So few riders use the Oregon State University-Cascades campus shuttle that it might not return next year.

Students and university employees can use the shuttle, a van operated by Bend Towncars, to travel to the Century Drive transit stop, the OSU-Cascades Graduate Research Center on SW Columbia Street and the free long-term parking lot at the intersection of Simpson Avenue and Columbia. The shuttle runs every 10 minutes, but it’s seldom used.

“We’re still considering whether to continue it or not,” OSU-Cascades spokeswoman Christine Coffin said. “That’s part of our budgeting process and a part of our active transportation strategy too.”

While the university doesn’t yet have ridership data for its winter term, which started Jan. 8, Coffin said it seems consistent with data from last spring. Then, the shuttle ran from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 6:30 p.m., times when the university believed it would see peak usage.

Average morning ridership was typically between eight and 11 riders, and evening ridership was between six and nine riders.

While the shuttle now runs all day, it still has few riders, Coffin said.

“Anecdotally, we know from the drivers that it’s just one rider here, two riders there,” she said.

The low use this year might be due in part to this year’s mild winter, Coffin said. She said she’s seen students walking to campus from the off-site lot during the nice weather.

Along with walking, or using the campus shuttle, OSU-Cascades students can take Cascades East Transit Route 12, which runs every 30 minutes in nice weather and every hour in snow. All students and employees have free bus access through their university ID cards.

The campus also has a Zagster bike station at the lot during mild weather, Coffin said.

For now, the shuttle service will end on March 31, the last day of the winter term, said Casey Bergh, the OSU-Cascades transportation program manager. It’s a pilot program, and the university is analyzing its use to decide whether to renew the roughly $25,000 contract with Bend Towncars next year, he said.

OSU-Cascades also might look at other options, such as tying into the RIDE BEND shuttle, a free-to-ride bus funded by the city of Bend, Visit Bend and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council that ran in a loop around the campus, downtown Bend and the Old Mill District every afternoon this summer.

In an email shared with Bend city councilors Bill Moseley and Sally Russell and obtained by The Bulletin through a public-records request, Awbrey Butte Neighborhood Association Vice Chairman Gavin Leslie suggested including the stops as part of an enhanced RIDE BEND service.

Leslie, who is also a member of Bend’s citywide transportation advisory committee and a part of Bend 2030’s transportation initiative, Move Bend, said he’s interested in innovative ways to reduce the number of cars traveling in the city. Many OSU-Cascades students commute to campus from neighboring areas and could benefit from a park-and-ride model, he wrote.

“The key to all of this is to have fewer cars on the road without sacrificing any of the comfort, privacy and convenience of using your own car,” he said.

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