LEBANON — Lebanon residents have a new bus route to ride, but at the moment, it still has an old name: bus.
City officials are asking for nominations for a name to match the route service and make it clear it's not the same as the Dial-A-Bus system. The winning entry will receive a new Apple iPad and an unlimited-used bus pass for one year.
Other communities have gone with catchy acronyms such as MAX, for Metropolitan Area Express, or CATS, which stands for Charlotte Area Transit System, or Cherriots, which is Salem's city bus line. Lebanon city officials say they're up for something similar.
The contest already had more than 20 entries as of Friday. The deadline for submission is 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, and entries can be emailed to email@example.com or taken to drop box locations at the Lebanon Public Library or Lebanon Senior Center.
Residents can still take advantage of Dial-A-Bus, the curb-to-curb, on-demand transportation service available from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays within the city.
But back in late May, the city added a second bus service: a scheduled loop route that makes regular stops from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in various parts of the city.
Six months in, that new city transport loop is averaging more than 20 riders a day and city officials are calling it a success.
Previously, people riding the Dial-A-Bus might wrap up a shopping trip, call for a ride and have to wait quite a while before the bus was able to come, said Kindra Oliver, senior services and transportation services program director.
Now, she said, "People know it’s going to be there at this time, and this time, and this time, and this time, so they can really kind of plan their shopping around that."
Both options are still available, she stressed. "We didn't do away with the demand response system. This is just an additional mode of transportation."
The new bus route stops at Cascade Ridge Apartments, the Lebanon Senior Center, the intersection of Park and Oak streets, Safeway, the Dollar Store and Walmart, going north and south to make a loop around the city.
Each weekday, the bus makes seven stops at each site: four in the morning and three in the afternoon. The first stop of the day is 8 a.m. at the senior center, and the last stop is 3:49 p.m. at Cascade Ridge Apartments. The bus doesn't run on federal holidays.
Prices are the same for riders whether they're calling the Dial-A-Bus or hopping on the city's new transit system, Oliver said: $2 each way for general admission, or $1 each way for seniors or anyone with a disability.
A grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation not to exceed $176,000 made the new route possible. Once that runs out — June 30, 2019 — the city expects to be able to continue paying for the route using funds available through House Bill 2017.
The statewide transportation bill, which took effect last year, diverts one-tenth of 1 percent from employees' payrolls to go into a statewide transportation improvement fund. That program is meant to expand public transportation options throughout the state, with a particular emphasis on expanding service to low-income areas.
Linn County will receive applications from eligible public transportation programs like Lebanon's and will review them through the county's transportation advisory committee, said Mark Volmert, special/rural transportation coordinator for the county. Eligible programs must have a locally-developed transit plan, which Lebanon spent more than a year putting together.
That plan indicated a desire from residents for more bus service, but Oliver said that was already evident from demand.
The city has two buses available for Dial-A-Ride users but brings on a third when necessary. "That was happening more often than not," she said.
Residents also said they'd like evening hours and Saturday service. No plans are in the works yet, Oliver said, but added, "It's on our radar. We certainly have a list we would like to do."