(Photo | By Jakob Scholz of Pexels)
Dozens of neighbors and businesses in the Hawthorne Avenue area announced the formation of Fix Bend Transit, a political action committee (PAC) focused on elevating the importance of transit facility investments in Bend and an equitable transportation system overall.
The legacy of transit planning in Bend isn’t pretty: Three failed bond measures; the big blue buses; and opening a transit station at the intersection of two neighborhood streets. Now, just when the City of Bend and Cascades East Transit were poised to make bold new plans for Bend’s transit system — we’re faltering once again.
For instance, of more than $650 million in new transportation projects by 2040, the City of Bend’s new Transportation System Plan calls for less than 2 percent to be spent on transit. This even as the City adopts a new policy outlining efforts to create an equitable transportation system.
And though CET is planning to grow transit dramatically, the new CET 2040 Transit Master Plan calls for no new transit facility investments in Bend for at least a decade.
At the heart of the problem is Hawthorne Station, the main transit station for Bend and the region. The station was selected to serve as an interim transit hub more than a dozen years ago but has grown and grown. Transit agency leaders have said there is no disputing that the station is “at capacity” today.
In addition, a 2019 traffic and engineering study found immediate safety issues that make Hawthorne Station a dangerous site, especially for people with disabilities — including the conflict of uses in the area between delivery trucks, cars, pedestrians and bike riders. The facility is out of compliance with nine key Oregon Department of Transportation standards for transit stations, and its location makes it inconvenient for many in our city to access, especially because there is no space for a park and ride.
Ultimately, the study concluded that we cannot grow transit in Bend without substantial immediate investment in new facilities. But the new 2040 transit plan appears to retain Hawthorne Station as Bend and Central Oregon’s primary transit center for the next 20 years with no other facility investments for a decade to come.
With no new facilities, how will we provide the growth in transit so greatly needed to support Bend’s vulnerable populations, reduce congestion on our roads and provide equitable access to employment, education, and healthcare?
Bend needs leaders who are not afraid to champion transit. To promote this leadership, in the coming weeks the Hawthorne Avenue Neighbors will issue a questionnaire to candidates holding and running for key offices. The results of the questionnaire will be shared in a scorecard on the group’s website, brokenbendtransit.com.
Visit the website today to learn more about the Hawthorne Avenue Neighbors and this important effort.