A new program providing Umatilla County residents transportation to work sold 180 tickets in its first month.

The West-End Workforce On-Demand Ride Cooperative, or WORC for short, began Oct. 1. It is a collaboration between the cities of Hermiston, Umatilla and Stanfield and provides subsidized vouchers for taxi rides to residents in those three cities’ ZIP codes to get to work.

Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith described it as a pilot program designed to help residents get work and local employers fill positions.

“This helps workers who struggle to find reliable transportation and makes sure businesses stay fully staffed and able to operate efficiently,” he said in a news release. “Through taxi programs and bus routes, we’re making sure everybody can get to where they need to be.”

The program is paid for by the state payroll tax for transportation. Residents who bring in proof of employment can purchase cards stamped with the address of their workplace, to use as payment for rides to and from that address.

Prices vary depending on whether the card is good for transportation within a certain city/ZIP code or between cities, but a Hermiston-to-Hermiston card is $2.50 per ride, with the state payroll tax funds picking up the other 65% of the cost.

Rides are provided by Hermiston Taxi Company, which also provides rides for a similar voucher program for senior and disabled residents that has been in place for several years. Smith said the city hopes people will mix and match the taxi programs with the HART, a free public bus service in Hermiston that runs from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

“For example, a teenager who doesn’t have a license but works an evening fast food shift could take the bus to work in the afternoon and then use a WORC taxi ticket to get home later at night,” he said. “This maximizes use of the taxi program rather than adding additional bus routes late into the evening when there are fewer riders.”

Anyone interested in WORC tickets can purchase them in sets of 10 at Hermiston City Hall, 180 N.E. Second St. They must provide proof of employment.

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