Rise in ridership forces addition of more Linn buses

Scott Swanson

The number of passengers on the Linn Shuttle buses has increased to the point that Manager Ken Bronson last week added three buses to accommodate the boost in ridership, he said.

Bronson said the surge was not unexpected, with the start of classes at Linn-Benton Community College. But the numbers were high.

On the first day of LBCC classes, Monday, Sept. 26, a total of 312 passengers rode the six buses that run back and forth between Sweet Home Senior Center and LBCC in Albany. The total on the first day of LBCC classes last year was 198, an increase of more than 50 percent.

“When LBCC started classes I knew it was going to be an increase,” Bronson said. “I didn’t expect this large of one.”

A year ago, two routes were added, boosting the number from four to six, after student ridership increased 38 percent from 2009. Even though the college has cut classes and trimmed its enrollment by 6 percent, ridership has grown.

This year, 184 students rode the bus on the first day of classes, compared to 128 last year.

Though there are still six routes operating daily, Bronson added express buses on routes 2, 4 and 6 to take care of the extra students. He said he had additional staff lined up to cover those routes.

“We’re filling those buses as well,” he said.

Fares for the buses are $1 a trip. The service’s approximately $500,000 annual budget is funded primarily with money from the state, Linn County and LBCC. Bronson said the county and state have provided funding for the additional buses.

This week, fares on the shuttle are free, as are rides on Albany Transit, Corvallis Transit and the Linn-Benton Loop, which connects LBCC with Oregon State University.

“We’re jamming,” Bronson said. “The number of people needing transportation is continuously going on. Non-student ridership has doubled since last September.”