Daily bus service between Clatsop County and Kelso, Wash., has ended.

The owner of Cowlitz Coach said a combination of higher costs, dropping ridership and other factors prompted the charter bus company to cancel the service effective Monday.

"There were just too many things working against it," said owner Mark Obtinario. "It just didn't work."

The Castle Rock, Wash.-based company had offered the afternoon service for three years after taking it over from another provider. The bus served several Clatsop County stops as far south as Cannon Beach, making a connection with Greyhound service in Kelso.

The service never had heavy ridership but did do enough business to be profitable at first, Obtinario said. But higher fuel costs have raised expenses, and recently his company's insurance rates rose steeply, he said. And last August, Greyhound changed the departure times for its afternoon Kelso bus from 5:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., which required the Cowlitz Coach bus to leave Astoria at 2:30 p.m. to make the Kelso connection.

That made it inconvenient for many Clatsop County riders, and resulted in ridership dropping by about half, he said.

"The daily average was getting down to what it cost for fuel," he said.

The cancellation leaves one other regular bus service to Clatsop County, offered by Coachways, which has morning service from Astoria and Seaside to Portland, where it makes a connection with Amtrak. No other operators showed an interest in picking up the Kelso service, Obtinario said.

Some riders made connections to other destinations like Portland, but many went just to Kelso, he said. "Now those people will need to go through Porltand, and that will mean more time and more money," he said.

"We had quite a few regular riders, people who would take the bus once a week or twice a month, but there were not enough of them," he said. "It's sad we have had to cut the service."

The company provides charter bus service. The Astoria-Kelso run was its only scheduled route.

Cowlitz Coach customers with unused tickets can obtain refunds by contacting the company at (360) 274-0385.


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