Looking ahead: listening, learning and improving


The pilot season of the Columbia Gorge Express surpassed expectations and highlighted the significant demand for transit service in the Columbia River Gorge. In preparation for season two, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is evaluating the lessons from this first year and considering ways to improve the service. 

What did we learn?

Service highlights a strong need for transit

Over 18 weekends between May and September, which included 54 days and 3 federal holidays, the Columbia Gorge Express provided approximately 30,000 trips to and from Multnomah Falls! On average, 94 people boarded at Gateway Transit Center each day of operation, and an average of 235 people boarded at Rooster Rock between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The service was particularly popular on holiday weekends—about 775 riders boarded at Rooster Rock on Sunday, July 3. 

The I-84 Multnomah Falls parking lot reached capacity 10 times per day on average during weekends this summer forcing the parking lot gates to close. The Columbia Gorge Express provided alternative way to get to Multnomah Falls for many visitors. 

Increasing access to the Gorge

The Columbia Gorge Express increased access for people who don’t have a car. The buses were wheelchair accessible and bike-friendly, and several riders said this allowed them to visit the Gorge for the first time in years. This was much appreciated by our users.

Key successes, lessons and opportunities for growth

The Columbia Gorge Express team was able to quickly adapt the service based on feedback and active monitoring throughout the summer. For example, to meet demand and improve rider experience, staff introduced a larger bus, implemented a mid-season schedule change and optimized the use of electronic message signs on I-84. 

In preparation for the 2017 season, ODOT is identifying opportunities to improve the service and continue addressing the project’s goals. These opportunities relate to:

  • Future planning to balance increased access with the risk of overcrowding and overuse
  • Parking lot and congestion management strategies
  • Opportunities for expanding the service to other destinations
  • Adding bigger buses to accommodate demand
  • Relocating the Gateway Transit Center stop to the Gateway bus platform if possible
  • Improving schedule reliability
Rider experience
  • Improving signage
  • Clarifying rules regarding fees at Rooster Rock
  • Improving the waiting experience at the bus stops
  • Providing more information on other Gorge opportunities
  • Increasing awareness of the service, particularly among car users
  • Identifying sustainable long-term funding for the service

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