It turns out, you can get there from here — especially if you take Cherriots

Colleen Busch, Keizer’s representative on the board of the Salem Area Mass Transit District board, is excited to see longer hours and additional service days return to Cherriots.

Colleen Busch is excited about the re-instatement of Saturday Cherriots bus service after 10 years. Busch, a member of the board of directors of the Salem Area Mass Transit District (SAMTD), has represented Keizer since 2015. She, along with the rest of the Board and community dignitaries, will be front and center at a party to celebrate the additional service at the Downtown Transit Center on Saturday, Sept. 7. 

Three of the five routes in Keizer will add Saturday service on Sept. 7. 

“They travel the same path (as weekday service) and go to the same locations,” said senior planner Chris French.

Routes on Saturday will not run as frequently as they do during the week. The expansion of service is due to the 2017 Keep Oregon Moving legislation which earmarked more than $5 billion for roads and transit throughout the state.

Voters in the transit district had voted down ballot measures to pay for weekend bus service several times since 2008. Lack of funds, due to economic recession, forced the district to discontinue weekend bus service in 2009. 

Keep Oregon Moving will be financed with a combination of gas tax, vehicle registration and title fees as well as a public transportation payroll tax.

Keizer bus routes with added Saturday service will include No. 9 (The Meadows, Cherry Avenue, Downtown Transit Center), No. 11 (Keizer Transit Center, Verda Lane, Chemeketa Community College south Lancaster Dr.) and No. 19 (Keizer Transit Center, Lockhaven Dr. River Road, Broadway, Downtown Transit Center). 

Saturday service will not be added to Keizer routes 12 or 14. Saturday routes will begin service at 7 a.m. and run to 9 p.m. In addition to Saturday service, weekday routes will extend their drive times until 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3.

According to French, route changes will be evaluated after one year. Any needed adjustments can be implemented six to 12 months after that. Keep Oregon Moving legislation requires the Salem Area Mass Transit District (SKAMD) to monitor the expanded service and assure targeted demographics—such as the low income population—are being served. The district conducts service (adjustments) surveys three times each year.

Saturday Cherriots service adds to the number of ways a rider can get to any part of Keizer and Salem. There are connections to other transit agencies that can get a rider from Salem to Wilsonville and points in the Portland metropolitan area. A rider can also use transit to get from Salem to Yamhill County and to Lincoln City on the coast. 

For those who are concerned about safety and security on a Cherriots bus, Busch and French cited upgraded security cameras on buses and at the transit centers. The Downtown Transit Center in Salem is patrolled by uniformed security enhanced by Salem Police.

Another big change for the transit district is the structure of its governance. Directors were elected by constituents in the transit district. In 2017, the legislature changed state law so that the governor appoints directors instead, who then must be confirmed by the state Senate. Busch and two of her co-directors will serve out their terms that end in 2021; their replacements will be appointed by Gov. Kate Brown. 

The change in governance was made to bring Salem Area Mass Transit up to speed with other agencies such as the Lane Transit District in Eugene and TriMet in the Portland area. Directors for those two agencies are appointed by the governor. Busch has not decided if she will seek appointment to Salem’s transit board for another term in 2021. 

The transit board oversees the district’s $80 million annual budget which includes capital projects, service and personnel. 

“My job is to be in the community and talk about transit. Asking people what they like and what they don’t like,” she said. “I advocate for safe, reliable public transportation.” 

Busch represents the transit district’s interests before the Keizer City Council and is a regular at Keizer Chamber of Commerce gatherings and neighborhood association meetings.

(Lyndon Zaitz can be reached at [email protected])