Linn Shuttle rapidly reaching capacity, thanks to growing ridership

Scott Swanson

The recent sharp increase in fuel prices has increased ridership of Linn Shuttle buses to the point that many are jammed, Manager Ken Bronson said last week.

“We’re just packing them in,” he said. “Especially in the morning. I’m a little concerned about the last route (of the day). We’re filling that bus.”

Linn-Benton Community College students traveling to Albany and Lebanon account for about 180 of the approximately 300 people who ride the bus every day.

Student fees at the college include transit costs, so students ride for free instead of paying the $1 fare per trip.

Bronson said ridership, which increased 50 percent between the falls of 2010 and 2011, has increased another 21 percent since last fall.

He said he’s running three Express buses on routes 1,3 and 4 – two in the morning and one in the afternoon – in addition to the regular six routes the service operates: three shuttle buses, two buses specifically for the developmentally disabled, and one Dial-a-Bus.

The Express bus is making trips from the stop at Wal-mart in Lebanon to the Albany LBCC campus, then comes back to Lebanon and reloads. Meanwhile, the regular shuttle bus makes its stops in Sweet Home, where it is nearly full before it leaves for Lebanon.

“That’s why we have an Express bus, to take the overload,” Bronson said.

He said he hasn’t come up with a plan to handle any more increases in demand.

“We’re out of funds to expand any more,” he said. The service’s approximately $500,000 annual budget is funded primarily with money from the state, Linn County and LBCC.

He said demand is high for more service in the evening.

“We don’t serve any of the students or people who want to commute later. We’re stating to see standing room only on that last Route 6 bus between the last stop in Albany and the first stop in Lebanon.

In addition to the shuttle and Express buses, the service’s two DD53 buses, which serve developmentally disabled riders traveling to Sunshine Industries and other workshops and service centers, are full too.

“We’re seeing more transportation to hospitals, more people in wheelchairs taking the bus,” he said. “It’s a pretty key service.”

Another problem that Bronson said he’d like to see solved is the lack of coordination between the five transit systems in Linn and Benton counties.

“It’s very difficult to get from Sweet Home to Corvallis and back in a day,” he said. “They don’t link up. The demand is there. We hear about it every day. We need to work something out.”