All about Linn County: Newly arrived transit buses vivid scenes to promote local area

Sean C. Morgan

Senior Center Director Ken Bronson pointed to a photo of a Cascade Timber Consulting logging operation emblazoned on the side of a new bus in the Linn Shuttle fleet.

It’s an image that cuts right to the heart of Sweet Home’s and Linn County’s heritage: growing and harvesting timber.

“You cut down trees, and they grow back,” said Bronson, director of the transit service.

Linn Shuttle’s two newest buses prominently feature images reflecting Sweet Home and Linn County.

The buses, delivered Friday morning, feature 18 images, ranging from the hot air balloons in Albany to skiing at Hoodoo. The Weddle and Crawfordsville covered bridges are also displayed, along with anglers in boats on the South Santiam River, scenes from Foster Lake, as well as running events.

The images are emblazoned on the two new propane-fueled buses, the second pair for the Sweet Home Senior Center’s grant-funded bus programs.

On the back of the buses is a logo for AmeriGas, which provides the propane used to fuel the buses.

The Senior Center added its first two propane-fueled buses in 2014 to routes used by the developmentally disabled to reach their work sites, such as Sunshine Industries, in Sweet Home, and in Lebanon.

They’re wrapped in identical sets of images that relate to Linn-Benton Community College and the Advanced Transportation Technology Center in Lebanon, both partners to the Senior Center bus programs.

Bronson said he got the idea after seeing image-wrapped buses in a coastal county.

“We’ve got to buy a bus,” Bronson said. “We’ve got to paint it. Let’s promote our city and our partners.”

Those partners include the City of Sweet Home and Linn County.

Friday marked the second year to the day that the Senior Center began using propane-fueled buses, Bronson said. “What matters to me is cost-effectiveness.”

The cost-per-mile after two years is 18 percent lower than if the program used diesel, he said, and keeping diesel engines operating at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards is more difficult. Propane is a much cleaner fuel.

The buses are factory-built Bluebirds with Ford engines and Roush injection systems, said Bronson, whose goal is to replace one bus annually. The buses cost $163,000 each.

Bronson considered Thomas buses with General Motors engines as well.

When choosing which buses to purchase, Bronson said he checked with school districts that have started switching to propane-fueled buses, something more and more are doing. He found that Eugene had started using eight new buses, four Bluebird and four Thomas buses. They had been running for 15 months at that point, and three of the Thomas buses were in the shop.

That helped him settle on the Bluebird buses, he said.

The new buses will serve the Linn Shuttle routes from Sweet Home to Lebanon and Albany Monday through Friday.

Two other bus programs continue to operate without propane.

Dial-A-Bus provides door-to-door local transportation by appointment using a van Monday through Friday. Preference is given to the elderly and disabled.

The local shopper, a 20-passenger bus, operates Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Sweet Home, providing $1 round trips in town.