Josephine Community Transit takes big steps
Normally, folks don’t brag about being number three or four. But when you’re a small, rural public transportation service provider and you’re comparing yourself to the likes of TriMet (Portland) and Lane Transit District (Eugene), that’s actually quite a feat.
“We ventured into EV buses early – like the third or fourth provider to do so in the state,” said Scott Chancey, Transit manager for Josephine County. “And we use induction charging, where the bus pulls over a plate, so there’s no need to plug in. We’ll have four total with this new grant – so four of our 14 operating buses will be electric.”
The county operates Josephine Community Transit, providing city and rural public transportation options for Grants Pass, Cave Junction and the surrounding area. Chancey and his team received three different grants in the latest round of funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Division; some will go toward the purchase of the new buses, while others will help expand EV charging infrastructure, including at the new transit hub coming to downtown Grants Pass.
“We’re breaking ground this fall,” Chancey said. “It’s an empty lot now so it will add to downtown. We’ll have quick charging at the new hub, too.”
Chancey isn’t afraid to be on the cutting edge of things – and gather some lessons learned. ODOT Region 3 Public Transit Liaison Jennifer Boardman said he is always willing to share his knowledge with other providers in southwest Oregon.
“Scott is fantastic, and one of my most progressive providers,” she said. “He is very thoughtful and detail oriented! I so appreciate his willingness to share his knowledge with all the providers in Region 3.”
A dream come true
Chancey has been working on the concept of transit hub in Grants Pass since 2017. He’s thrilled, of course, to see it coming to life, especially with all the advantages it will offer.
For one, it will house the transit operations team so they can be in the same facility, something that helps build a sense of team, Chancey said. He’s also excited about the EV charging options that will be available and the fact that the EV buses can be housed there.
“So we’re not only improving air quality. With our brand new transit hub, we’ll reduce the noise with our electric vehicles.”
The hub is also located near several apartment complexes, so there may be some ready-made riders right away – and Chancey will make it easy for them to try it out.
“We’ll give bus passes to the neighbors so they can try the bus,” he said. “I want people to see that public transportation and housing go together. I want people to see transit as an asset.”\
A team effort in southwest Oregon
Chancey is an active participant in the quarterly get-togethers Boardman organizes for all the transit providers in ODOT’s Region 3 (southwest Oregon).
“The main purpose behind these meetings is that there is knowledge in this group and sharing in an open environment away from their office is ideal for organic conversations,” Boardman said. The group is just starting to get back together in person, and people are anxious to join in – including Chancey.
“Anything I can do to learn and then disseminate the information to other small providers across the state, I want to do that,” he said. “When Jennifer pulls us all together, it’s mostly a bunch of rural providers like me, so I try to test these things out – to stay on the forefront – and then share my experience. An example is that we went to tablets early on and everyone else is going there now.”
What’s next for Josephine Community Transit? Based on Chancey’s investigation of diesel hybrid electric buses, it appears they may be climbing the roads in the area soon. These buses may be the best choice for tackling the steep hills around the county, connecting people and communities to one another.
“I try to be as innovative as we can, to show rural providers what can be done,” Chancey said. “I’m thinking long term. If we have the ability to do it, let’s do it. I’m sure my staff gets irritated with me because we’re trying to be an example. I want to show that it might seem big and scary, but you can do it.”