Transportation can be a challenge in Sisters


Last updated 9/25/2018 at Noon

Public transportation (or the lack of it) is a major concern for a certain percentage of residents, especially seniors, those with some kind of disability, and others who don't own a car. That's one finding among the preliminary results of the Sisters Country Vision Project.

Other than the Dial-a-Ride bus on Tuesdays that will provide rides to and from the senior lunch and the grocery store, the only local option around town is Outlaw Cab which serves all of Central Oregon, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They also have a shuttle to and from the Redmond airport and a limousine. They can be reached at 541-549-2227.

As of June 2017, Uber was licensed to operate in Sisters and between Sisters and other major Central Oregon cities. The estimated cost for a ride from downtown Sisters to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, for instance, is about $50 one way. The fare is based on a booking fee, a base rate, and per minute (25 cents) and per mile ($1.51) charges to point of pick up and to destination. To use Uber, a passenger must download the Uber app and create an account, which requires a valid email address and phone number.

Cascades East Transit now operates two bus routes for riders between Sisters - Bend and Sisters - Redmond. Route 28, Sisters - Redmond transit center at 777 SW Kalama Ave., runs Monday through Friday, three times a day, with stops at George Cyrus Road (except on the earliest run), and in Sisters at East Main Ave. and Cedar Street, West Main Ave. and Oak Street, Ray's Food Place, George Cyrus Road again, and back into Redmond.

Those routes begin in Redmond at 6:12 and 7:23 a.m. and 2:40 p.m. The schedule provides transportation for a number of Central Oregon students who participate in the Heart of Oregon Corps program on the corner of OR126/George Cyrus Road. Single- ride ticket with no transfers is $1.50, with the senior/disabled fare at $1.25.

CET Route 29 leaves from platform E at the Hawthorne Station in Bend and travels directly to Sisters with stops at East Main Ave. and Cedar Street, West Main Ave. and Oak Street, and Ray's Food Place. The bus also operates Monday through Friday with no weekend service. Departures from Bend are at 6:40 a.m. and 3:45 and 5:10 p.m. and the entire loop takes a little over an hour.

Multi-zone fares can be used to ride Bend fixed-route services once a rider arrives in Bend and costs $6.25 for a multi-zone day pass for unlimited rides. Discounted fare of $5 is available to those aged 60 and older and/or disabled. Medicare clients may show their card to be eligible for senior/disabled fares.

Bend is Zone 1 and Redmond and Sisters are Zone 2. A multi-zone single ride with no transfers is $3.75 with a $3 discounted fare for seniors/disabled. Six-pass ticket books ($30) and monthly passes ($100) are also available. Contact CET call center 541-385-8680 or with questions.

Dial-a-Ride in Sisters, which is also run by CET, is only available on Tuesdays, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. Call 541-385-8680 the day before to request a ride. Plan to be ready 15 minutes before scheduled pick-up, as the bus pick-up window is 30 minutes. Drivers will wait no more than five minutes. A 10-trip punch card for Zone 2 Dial-a-Ride for seniors/disabled costs $12.50.

Options for transportation directly between Sisters and the Willamette Valley are no longer available. The Valley Retriever Bus Lines, which made pick-ups and drop-offs for 30 years in Sisters on their Bend-Newport bus service, discontinued operating a little over a year ago after the owner of the line died and his wife was unable to correct deficiencies found in an April 2017 review by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

If no other private company takes over the route, the state could subsidize a carrier to take it up or provide service itself, as it does through the Point Intercity Bus Service from Bend to Klamath Falls from Hawthorne Station.

As of September 1 of this year, Pacific Crest Bus Line, with service to Eugene, will no longer pick up or drop off passengers in Sisters, despite the fact the buses will continue coming right through Sisters. The Bend-Eugene route connects with both Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains in Eugene. The two stations used to be about two blocks apart in downtown Eugene, but Greyhound has moved its station to Springfield.

According to Pacific Crest president, Jason Higham, the stop in Sisters, which he estimates takes about 10 minutes, is no longer possible if they are to meet the Amtrak and Greyhound connections which now take more time due to the distance between stations.

Higham indicated that if they should find there is adequate time, they could reinstitute the stop in Sisters. They are exploring with CET the possibility of a bus between Sisters and Bend that would get Sisters residents to and from Bend in a timely manner to connect with the Pacific Crest bus.

For local Sisters resident Chris Brown, who has been riding the Pacific Crest bus frequently between Sisters and Eugene for the past five years, this loss of service creates a real dilemma. Brown, who is legally blind and unable to drive himself, thinks that, "at a time when our community is growing ... we are in need of increased transportation services, not a reduction of them."

Brown stated he received only three days notice of the cancellation of service from the ticket seller. Higham contends they provided several weeks notice.

With no public transportation to the valley available in Sisters, the only option, other than traveling into Bend to catch a bus that travels right through Sisters, is for riders to get to Bend, the Redmond airport, Terrebonne, or Madras to catch the Breeze bus which travels over Mt. Hood between Bend and Portland, with stops all along the way from Redmond to Government Camp, Sandy, Gresham, the Portland airport, and Portland's Union Station for Amtrak. Prices range from $48 to $62 one way.

The Senior Alliance, with the help of Citizens4Community and Council on Aging for Central Oregon, are attempting to establish a single-contact hub in Sisters where people could request and/or offer transportation, but that is only in the planning stages.


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