By Sarah Schrock

I know you’ve seen them, driving up and down the highway every hour; orange place names on the roof, striped green and blue. The 12-passenger buses operated by TranGO seem to be gaining riders, based on my un-official observations.

I was the sole rider on my first TranGO trip last month. The count went up to three, plus a wooden chair a woman sent down valley, on my third voyage. But there’s still a lot of empty seats in each direction, and when I talk to people about taking the bus most people just haven’t thought about how to use it. To inspire your ridership, consider these ways to ride.

  • As a recreation shuttle. It’s prime river-floating time — don’t worry about dropping a car at the end of your float. Instead, relax on the river bank and wait for the bus, which runs the entire length from Winthrop-Pateros. You can hail the bus anywhere along the way, and it will pull over for you at a safe spot. Similarly, it will let you off anywhere. Fishermen this fall could use it to shuttle themselves, and in the winter it’s perfect to go to and from the Winthrop ski trailhead and ice rink.
  • Kid shuttle. It’s a great way to get your kids to and from lessons or a play date drop-off. On my most recent ride on TranGO, two kids rode to their swim lessons. Similarly, I put a Mazama-based kid on it after a play date to send him on his way to be picked up at the Winthrop Barn by his parents.
  • Lunch, shopping, and grocery shuttle. From Winthrop grab a friend and ride to Fork at TwispWorks or the various Glover Street eateries. It stops at each grocery store, so hop on and ride to either store, and in about an hour later you can ride back.

Granted, it doesn’t meet everyone’s needs and hourly routes are not as frequent as in city systems. For instance, last week I missed a bus because my 4-year-old had “to go,” stranding us in Winthrop for an hour while we waited for the next bus. School teachers and government employees start work before 8 a.m., which is the first scheduled morning departure. Similarly, many people leave work after 5 p.m. Like any public transit system, it takes a little effort — it’s not as convenient as a personal car. But it’s here, voted for and paid by us, so you might as well take advantage of it. If you’re like me, you drive the 9-mile Twisp-Winthrop deer gauntlet a lot, so for $1 each way it beats dodging deer on your own, plus you can safely use your smart phone en route.

TranGO is open to suggestions, so if you’d like to be a rider but the routes and schedules don’t work for you, contact them with your suggestions (509) 557-6177 or visit www.okanogantransit.com.

One more transportation-related topic is the appearance of the bright red crosswalk flags in town along Highway 20. In response to requests by community members, the Twisp Public Works staff constructed the holders and ordered the flags at four busy intersections. Mary Ann Kirkland brought it to my attention that no one seems to be using them.

Perhaps a tutorial is needed. It’s easy. When you want to cross, pick up a flag to make yourself more visible and display to oncoming cars — you know, like a crossing guard at an elementary school, only vests are not included. Replace the flag in its holder on the opposite side of the street. If needed, Andrew Denham from Public Works said the town is amenable to putting up instructional signs, but hopes it will become a natural habit learned through observation. I have always thought if the Twisp Police Department wanted to make money on traffic violations, not stopping for pedestrians citations would be a windfall. Now, with the flags, they might have to look for other ways to fill the coffers.

PREVIOUSLY, IN TWISP

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