Clatsop County bus riders left stranded after service suspended indefinitely

Thousands of people in Clatsop County are without a local bus service for the foreseeable future.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 10:59 PM PDT
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SEASIDE, Ore. (KPTV) — Thousands of people in Clatsop County are without a local bus service for the foreseeable future after the Sunset Empire Transportation District Board of Commissioners (SETD) voted last week to suspend all of its bus routes because of financial issues.

Buses officially stopped running in the county on Saturday, two days after the vote took place. But for many bus riders, the abrupt stop in service came as a shock. Many learned of the news through flyers, posted on bus stops, that read ‘Attention Riders Service Suspended.’ In addition to pausing bus service, dozens of employees were furloughed too. Kindwyn Hoge has used public transportation her whole life. She and hundreds more were stunned that their connection to the county crumbled within days.

“There are people that rely on the bus to get them to their jobs and they can’t get there because the bus has been suspended,” Hoge said. “There are kids and people that go to the college that can’t get there.”

Kindwyn is legally blind and uses the bus to get around town when her husband is unable to drive her.

“I need my independence when running errands, getting groceries, or going to appointments,” Hoge said.

The need for the bus in Clatsop County is seen through a Facebook page Kindwyn started soon after the SETD announced they were shutting down service. She wanted to create a space where people who need rides can connect with those who can drive. The posts show people asking for rides to doctor’s appointments or to get to work.

“What I feel really heartbreaking and heartful is that there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency,” Hoge said.

FOX 12 did catch up with Seaside Mayor, Steve Wright, as he was leaving a meeting at city hall Monday evening. Since the SETD is in its own tax district and has a separate elected body, local cities like Seaside, don’t have any control over decision-making.

“We’re doing everything we can which really isn’t much,” Wright said. “We reached out to our state Senator Susan Webber and she met with the governor this morning so she is well aware of it and she’s concerned too.”

The Chair of the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners, Mark Kujala, sent FOX 12 a statement:

“Sunset Empire Transportation District is a vital linkage and service provider in our community. While the County has limited visibility on the underlying issues and challenges; we are eager to support the resumption of services as quickly as possible. We have reached out and offered any technical assistance that may be appropriate and know our federal and state partners are actively engaged as well. Time is of the essence.

Debbie Booth Schmidt, the Chair of the SETD Board of Commissioners wrote to FOX 12 in an email late Monday evening that SETD is in the process of securing a loan and will get buses back on the streets as soon as possible and “give us the needed time to sort out what the board has just learned in the last few days. I have been working with Senator Weber and Governor Kotek along with others all day today and should have more information after a meeting tomorrow.”

FOX 12 did reach out to Jeff Hazen, SETD’s Executive Director, and Governor Tina Kotek’s office for comment, but we have yet to hear back. As for Hoge, she said she just wants her full independence back.

“Please, please, I beg you, please do something about this,” Hoge said. “Fix this. Help us fix this. We want to know, why did you do this to us? Why did you throw us under the bus like this? It’s not right. It’s not okay.”