By Abby Spegman

The Bulletin

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How do you get 4-year-olds excited about public transportation? Try singing “Wheels on the Bus” on an actual bus.

In an effort to reach (much) younger riders, Cascades East Transit and the Deschutes Public Library system are hosting bus-themed story times this month with the chance to board a real bus.

“I know most of my friends’ children are excited about buses and trucks,” said Judy Watts, outreach and engagement administrator for Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, which operates CET. “Hopefully some of the kids and parents learn something about CET and take a ride.”

At the Downtown Bend Public Library on Monday morning, more than a dozen children, from babies to preschoolers, gathered for stories. There was one about a pigeon trying to drive a bus, a story about a duo named Tess and Gus in search of a bus and a song about a hippo, snake and sheep on a bus (“‘Moooo-ve back,’ said the cow”).

Finally it was time to go outside, where a CET bus waited for the children. They took turns boarding, picking out seats and peering out windows. They sang “Wheels on the Bus” again, and the driver patiently opened the doors and swished the wipers for their amusement.

“It’s almost our turn!” said Will Richards, 4, as he waited in line. He had never been on a bus before. When he finally got to the top of the stairs, he picked out the driver’s seat as his own.

Behind him, Isla Weisgerber, 4, was anxious to board. “Can we go on the bus now? Why are we waiting?” she asked.

Isla said she had been on a bus before but is not a regular rider.

“We’re pretty excited,” she said.

CET recently extended weekday service, added three routes in Bend and boosted the number of buses on its routes during peak hours. While its riders are traditionally seniors without cars and students, Watts said organizers are seeing — and seeking out — more “choice riders,” or people who have cars but choose to ride the bus.

Children 5 and younger ride the bus for free, and Watts gave out free day passes to parents to encourage them to ride.

The final bus-themed story time will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 22 at La Pine Public Library.

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,

aspegman@bendbulletin.com

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