Those in Bend know what the city looks like on a peak summer day.
Bend becomes a playground full of people. The Deschutes River is covered in tubers, kayakers and paddleboarders.
Parks and trails are packed with outdoor enthusiasts.
Getting around the city becomes difficult with more drivers on the roads.
Tourists are often blamed for the bumper-to-bumper traffic, but new data shows the streets are just as full of commuters.
On any day in the height of summer, Bend adds 21,600 tourists and 25,500 commuters, according to data compiled by Visit Bend and Damon Runberg, a regional economists.
The commuter numbers, based on census data, have been increasing for more than a decade.
The last available census data is from 2014, when 22,267 commuters came to Bend each day. Runberg estimated a few thousand more to get to 25,500, although he said the actual number could be even higher.
“These are underestimates of what it is today,” Runberg said. “We know employment growth is so substantial. These are conservative numbers because it is dated data.”
The number of commuters leaving Bend each day is about 12,000, or about half of those coming in, according to the census data.
“We are netting in a positive 10,000 plus workers a day,” Runberg said. “On the busiest of summer days, there are somewhere around 20,000 to 25,000 commuters in Bend.”
In the mornings and afternoons, those incoming and outgoing commuters overlap, creating huge amounts of traffic.
“That’s why Fridays are terrible,” Runberg said. “Those two overlap with potentially 40,000 people moving around.”
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, traffic volumes have increased drastically on the north end of Bend.
At U.S. Highway 97 and Revere Avenue, 59,146 vehicles per day were counted in June. That is a 20 percent increase in three years from when 47,777 vehicles were counted each day in June 2014.
Such traffic volume is the motivation behind the U.S. 97 Bend North Corridor Project, a massive $150 million to $250 million upgrade still in the works awaiting state and federal funding, according to ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy.
“We expect growth. That’s a given,” Murphy said. “But those kind of growth numbers, I don’t think have been anticipated.”
What jobs those commuters are heading to in Bend is not clear from the census data, Runberg said. But employment statistics show an interesting trend — the hospitality, or tourism, industry is being surpassed by other jobs.
The hospitality industry in Bend is still up 5 percent from last year, with 11,980 jobs, but it is getting outpaced.
For example, construction jobs increased 12 percent and professional service jobs — mostly jobs in marketing, consulting and technology — grew 21.5 percent in the past two years.
Hospitality jobs make up just 15 percent of the employment market in Bend, Runberg said.
“It was the industry that carried us out of the recession,” Runberg said. “It makes sense. We are a destination that is affordable for tourism options. Since then, other industries have taken over.”
But tourists keep coming to Bend, up to 21,000 on any given summer day.
Pete Alport, 41, a professional outdoor photographer, has seen the impacts of more visitors and residents since he moved to Bend more than two decades ago.
He has become disappointed at seeing untouched trails and campgrounds become overrun with visitors. He wishes people would stop promoting the little-known spots by tagging them on social media and popular blog posts.
“The secret is out about Bend, and it’s been that way for decades,” Alport said.
Alport is pleased to see Visit Bend focusing on a new campaign, “Visit Like a Local,” that teaches visitors how to properly hike the trails and pick up after themselves.
Educating visitors and new residents is an important part of maintaining the lifestyle of Bend, Alport said.
“The overall lesson when you come to Bend is act as if it’s your most sacred spot and treat it like you can’t replicate it or rebuild it,” Alport said. “Treat it like a champagne glass. It’s fragile. It’s one of a kind.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820,