OSU-Cascades confronts parking culture

University prepares for switch to new campus

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published May 20, 2014 at 12:01AM

Despite issuing 563 parking permits for OSU-Cascades students, faculty and staff currently using Central Oregon Community College’s campus, the university’s plans call for only 300 parking spaces on its new campus. Nonetheless, administrators remain confident their parking plan will work.

OSU-Cascades is currently divided between Cascades Hall on the COCC campus, where undergraduates study, and the Graduate and Research Center on Southwest Colorado Avenue. Around 1,000 undergraduates are enrolled at the university or preparing to transfer in from COCC, and, along with faculty, staff and some graduate students, they were issued 563 parking permits this calendar year to use COCC’s parking lots, according to OSU-Cascades. The university estimates that about 450 of those permits went to students. By fall 2016, OSU-Cascades hopes to open the first phase of its planned four-year university on a 10-acre site about one-half mile from the Graduate and Research Center.

The university said this location and new transit options will help reduce the number of people driving to school.

“Three hundred is a pretty realistic number in terms of on-site parking, given the number of people who will have to use the campus at one time and the greater accessibility and alternate options for the campus,” said Matt Shinderman, a senior instructor of sustainability involved in planning the expansion. “The biggest thing for COCC is the hill you have to go up; that’s the number one limiting factor.”

Shinderman said that without a ride or walk up Awbrey Butte, more students should be willing to leave their cars at home when traveling to the new campus. Nonetheless, Shinderman emphasized the university will eventually have access to additional off-site parking in the vicinity. As an example, he cited the “under-utilized” parking lot at the Graduate and Research Center, from which he said students could easily walk to the new campus. He also said the university is negotiating the rights to use additional parking lots in the neighborhood.

“We’re already amassing parking areas in the immediate area, within a five- or 10-minute walking zone, which will enable us to accommodate a much bigger population,” he said.

Shinderman noted this additional space will help the university host large events, such as graduation, and will play a role in the university’s growth, which the university will cap at 5,000 students after expanding to a 56-acre campus. OSU-Cascades’ initial growth will be limited to a 10-acre site capped at 1,900 students, and, according to Shinderman, much of the initial student growth is expected to come from underclassmen who will live on campus and will not be allowed to have cars.

“Our model the entire time will be to provide a minimum amount of parking to meet needs, to really encourage all modes of transit, while also monitoring the situation in case we need to change,” Shinderman said.

The university plans to have a shuttle between its campus and COCC, as well as free Cascades East Transit passes for students. Additionally, Shinderman said there will be bike lockers and showers for students who choose to bike. For those without a car, the university is exploring car-sharing services that will allow students to rent a car for a day when needed.

“It would require a behavioral change if everybody needed spots every day, but that’s not going to be the case,” Shinderman said. “Not everyone will be there at the same time. But there will be some behavioral change we’re looking for, and that’s what we hope to achieve. You can’t go from a campus that’s 100 percent commuter to 100 percent reoriented.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com