Of the Baker City Herald

By now nearly everyone in town has seen the new graphics on the Community Connection bus: a colorful scene of fishing and hiking over the mountains.

The graphics will help the public better identify the bus and dispel the belief that the service is only for senior citizens, according to Mary Jo Carpenter, program manager at Community Connections.

Carpenter said the Oregon Department of Transportation's Public Transit Division asked Community Connection to better identify its transportation to the public. Hence the use of the eye-catching graphics.

A grant from the division paid for 89 percent of the new bus, including the graphics.

andquot;For so many years it has been considered a 'senior bus,' that they wanted to see an effort to increase public awareness, and Community Connection has the same goal,andquot; she said. andquot;We know the bus graphics are one of the most visible ways to change public perception, as similar circumstances have been experienced by other transportation systems. When they applied graphics, their community asked if there was 'a new bus service,' as they hadn't really even been aware of their senior bus service up to that time.andquot;

Carpenter said that the Community Connection busses are sometimes mistaken for buses of other programs that provide services to their clientele as a part of their program.

andquot;People would think our bus had driven by and forgotten to pick them up. That doesn't happen now,andquot; Carpenter said.

She said generally, the seniors have given positive feed back about the new graphics, although some joke that they need tassels on the inside and the bus driver to wear longer hair.

andquot;But overall I think they are pleased with the bus. I know the kids we transport think the bus is 'really cool' now.andquot;

Carpenter said that in Oregon, the idea really caught on from its use by Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) in Medford. The district created a marketing program that included drawings of grandparents by small children. RVTD held a contest and the winners got their drawings placed on one of the fixed-route busses.

andquot;It was a great public awareness tool,andquot; Carpenter said. The idea caught on, and more of the graphics appear each year, and are now being use widely throughout the state.

The theme of the bus wraps can reflect the lifestyle of its community, or as in some areas it is strictly advertising or a combination of the two. The bus wrap on the local bus is very similar to the Union County and Wallowa County Community Connection buses.

Carpenter said they may change the design a little on the next bus, andquot;We would like to have a gold miner which would be appropriate to our Baker County history. We just hadn't found the right kind of graphic at the time we installed the graphic on this vehicle.andquot;

Each graphic is ordered according the the customer's requests. They can be developed for a particular event. Some of them are even created with temporary use in mind, although it is a rather expensive effort for a short term use Carpenter added.

The grahic wrap was purchased from a company called Gillespie Decals, Inc., out of Wilsonville.

andquot;They have developed these type of wraps and supply many of them to other transportation programs in the state,andquot; Carpenter said. The installation was done by Custom Graphic Services of Silverton.

andquot;The graphics are manufactured in several large pieces, which are specifically designed to fit a particular bus. They are self-adhesive and are heated and applied onto the vehicle,andquot; she added.

Carpenter wanted to remind everyone that the bus is not just for seniors, it is a community transportation project.

Anyone can ride the bus just by calling the Senior Center at 523-6591. The bus runs from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Seniors age 60 and over or those with disabilities can ride the bus for 75 cents. The last call is at 4 p.m. so that trips can be completed before the 4:30 end of the rider day.

General ridership, those non-seniors beyond sixth grade are $1.50 per ride, with children sixth grade and under $1. The bus makes runs between the schools every day to deliver children home, or to other programs like early intervention.

Seniors who use the bus to get to the Senior Center, 2810 Cedar St., for the noon meal get a special andquot;two-for-oneandquot; deal. The round trip from home to the center and back is only 75 cents. Bus tickets are available with 11 rides for the price of 10.