maintenance and expansion of public transportation.

The switch to the new system in La Grande and Island City will not be made until there has been a public hearing, and the overhaul is approved by Connie Guentert, executive director of Community Connection of Northeast Oregon.

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