The future of public transportation in Central Oregon is certainly a hot, and very important topic right now. At Commute Options, we educate individuals, businesses and government agencies about the value that a sustainable, viable public transportation system can bring to our region.
An expanded and improved public transit system that is accessible to all community members will positively impact the region by reducing traffic, providing a viable transportation option for all citizens and supporting a sustainable, vibrant region. Public transportation:
• Provides equal personal mobility and freedom for all people of all ages and abilities.
• Gives people transportation options to safely get to work, school, health care facilities and daily errands.
• Reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality.
• Supports the local economy. For every $1 invested in transit, $4 is generated in economic returns.
• Saves money for households. The average household spends 16 cents of every dollar on transportation – buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expense after housing.
According to a 2013 survey commissioned by Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), 79 percent of registered voters in Bend, Redmond, Prineville and Madras think that public transit is important to our region. However, securing stable funding for transit remains a challenge and COIC, the agency that coordinates Cascades East Transit (CET) is recommending ways not only to sustain, but also improve transit services.
“In June 2013, COIC developed a sub-committee charged with the task of making recommendations for viable funding sources for CET, with the goal of stabilizing and improving services over the short and long terms,” said Scott Aycock, COIC Community Development Manager.
Over the short-term, the committee recommends developing partnerships with local governments to collectively develop local funding to achieve a sustainable base level of service in the region. Over the long-term, the committee’s preferred local dedicated public funding tool is a region-wide property tax. A property tax is a common funding source in comparable Oregon areas such as Salem-Keizer, Hood River, Rogue Valley, Lane County and Lincoln County.
Another consideration is that CET has invested in virtually no promotion or outreach to educate the public about their services and garner support from the community. “Right now, our entire budget is going towards keeping the buses running on a daily basis. We have no extra funds to promote services, let alone the benefits of transit”, added Aycock.
In other areas, transit is seen as a crucial piece to a healthy, vibrant community and Central Oregon should be no different. We have a need for both local intra-city routes as well as regional routes that connect different communities in the area. Bend is also anticipating significant growth in higher education with the new OSU Campus—likely to greatly impact transportation immediately and in the long-term.
Jeff Monson, executive director for Commute Options adds, “We are at a turning point in Central Oregon. We are ready to realize how public transportation can improve the quality of life in this amazing place. We encourage everyone to become educated about the issue and to support the expansion and improvement recommendations. And take a ride on the bus. I bet you’ll like it!”
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.
Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.