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Columbia River Gorge Transit Study

Improving transit access to and from the Gorge

The beauty of the Columbia River Gorge attracts thousands of visitors each day, particularly on weekends when the sun is shining. During these times parking is often at or over capacity and access to picture perfect sites such as Multnomah Falls can be challenging. As the Historic Columbia River Highway​ celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, local communities, public agencies and land managers are looking for ways to combat congestion and provide transportation options.

Today, there are few public transit options in the Gorge, and none that connect recreational and tourist attractions such as Multnomah Falls with population centers. Enhanced transit options are likely an important part of any solution to address congestion in the Columbia River Gorge. ODOT conducted the Columbia River Gorge Transit Study to identify immediate and near-term solutions for both Gorge residents and visitors.

  • Improve transit access and options to recreational destinations in the Columbia River Gorge and between East Multnomah County and The Dalles
  • Enhance Gorge mobility and safety
  • Address congestion and limited parking capacity at Multnomah Falls
  • Protect natural and cultural resources by reducing illegal parking and congestion

Using findings from the study, ODOT will operate a pilot transit service during summer months in 2016 and 2017. Visitors to the Gorge can take the Columbia Gorge Express on weekends from the Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Multnomah Falls May through September. In addition, regular weekend bus service will transport visitors for free between an overflow parking lot at Rooster Rock State Park and Multnomah Falls. 

Collecting feedback

The project team gathered input and information about travel needs and experiences in the Gorge to identify​ possible transit opportunities. Between November 2015 and March 2016, the team talked with transit service providers, held small stakeholder group discussions, and conducted an online survey that received over 1,700 responses. Feedback was also collected at a public open house in March 2016 organized as part of Oregon Solutions' Historic Columbia River Highway Collaborative Project. 

  • More than 70 percent of survey respondents would consider using public transit or parking shuttles to reach Gorge destinations.
  • Multnomah Falls is the top destination for Gorge visitors.
  • Gateway Transit Center is the preferred location for connecting Gorge transit routes with existing Portland area transit.
  • Hood River is another key destination in the Gorge. 
The results of this analysis are summarized in the Existing Conditions and Market Analysis Report (see below). 


Pilot service and near-term service alternatives

PILOT SERVICE (starts late spring 2016)

The Columbia Gorge Express will:
  • Provide a relaxing and enjoyable ride to Multnomah Falls and Rooster Rock State Park.
  • Give visitors an affordable, convenient option for accessing the Gorge. 
  • Help relieve parking and traffic congestion at Multnomah Falls. Parking is available at the Gateway Transit Center and Rooster Rock State Park.
Days of operation: Friday, Saturday and Sunday (plus federal holidays) from May 27 to the end of September.

Ticket and schedule information available on the Columbia Gorge Express website.

NEAR-TERM SERVICE (proposed to begin in 2018, funding dependent)

As the pilot progresses, ODOT and project partners will evaluate the service on an ongoing basis and continue to explore options for expansion beyond 2017. Near-term service expansion could include increasing the frequency of the existing intercity transit service between Gateway Transit Center and Hood River traveling along I-84 with stops at key destinations. Public transportation service is currently provided two days a week by Hood River County Transportation District.

Days and hours of operation: The service design could include a limited number of longer trips per day to Hood River in conjunction with more frequent, short-line services to Multnomah Falls from Gateway Transit Center. ODOT will work with project partners and the community to determine days and hours of operation and frequency.


Throughout the study, several documents will be produced and put here. 

​Related projects

There are several related projects occurring simultaneously in 2016. Interested members of the public are encouraged to learn about these projects and get involved:

Gorge Tourism Studio (Winter – Spring 2016)

Travel Oregon and the Gorge Tourism Studio Steering Committee offered professional development programs to bolster the tourism economy while maintaining Gorge environmental and cultural integrity. Workshops were held January - April 2016.

At Governor Brown’s request, this project addresses short-term safety and congestion along the Historic Columbia River Highway around Multnomah Falls. The Gorge Transit Study was coordinated with this effort.

The Historic Columbia River Highway was constructed between 1913 and 1922 as America’s first scenic highway. Events will occur throughout 2016 to celebrate its history and beauty.

For more information 

Please contact the ODOT Project Team: 
Kristen Stallman, Project Manager at Kristen.Stallman@odot.state.or.us or (503) 731-4957

For Americans with Disabilities Act or Civil Rights Title VI accommodations, translation/interpretation services, or more information call 503-731-4128, TTY (800) 735-2900 or Oregon Relay Service 7-1-1. 

Si desea obtener información sobre este proyecto traducida al español, sírvase llamar al (503) 731-4128.

Если вы хотите, чтобы информация об этом проекте была переведена на русский язык, пожалуйста, звоните по телефону (503) 731-4128. 

Nếu quý vị muốn thông tin về dự án này được dịch sang tiếng Việt, xin gọi (503) 731-4128.​