Frequently Asked Questions

 

What’s the official name? Is it Cherriots, Salem-Keizer Transit or Salem Area Mass Transit District?

Cherriots, the district's operating name, is the name used in most circumstances.

In 2016, the district decided to phase out the name Salem-Keizer Transit. Cherriots is in the process of updating its website, signage and other materials to reflect that change.

Salem Area Mass Transit District is the legal name of the transit district. Its use is limited to formal, legal contexts.

 

How is Cherriots organized?  Who does it answer to?

Cherriots is a public agency that provides bus service over a 76 square mile area in Salem-Keizer and the mid-Willamette Valley.

Cherriots has an elected, seven-member Board of Directors, who serve as unpaid volunteers. Cherriots is a special district. It’s not part of city government or county government.

Every three years, the transit district’s financial records are audited by the Federal Transit Administration.

 

What hours do Cherriots buses operate?

Routes departing from the Downtown Transit Center operate from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Cherriots currently doesn’t provide service on weekends or major holidays.

For more information on routes and schedules, visit the routes page.

 

Why doesn’t Cherriots provide weekend bus service and later evening service?

In 2009, Cherriots eliminated Saturday bus service and made other service cuts to balance its budget.

Thanks to the passage of House Bill 2017, Cherriots is poised to restore some services lost to budget cuts. By 2019, Cherriots is likely to add Saturday and Sunday bus service and later evening service.

HB 2017 provides a dedicated source of state funding to transit districts across Oregon. Revenue for HB 2017 is provided by a payroll tax paid by employees.

In January 2019, Cherriots expects to receive its first disbursement state funds provided by HB 2017. The legislation could bring $7 million in the first year to support transit in Salem-Keizer, as well as regional service to smaller cities in Marion and Polk counties

 

Why doesn’t Cherriots use smaller buses on low ridership routes?

Cherriots wouldn’t save any taxpayer money.

The district’s 35-foot-long and 40-long buses can shift from a low ridership route to a more popular route. Smaller buses lack that flexibility.

If Cherriots decided to use a greater variety of bus sizes, the district would need to add more spare vehicles to accommodate for breakdowns and scheduled maintenance. The fleet size and its cost would grow significantly.

Smaller vehicles are also less rugged than standard-sized city buses, which can last for more than 1 million miles.

Finally, the greatest operating expense is labor. Transit operators get paid the same whether they are driving a small or large bus.

 

How often do Cherriots buses arrive on time?

In 2016 and 2017, Cherriots staff tracked the arrival times of routes at the Downtown Transit Center and the Keizer Transit Center throughout the day.

Overall, Cherriots buses arrived on schedule 92 percent of the time. The regional service had an overall on-time performance of percent 87 percent.

During the afternoon peak of 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Cherriots buses arrived on schedule 86 percent of the time. The Cherriots Regional service arrived on schedule 84 percent of the time.

 

What’s the story on all the empty buses?

Appearances can be misleading. Passengers board and exit buses throughout the routes. A bus that’s nearly empty at one point can be full to near capacity after a couple of stops.

Unless the viewer is actually standing on the bus, it’s often not easy to see passengers on Cherriots. The low-floor design of the buses means passengers sit lower, so only the tops of their heads are visible from the street. Passenger windows on the bus are tinted to keep the bus cooler and for passenger comfort.

 

How does Cherriots decide to add, or reduce, bus service to a neighborhood?

The Cherriots staff bases its decisions on ridership. The district’s priority is serving locations with many potential bus riders, known as trip generators.

The District’s goal: provide frequent bus service within a half mile of high-density areas. Frequent routes are defined as those routes having at least 20 passenger boarding per hour. The standard for lower frequency routes is 15 to 18 passenger boardings per hour.

Road infrastructure has to be taken into consideration. The District focuses on providing bus service on arterial and collector streets. Cherriots avoids residential streets, which aren’t designed for heavy traffic.

The Cherriots Board of Directors, however, make the final decisions on service changes. Neighbors have approached the Board and successfully argued in favor of maintaining service that was scheduled to be discontinued.

 

Why doesn’t every bus stop have a bus shelter?

Cherriots doesn’t have the maintenance resources to place a bus shelter at every bus stop. Like decisions on adding bus service, Cherriots places bus shelters at bus stops with the most riders.

A bus stop needs to have a least 20 boardings per day before Cherriots will install a new bus shelter. Locations close to shopping centers and medical facilities are also high priorities for bus shelters.

 

What’s the annual ridership for Cherriots?

In the fiscal year 2017, Cherriots fixed-route buses provided more than 2.8 million rides in the Salem-Keizer area.

The combined ridership of fixed-route buses in Salem-Keizer, regional services, paratransit service and other bus services amounted to about 3.1 million.

 

Does Cherriots have any demographic information on bus riders?

Cherriots conducted a ridership survey in 2016 and 2017 for marketing purposes. Among the survey’s findings:

  • No one age range of riders dominates another, but about half of riders are ages 34 and under.
  • About 35 percent of riders are high school or college students.
  • More than 25 percent of riders live in households where a language other than English is the primary spoken language.
  • Fifty-eight percent of riders don’t have access to a car, either as a driver or passenger. In comparison, about 39 percent of riders using TriMet, the mass transit agency for the Portland metropolitan area, don’t have access to a car.
  • Sixty-six percent of Cherriots riders have smartphones.

 

How much does it cost to ride a Cherriots bus?

An adult, full-fare price for a one-way ride on Cherriots is $1.60. A day pass costs $3.25. A 30-day pass costs $45.  Children 5 years old and younger ride for free.

Fares are higher for other services, such as Cherriots Regional and Cherriots LIFT. For a complete listing of fares, including options to purchase bus fare at a reduced rate visit the fares page.

