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Shuttle gets Columbia County connected
Photos and Story by James Hill
Thanks to a new partnership, students from Columbia County, which includes the towns of Scappoose, St. Helens and Vernonia, are taking a shuttle to classes at the Rock Creek Campus.
The $20,000 contribution from PCC to support the shuttle paves the way toward an education for students who often mention that transportation challenges keep them from fully taking advantage of PCC services. The new shuttle, the Columbia Rider operated by Columbia County Transit, now picks up students at various points in Columbia County and transports them to the Rock Creek campus. The shuttle makes four round trips every Monday through Thursday and three round trips on Friday.
"For a long time Columbia County has struggled to support a meaningful transportation system and this is a dedicated service between the county and PCC," said State Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose). "My fervent hope is that it is well enough publicized and used and we can move toward somehow institutionalizing the service."
PCC has long held a presence in Columbia County. Credit and non-credit classes are offered at other community locations. Yet to complete a certificate or degree students still need to take classes at one of the comprehensive campuses. Each term about 300 to 400 students make the 40-mile trek to one of the campuses.
Last spring, PCC hired a consulting firm to conduct a telephone survey to gauge community members’ interest in college classes. In interviews with 405 residents, 59 percent said they were interested in classes. When asked about barriers that kept residents from attending classes, three out of five residents said transportation.
The support from PCC District President Preston Pulliams and Rock Creek Campus President Katherine Persson won praises from Johnson.
"There has been real leadership from PCC to make this a reality," she said. "I’m delighted with their responsiveness. Now folks need to validate the service by using it."
Students pay a small fare to ride the shuttle to the campus. The fares range between 75 cents to $3 for a one-way trip depending on the location of the pick up or drop off.
While the shuttle brings students into the Portland metropolitan area, PCC also continues to provide classes in Columbia County. In recent months, the Vernonia Community Learning Center opened and PCC is offering credit and non credit classes at the site.
"We will be utilizing local qualified faculty as much as possible to staff the course offerings," said Kelly Marks, Columbia County coordinator. "We are discussing the possibility of bringing additional services, specifically admissions and testing for larger groups of potential students, to the community."
For more information about the shuttle and times of operation, visit the Parking and Transportation website, or call 1-888-462-6526.