BEND, OR -- Cascades East Transit unveiled their new fleet of low-floor buses, at Hawthorne Station, Thursday. For rider Jordan Ohlde, it means the bus driver doesn’t have to help him and his wheelchair board, speeding up the process for all passengers. "It just takes a lot of time just for a wheelchair to get on and off because they have to deploy the lift and then they have to tie down the wheelchair, which takes about two to three minutes by itself because they have to put all the straps on." He rides the bus everyday to work and says it slows everyone down when drivers have to load a wheelchair on to the lift, "They had to actually get out of their seat and put me on the bus. Now, I can get on by myself and all they have to do is just tie the wheelchair down. It’ll take about two minutes, and you’re done."
The new buses also feature a front and back door, which CET Executive Director Karen Friend says will keep passengers moving and buses running on time, "They will provide better dignity for those with mobility limitations: The bus will come to the curb, kneel, deploy a ramp and people with mobility limitations will be able to just wheel right on or walk right on." She adds, "And it will allow for alleviation of congestion in that we won’t be tying up traffic as we try to load. So, it’s a really exciting evolution for the system. It makes us look like many other transit systems across the nation, now." At $400,000 each, she tells KBND News the agency couldn’t afford them until now. "These were the first grant opportunities where we actually felt like we could start to evolve."
CET put three low-floor buses into service Thursday on routes Seven, 10 and 11
; a fourth is on the way for routes One and Four.