Connector Pilot Project Extended Until 2017Jun 29, 2016

The Connector bus has become a familiar sight in the hills of West Salem since it launched in June 2015. Now, this innovative bus service could be rolled out in other parts of Salem and Keizer. 

This month, the Cherriots board of directors voted to extend the Connector pilot project until May 2017. This will allow for ongoing improvements to the West Salem Connector and for exploring the feasibility of creating new Connector service zones. 

Flexible, on-demand transportation service is a national trend that's gaining momentum. During the past year, Cherriots has been contacted by transit districts throughout the U.S. that want to learn more about the Connector. 

"A lot of districts face the same issues we do: a limited budget and growing demand for service," said Allan Pollock, Cherriots general manager. "Innovative technology means we could provide better service in a new way, connecting more people to the places they want to go." 

How does the Connector work in West Salem? When riders book a trip online or on the phone, the Connector comes to a point within its service zone and connects the riders to regular Cherriots routes or takes them to their destination in the service zone. The Connector uses a smaller bus that only comes to a Connector point when it's requested. On average, Connector trips take about 10 minutes. 

Trips can be booked in as little as 30 minutes in advance, and recurring trips – for example, trips to work or regular appointments – can be booked at the same time each day for up to three months. 

In West Salem, most people book trips to the Glen Creek Transit Center located behind Roth's Fresh Market and then catch the Route 5/5A, which leaves for downtown Salem every 15 minutes. 

"Being from West Salem, I'd like to say this is way better than what we had before," said Steve Evans, the Cherriots board director who represents West Salem. "The people I've talked to are excited about the flexibility of it. I'm hoping employees in the state-sponsored bus pass program will begin using the Connector." 

While the trip booking software makes booking trips easy for riders, the first year of the pilot project was not without its hitches. Several bugs needed to be worked out – for example, the text messages riders received to update them on their scheduled Connector trips were not always reliable.

"Now, the software, the driver and the passenger are all on the same page about when the bus is going to be there," said Matt Berggren, Connector project manager, during his presentation to the board of directors. "And one of the benefits of this, is it helps us move toward more real-time booking. One of our goals is to explore reducing the 30-minute advanced booking window." 

During the next 12 months, Cherriots staff will continue to work on improving Connector service in West Salem, including the possibility of expanding the service zone to Salemtowne. 

Cherriots staff also will be exploring the potential of creating one or two new service zones in Salem and Keizer. Residents interested in providing input or learning about potential new service zones can follow Cherriots on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up to receive emails from the transit district in the footer of this website. The district will announce public outreach events through these channels, including the monthly meeting of the board of directors, where public testimony is invited. 

For more information on the Connector, go to www.cherriots.org/connector or see the Connector One Year Report.