David Nichols-Alarcon, a driver with Cherriots, steps off the bus to pull his mask down and take a drink while holding at a stop to keep on schedule. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

For the first time in its more than 40-year history, Cherriots is offering bus service on Sundays.

Starting on Sept. 5, the Salem-area transit operator will offer rides around the core network from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cherriots core network has routes serving the cities of Salem and Keizer but not Marion County.

During the month of September, the bus will be free to ride on Sundays.

Chris French, planning manager at Cherriots, said the transit operator did outreach in 2018 to find out what riders wanted most in terms of upgrades.

Sunday service rose to the top of the list.

“We developed a plan for extended evening service, Saturday and Sunday service and bringing back holiday service. It was something people said was missing from the community,” he said.

The additions were made possible through the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund created in 2017. The money comes from a .01% payroll tax paid by employees in Oregon.

French said Cherriots had planned to add Sunday service in 2020, but the pandemic delayed those plans.

“We’re really excited to be able to allow the community to have access where they want to go seven days a week. Not everybody has a car and so allowing people that don’t have vehicles the ability to move and not be stuck at home is very important,” he said.

Patricia Feeny, Cherriots spokeswoman, said recent staffing shortages likely won’t impact Sunday service.

She said that’s because Sunday will have fewer routes and less frequency, every 30 minutes to an hour.

Ridership significantly fell off during the pandemic and still hasn't fully returned to pre-Covid levels, Feeny said.

Cherriots saw 160,166 riders in July, up from 130,767 in January.

Last September, Cherriots added back nearly all its routes after months of limited schedules. 

On July 6, the transit service began collecting fares and asked riders enter through the front door. Last March, Cherriots stopped collecting fares and instructed riders to enter the back entrance as a public health precaution. 

Ian Davidson, Cherriots board president, cheered the new addition on Twitter.

“This will be the first time in Cherriots' 42 years that we will offer Sunday service! To say this is a big deal would be an understatement,” he wrote.

More information about specific route times is available on Cherriots website.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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