What’s new on Central Oregon’s public transit system? You are. According to transit officials, Bend Area Transit’s ridership is changing from a transit-dependent ridership to a healthy mix of transit-dependent and choice riders. What this means: even those who own cars are choosing to leave them at home and take the bus to work.
Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving. Just because someone owns a car does not mean they can realistically afford to drive it. When public transportation options are available at a cost far below the price of gas and vehicle upkeep, it makes sense to get on the bus.
“It saves employees money,” says Heather Ornelas, transit manager for Bend Area Transit. “Entry level employees use a lot of their earnings on transportation costs.” Ornelas is working in conjunction with Cascades East Transit and Commute Options to create options for alternative modes of travel for area businesses and their employees.
By riding the bus, workers help more than their pocketbooks. A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car. When compared to other household actions that limit CO2, taking public transportation can be 10 times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.
Environmental concerns are also a concern to Central Oregon businesses. In addition to freeing up parking spaces around their business and cashing in on new tax benefits, employers who provide incentives for employees to use public transportation are thinking green. “There is a strong movement by companies towards sustainable practices, and encouraging bus use for employees underscores a green business approach,” says Ornelas.
“Getting employees on the bus for their work day commute benefits all of us,” says Jeff Monson, executive director of Commute Options.
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information about Commute Options, contact Jeff Monson, executive director of Commute Options at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.
Annissa Anderson is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Bend.