Thursday, September 29, 2016

Skamania County’s bike-friendly transit to the Gorge expands to weekends

Reposted from bikeportland.org

by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 28th, 2014 at 10:35 am

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-71

Starting May 1, you’ll have transit access to
Cascade Locks seven days a week.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

As bike tourism booms in and around Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge areas, there’s a growing interest in transit service. With a reliable way to integrate transit into a bike trip, people can reach destinations that are further away and complete longer loops — all without the hassle and expense of using a car.

Earlier this year we reported on new bus service in Sandy that offers access to Timberline and other Mt. Hood destinations. Now a transit option on the Washington side of the river is set to expand, offering great promise for people looking to access the Gorge, Cascade Locks and more.

As reported by Terry Richard in The Oregonian, the Gorge West End Transit Bus (or “WET” for short) offers service from Fisher’s Landing (just 15 miles northeast of downtown Portland) to Carson, Washington. The WET already runs Monday through Friday and will expand to seven-day-a-week service on May 1st. In addition to the weekend travel option, the other great news for bicycle riders is that the buses are equipped with bike racks, and Richard says they’ll even accomodate some bikes inside the bus if the racks are full.

The Skamania County public transportation website has full details and has just posted the full seasonal schedule. Fares are just $2 one way.

If you can get yourself to Fisher’s Landing — which is just three miles east of the I-205 bike path on the Washington side — you can take the WET bus to Bridge of the Gods. From there, you can walk or ride (be advised that while the future might hold improvements, riding on Bridge of the Gods is pretty sketchy) over to Cascade Locks. From there, you can hop onto the newly improved Historic Columbia River Highway and enjoy a fantastic, 50-mile ride back into Portland. Or you can head east to Hood River or The Dalles and embark on any number of riding adventures.

Gorge Transit Link, the same provider that offers the WET bus, also runs Columbia Area Transit (CAT), which offers service from Portland (via Union Station) into the Gorge. Unfortunately, that bus only runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with an extremely limited schedule.

When we recently reported on all the great riding in The Dalles, many readers lamented the lack of good transit option on the Oregon side of the river. There used to be Amtrak service on the south side of the river, but it’s no longer in operation. The Dalles Mayor Stephen Lawrence told us he’s in support of re-booting Amtrak but he’s not too optimistic at the prospects given how crowded the rails have become with oil trains and other freight shipments in recent years.

Lawrence said Greyhound bus service is a possibility, but they’ve been, “very difficult to work with” because they are asking for too much local subsidy. “It was discussed last year whether they wanted to continue to stop here,” Lawrence said, “I think there would be users of alternative transportation forms if it was a priority with the state, the federal government and the providers.”

For more information on the WET bus service, call Skamania County public transit at (509) 427-3990 or check out their website.