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County commissioners will vote soon on Columbia County Rider's proposal to end St. Helens to Portland service.

More service cuts are coming for Columbia County Rider.

The county's public transit provider plans to cut its last remaining fixed route service: Line 1, which goes between St. Helens and downtown Portland.

CC Rider moved operations in-house, with drivers becoming direct county employees instead of employees of a contractor, MTR Western, earlier this summer. Bringing drivers in-house would have been more expensive than using a contractor, but as the contractor's rate increased — more than doubling over three years — county officials decided in-house operations would be cheaper and more stable.

But the move in-house hasn't alleviated CC Rider's financial woes.

Prepandemic, CC Rider operated five lines: St. Helens to Portland, with 9.5 round trips per day; St. Helens to Portland Community College and Willow Creek, with four trips per day; St. Helens to Scappoose, with five trips per day; St. Helens to Rainier and Longview, with two trips per day, and Vernonia to Willow Creek via Banks, with two trips per day on three days.

The fixed-route services are in addition to Dial-a-Ride, which offers door-to-door scheduled trips.

By the end of 2021, CC Rider had suspended four lines, leaving only St. Helens to Portland — by far the most-used line — and Dial-a-Ride.

CC Rider Transit Director John Dreeszen said that when Line 1 completed 10 trips per day, it typically provided around 200 rides in a day. Now, with six round trips each weekday, Line 1 is providing closer to 50 rides per day.

In comparison, the second most-used line, St. Helens to PCC and Willow Creek, provided approximately 30 rides per day as of July 2019.

Dreeszen said the decision to cut Line 1 was "not because of ridership issues per se — although they're not good, but really just because we're (in between) a rock and a hard place."

The limited service should focus "on our most vulnerable riders… so we concluded that Dial-a-Ride was the thing we needed to make efforts to continue to keep in place," Dreeszen said.

Dreeszen said without making any additional cuts to Line 1, CC Rider "could have as little as two years left remaining financially solvent." Reducing Line 1 service to one morning trip and one evening trip, "that helps the situation, but essentially just pushes back that point of insolvency about another two years."

County commissioners have final say in service changes. A public hearing in front of the commissioners is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7.

If the cuts are approved, Line 1 will go from six daily runs to two daily runs effective Jan. 1, 2023, and then cease service entirely on June 30, 2023.

Dial-a-Ride previously only served seniors and people with disabilities, and only within a short distance off Highway 30. But the service has expanded in recent years to allow more people to use it. CC Rider provides around 50 Dial-a-Ride trips per day.

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