-By LAUREN L. DILLARD
Of the News-Register
More than 14,000 members of Yamhill County’s nonfarm workforce commute to jobs outside the county every morning, according to Pam Ferrara of the state Department of Employment.
Nearly 2,400 head to Multnomah County, bound largely for Portland, and 7,000 to Washington County, bound for Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and points between, said Ferrara, a workforce analyst for Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties.
And almost to a one, they wish there was an easier, quicker way. After all, it would be nice to get a couple of hours of extra sleep in the morning.
Options include private cars, YCAP buses, TriMet buses, Max trains and Metro vans. Many combine at least two of those options, and some combine three.
Katie Allwander has one of the nastiest commutes.
She lives south of McMinnville in the farming community of Hopewell. She works for the Small Business Administration in Portland, and the run between them is both long and difficult.
A business development specialist, she is currently driving to a park and ride lot in Sherwood and relying on TriMet from there. She spends about 30 minutes in the car getting to Sherwood and another 60 minutes on the bus getting to downtown Portland.
That’s a lot of time on the road, and she figures she’s not alone. “I see a lot of people in McMinnville who I see on the road and on TriMet coming into Portland,” she said.
The SBA reimburses the cost of commuting via mass transit, so it would be advantageous to Allwander to cover more of her trip that way. However, she’s had a hard time finding something that will work for her.
She recently looked into joining a new Metro VanPool running from Newberg to the Lloyd District in Portland. A program at carpoolmatchnw.org helps match riders with similar needs, and that sounded good.
“It would be nice to kick back and relax, read books, make me more effective,” Allwander said.
But the VanPool, considered eminently flexible by its organizers, isn’t flexible enough for her. The local van doesn’t leave Newberg early enough in the morning.
YCAP offers bus service from McMinnville to TriMet’s Hillsboro rail stop and Sherwood bus stop, both of which feature park-and-ride lots.
For the ride up, northbound buses depart at 6:02, 8, 9:30 and 10:10 every morning. For the ride back, they depart at 3:25, 4:16 and 6:40 every afternoon.
In addition to those runs, designed to serve commuters, YCAP offers morning runs south, afternoon runs north and mid-day runs both ways. Still, it doesn’t fit everyone’s schedule.
That would leave Allwander waiting in Sherwood for 45 minutes for a bus back to McMinnville. “It would make my day longer than it already is,” she noted.
Today, gas is running $2.69 at most McMinnville stations. That would make an 80-mile trip to Portland and back $7.17 in a car getting 30 miles per gallon.
Allwander figures she burns two gallons getting to Sherwood and back. With the SBA reimbursement for the rest of her commute, she’s only out $5.38.
But that doesn’t count insurance, maintenance, repair and depreciation, of course. The IRS computes the average per-mile operating cost at 48 cents, at which price a daily commute to Portland would run $38.40 and Allwander’s Sherwood run around $30.
Though the Newberg VanPool didn’t pan out for Allwander, it’s looking for additional passengers for its Highway 99W run, and it might work for others.
Metro covers half of the cost of leasing a van for any group willing to carpool under its program.
Will Worrall is leasing a seven-passenger van from Enterprise for the Newberg VanPool’s weekday run to the Lloyd District. The riders split the cost of gas and insurance, which ranges from $2.60 to $4.13 each, according to Metro.
Worrall would like to find some people from Newberg, McMinnville or elsewhere in the region interested in joining his VanPool. His seven-passenger van still has space left, and he could swap it for a 15-passenger van if demand warranted.
Alternatively, he wouldn’t mind seeing someone in McMinnville launch his own.
“The deal is, the way to get a VanPool started is that it has to have a champion,” Worrall said. “What I would love to do is get four or five VanPools going along 99. If somebody from McMinnville wanted to champion it, he would need to find at least four riders.”
Allwander thinks the ideal solution would be a train. “Trains haul a lot more people than cars or vans or even busses,” she said. “If I could catch a train in McMinnville to take me into downtown Portland, I would drive the 15 miles.”
Newberg businessman Matt Simek and Newberg legislator Gary George have set about championing that very idea. In fact, Simek has lined up an array of public and private support sufficient to cover the cost of an initial feasibility study.
However, any rail run up the valley appears to be a long way off. And so does any bypass through the Newberg-Dundee bottleneck to speed auto and bus traffic.
So for now, Allwander will have to be content with driving from Hopewell to Sherwood and taking TriMet’s 94 Express to her downtown office.