SWEET HOME — Starting Monday, the number of Linn Shuttle bus stops at Linn-Benton Community College from Sweet Home and Lebanon will more than double to 17 per day.
For students, bus rides are free. For others, the fare is $1 each way.
LBCC contributes about $35,000 per year toward the Linn Shuttle’s $292,000 budget, earmarked to help students commute to its centers in Lebanon and Albany and to Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Bus system manager Ken Bronson said students will make up more than half the riders on many routes once classes start in a couple of weeks.
“It will soon be standing room only,” he said.
In addition to the Linn Shuttle, Bronson manages the Dial-a-Ride program in Sweet Home and provides transportation services for developmentally disabled rural residents to work centers in Sweet Home, Lebanon and Albany.
In all, ridership has grown from 53,400 in 2009-10 to 83,406 last year, a 56 percent increase.
“I rode the bus to LBCC for classes a couple years ago,” rider Casey Pryor of Sweet Home said Monday morning. “Today, I’m headed to work in Albany.”
Bronson said his goal over the last three years has been to “maximize our resources” and to make it easier and more efficient for riders from east Linn County to get to Albany and Corvallis and vice versa.
“We’re starting our routes earlier and running them a little later,” Bronson said. “By doing so, we’re going to be able to synchronize our route schedules with the Linn-Benton Loop.”
Beginning Monday, the first bus will leave the Sweet Home Senior Center at 6:25 a.m. and the last bus will return to the center at 7:25 p.m.
To make things work, Bronson is eliminating the bus routes along Highway 20 between Lebanon and Albany.
In Lebanon, buses will stop at Walmart, LBCC and Park and Oak streets. In Albany, stops are at the train station, Heritage Mall, Second and Broadalbin, and LBCC.
Three LBCC Express routes will also continue, starting as early as 6:50 a.m. and returning as late as 5:15 p.m.
“The Express routes allow easy connections with the Linn-Benton Loop,” Bronson said. “Students will be able to go easily from Sweet Home to Corvallis and back.”
Bronson said the continued expansion of the medical campus in Lebanon also is cause for improved transportation routes into and out of the community.
Bronson said he recently added a new 37-passenger Freightliner bus to the system. It features lighted exterior signage, interior overhead racks for backpacks, a wheelchair loader and racks for three bicycles.
“And we have another new one on order,” Bronson said. “It should be delivered later this month. I’ve also submitted bids for two 20-passenger buses to be used to take our rural development disabled residents to work centers in Sweet Home, Lebanon and Albany.”
In addition to the LBCC stipend and fares, the bus system is paid for through federal, state and county funds.
The new bus schedule can be found online at www.linnshuttle.com.