Jordyn Langeliers, president of OSU-Cascades student government, supports the university’s effort to create an environmentally friendly campus by reducing the number of people who drive there.
But she knows firsthand how tough that can be in practice. Langeliers, 22 and a senior, commutes to the campus from Redmond to Bend five days a week. She’s tried finding people to carpool with, but their schedules have never been in sync.
At a university with a large number of commuter students, Langeliers’ story isn’t uncommon — and it underscores the challenge OSU-Cascades is facing as the school plans for a 128-acre campus with 5,000 students.
Despite the university wanting to reduce the number of people who drive to campus, it will still need to add hundreds of parking spaces. In its master plan it hopes to submit to the city by the end of the year, OSU-Cascades lays out where it would place the additional spaces to meet the city’s 1,766-space requirement for a larger campus.
The university has about 300 parking spaces serving the current 10-acre campus of just more than 1,200 students. Langeliers is among the students who park on the campus lot, paying $2 a day, skipping free street parking nearby. She wants to avoid the traffic on SW Chandler Avenue, she said, where cars generally line both sides of the street on weekdays since the campus opened in fall 2016.
In its master plan, OSU-Cascades lays out where it would place the additional spaces. Most of the parking is surface level, although some is underground. Some of the parking spaces will be under raised solar panels, which will be located near recreational fields on what was once Deschutes County’s demolition landfill. The university also included in the master plan areas where it could add an extra 750 spaces — beyond what the city requires — “if the need arises,” according to Kelly Sparks, OSU-Cascades associate vice president for finance and strategic planning.
Employees such as the dining team come in early in the morning, Sparks said, while administrators or finance staff work a traditional day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Faculty generally don’t work on a traditional schedule. Some students live on campus, and the university hopes to eventually allow for 40 percent of them to live there, while students who travel from off campus come when they have class.
Shifting people from driving to more eco-friendly forms of transportation will happen with a combination of incentives and disincentives, Sparks said.
OSU-Cascades has a variety of offerings and incentives to encourage students and staff to walk, carpool, bus or bike to school instead of driving one person per vehicle.
It provides Zipcars and created a bike-share program to help students and staff reach those eco-friendly goals.
Those who sign up for the Cascades Commuters program can earn rewards for traveling to school with other students in their vehicles. Disincentives include paying for parking and potential parking restrictions on nearby streets, including Chandler, which the city hasn’t put in place.
OSU-Cascades is required to charge for parking by Oregon State University, which follows an Oregon University System standard for all four-year public universities in the state, Sparks said. The standard carries the weight of law, according to Sparks. The idea is for users, in this case drivers, to pay for the infrastructure. At OSU-Cascades, parking in the 300-space lot costs $2 a day.
There is some free campus parking, and Langeliers used it briefly, for a couple weeks at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. But the OSU-Cascades off-site parking lot about three-fourths of a mile away, and convenience won over, Langeliers said. Parking right on campus saves her from scheduling a 15-minute walk each way.
“If you make parking really easy, everyone will drive there,” she said. “If you make parking a little more challenging, you’re more likely to use alternate forms of transportation.”
Although in Bend most people drive cars to get around, that doesn’t change the university’s goals in going green and encouraging getting to school other ways.
When OSU-Cascades submitted plans to build its existing 10-acre campus in southwest Bend, city development code didn’t yet exist for universities to require a minimum number of parking spaces.
Instead, the university had to submit a parking management plan. Now, with a development code in place, the requirements are exact: one space is required per five off-campus students, one space per 10 on-campus students and one space per 2.1 employees.
The city’s Current Planning Manager, Colin Stephens, said his staff studied other universities to help come up with that formula.
Still, predicting parking isn’t a perfect science.
“It’s not as predictable,” Stephens said, comparing parking with other infrastructure. “With a water pipe for example, water doesn’t make any choice, it just follows gravity.”
Nearby Chandler Avenue was built for parking on both sides of the road, according to David Abbas, the city’s streets and operations director. Cars parked on either side of the road may slow down drivers, but Chandler was never meant to be 45 mph freeway, he pointed out.
The city has also declared Chandler an emergency snow zone, meaning when a “snow emergency” is declared, drivers will be asked not to park on the sides of Chandler so that workers can plow curb to curb. Abbas said generally the trigger to call a snow emergency is when the city has to ask for extra assistance from contractors to plow roads.
In an average winter, there are about two snow emergencies per season in Bend. Last winter, it was about five, Abbas said. Signs are on order and will be put up for all of winter declaring the area a snow emergency zone.
When snow emergencies are declared, OSU-Cascades will open up its parking lot for free for about 12 hours while plowing takes place overnight. The city asked OSU-Cascades and other large public entities, such as the Bend Park & Recreation District and Deschutes County, to help provide parking during snow emergency times. Sparks said the university has agreed to help.
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