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Cost to riders will be cut in half on some routes, services throughout county also reduced

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - A member of the Columbia County Rider Transit Advisory Committee reviews potential route changes at a committee meeting in 2019.Bus riders in Columbia County will see significant savings on tickets effective March 1.

Fares for all routes that begin and end in Columbia County will be $2. Trips that start or end in Portland or Washington County will cost $3. Trips to Longview-Kelso will be $2.

The fare reduction will cut the cost for a St. Helens to Portland trip in half, from $6 to $3. The changes also simplify CC Rider's complex pricing structure.

Currently, fares are on a zone system, where one zone costs $5 plus an additional $1 for each zone. Scappoose to St. Helens is within the same zone, while a trip from St. Helens to Portland would be two zones. The current pricing is additionally complicated by a $2 fare for the flex route which runs through St. Helens and Scappoose and a $2 fare for Rainier to Longview, Washington, service. There are different monthly passes available for the zone system.

Under the new pricing, a monthly pass will cost $120.

Though existing fares paid by riders don't cover the cost of providing the service, cutting fares could be CC Rider's best shot at increasing ridership.

"The message we got from

the voters was 'we don't see the value in the system,'" Transit Director Todd Wood said of the failed November ballot measure to fund CC Rider.

"That's not a knock on anybody but us at Columbia County Rider, us as staff," Wood said at a public hearing with county commissioners on Wednesday, Jan. 8. "I don't believe, at this point, that we have done our job to provide a system that shows the value."

"The second message we got from the voters was you need to live within what you have ... that's why we are here today," Wood said.

The commission approved service cuts that will save $320,000 per year once in effect.

Effective March 21, line 2 service to Portland Community College's Rock Creek Campus will be reduced to three trips per day. The current service is extended until that date to allow students to attend classes as scheduled this term.

Line 3 flex route service will be reduced to five trips per day, effective Jan. 12. Also, effective next week, Dial-a-Ride services will be reduced from 25 hours per day to 16, with no service beyond one mile off the other bus routes.

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