FALLS CITY — Direct Connect, a free bus that serves Falls City residents, is on the road again, following a months-long closure due to COVID-19.

The bus has new routes running from Falls City to Dallas, Monmouth and Independence on its days of operation, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Direct Connect resumed service in September, but in a push to add riders, a banner was installed on North Main Street in Falls City late last month.

Falls City Mayor Jeremy Gordon, Polk County Commissioner Lyle Mordhorst, and Polk County Family & Community Outreach Early Leaning and Family Engagement Supervisor Stephanie Gilbert and Direct Connect driver Richard Faber were there to see the banner go up. Pacific Power volunteered to help string the banner across North Main Street.

Riders will have noticed a difference in service.

“We do the same exact route on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so it hits Dallas, Monmouth, Independence and Falls City every day,” Gilbert said.

She said the new route was created based on rider requests that round-trip time on the bus was too long, especially if they only needed to make one stop.

“Because it’s such a long way to Monmouth and Dallas at the same time, there’s built-in time so when they get off at Walmart it comes back there an hour before it comes back here (Falls City) so they don’t have to ride all the way around to get back to Falls City. Now we are using Falls City as the hub,” Gilbert said. “That was some of the feedback we were getting from riders: It’s a long time to go to Bi-Mart.”

Richard Faber, the Direct Connect driver and community resource connector with Family & Community Outreach, said that even with the number of riders restricted, the restart of service has been better than when the direct connect first started service three years ago.

“When this thing started in 2017, it was slower than it is right now. You would get one or two people maybe riding in a whole day for a while,” Faber said. “It takes a long time to build up trust. And now we are working it back up again.”

Gordon said flexibility to the needs of those who use the bus sets the service apart from other public transportation.

“That is a nice thing. The county really adjusts things to the needs of the riders,” Gordon said. “It’s a lot more flexible than maybe some other bus services out there. I really appreciate it.” 

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