What percentage of a bus ride’s cost is covered by bus fare?

For Cherriots, about 12 to 13 percent of the cost of a ride is covered by bus fare. The remainder of the cost is subsidized by local property taxes, state and federal funds.

The transit industry standard, known as farebox recovery, is about 15 to 20 percent.

A high number of Cherriots customers qualify for reduced fares because of age or disability, so it’s difficult for Cherriots to increase its farebox recovery into the 15 percent to 20 percent range.

 

Why can’t Cherriots raise the price of bus fare and use the money to add more services?

If Cherriots raised fare prices significantly, fewer people would choose to take the bus and fare revenue would decline.

 

How much are homeowners in the Salem-Keizer area paying in property taxes to support Cherriots?

The District’s permanent property tax rate is 0.7609 per $1,000 of tax assessed value.

So, the owner of a house in the District with a tax assessed value of $213,600 (the average for Marion County) would pay about $162 per year in property taxes to support Cherriots.

 

What are the sources of Cherriots funding?

The Cherriots Board of Directors adopted a general fund budget of approximately $25.7 million for the fiscal year 2017-18.

Forty-five percent of general fund revenue, approximately $11.7 million, comes from local property taxes.

Twenty-one percent of the budget, approximately $5.6 million, comes from funds received from the state. These are funds the state pays in-lieu of paying property taxes on tax exempt, state-owned property in the Salem area.

Twenty percent of general fund revenue, approximately $5.1 million, comes from the federal government.

Nine percent of the general fund revenue, approximately $2.3 million, comes from passenger fares.

Five percent of the general fund revenue, approximately $1.2 million, comes from other revenue.

 

Who owns Courthouse Square?

Cherriots and Marion County jointly-own the Courthouse Square office building, 555 Court Street NE, in Salem. The adjoining Downtown Transit Center at Courthouse Square is owned by Cherriots.

Courthouse Square is bounded by Chemeketa Street NE on the north, Court Street NE on the south, Church Street NE on the east and High Street NE on the west.

 

Where are the Cherriots offices?

The Cherriots Customer Service Office is at 220 High St. NE. It’s next to the Downtown Transit Center.

The Cherriots administrative office is located on the fifth floor of the Courthouse Square building at 555 Court St.NE in Salem.

The Cherriots Operations Headquarters is at 3140 Del Webb Ave., in Salem. The repair and maintenance facility for the Cherriots fleet is also located at the Del Webb site.

 

Who provides security services at the Downtown Transit Center?

Cherriots works with the Salem Police Department and G4S Secure Solutions, a private contractor hired by the transit district.

 

How many employees work at Cherriots?

As of fall 2017, Cherriots had 194 employees.

 

Are Cherriots employees represented by a union?

The Cherriots workforce includes union and nonunion members. About 130 of the transit district’s employees are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757.

 

What’s the salary range for transit operators?

Transit operators, the folks who drive the buses, have a salary range of a little over $41,000 to about $50,000 per year.

 

Do Cherriots employees receive Oregon PERS benefits?

No. The District’s workforce consists of public employees, but they are not part of the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System. Cherriots funds its own retirement plan.

 

How many vehicles are in the Cherriots fixed-route fleet?

The Cherriots fleet consists of 64 buses, which are 35 feet and 40 feet long.

Thirty-four of the buses are powered by compressed natural gas. The remainder of the Cherriots fixed-route fleet uses biodiesel for fuel.

 

How many seats on a Cherriots bus?

A 40-foot-long Cherriots bus can seat 38 passengers with standing room for about 20 more.

 

How much does a Cherriots, fixed-route bus cost?

The price range is about $475,000 to $525,000.

 

About how long can a bus stay in service before it needs to be replaced?

Cherriots fixed-route buses can stay in service for approximately 12 to 15 years before they need to be replaced.

 

What is the average age of the fleet?

As of fall 2017, the average age of buses in the fleet was 11 years.

 

What are the oldest vehicles in the fleet?

The oldest vehicles in the fleet have been on carrying passengers since 2002.

 

What has Cherriots done to ensure that its fleet operates in a sustainable manner?

Cherriots always seeks the best sustainable practices.

Cherriots fleet uses recapped tires, which require fewer virgin materials than new tires. All the biodiesel powered buses use re-refined engine oil.

The bus wash uses recycled water and buses are only washed twice a week during the summer. And the maintenance facility has been Earthwise certified.

 

How many Cherriots LIFT vehicles are in the fleet?

Cherriots LIFT provides paratransit service for passengers who can’t independently use Cherriots standard, fixed-route bus service.

Cherriots LIFT has 43 buses; all of the vehicles are powered by gasoline.

How many buses are in the Cherriots Regional fleet?

Cherriots Regional provides services to towns in Marion and Polk counties.

Cherriots Regional has 12 buses. Most of the Cherriots Regional buses are powered by diesel.  Four of the Cherriots Regional buses are gasoline powered and one is a hybrid electric diesel vehicle.

 

How can Cherriots customers make their concerns or comments known to transit district managers?

The Cherriots Customers Service Office can be reached at info@cherriots.org

Cherriots Board of Directors has a public comment period at its regularly scheduled meetings.  The Board meets January through October on the fourth Thursday of the month. No Board meetings are held in November. In December the Board meets on the second Thursday of the month.

Regularly scheduled Board meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. at Courthouse Square, Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court St. NE. in Salem.

Members of the Board can also be reached by email.  Addresses can be found at this link: http://bit.ly/2vMfhx6

 

How can job applicants learn about job openings and apply for positions at Cherriots?

Cherriots posts job openings on its website: cherriots.org.

Job applications are also posted online and can be submitted by email at recruitment@cherriots.org

 

Are student internships available?

Cherriots provides student internships on a limited basis. Contact the Cherriots human resources department for more information.