The Route 12 bus was empty when it pulled to a stop by Oregon State University-Cascades around 1 p.m. on a recent weekday, and it had been that way most of the morning, driver Pedro Davila said.
“I’ve only picked up one other person today and that was at 10 a.m.,” he said. “Every once in a while you’ll get a few kids, but most of the time it’s nothing.”
Davila’s route, which serves NorthWest Crossing, Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades, had only an estimated 7,636 riders during the fiscal year that ends June 30, according to Cascades East Transit, which runs bus services in Bend. That works out to about 21 riders a day — fewer than it would take to fill all seats on a single bus.
Because Route 12 has the lowest ridership of the 10 routes in Bend, Cascades East Transit plans to discontinue bus service on that route starting July 1, eliminating bus access to NorthWest Crossing. Both COCC and OSU-Cascades will still be accessible by bus, but a route will no longer run between campuses.
That could affect students like Samuel Howard, an OSU-Cascades senior studying psychology and literature. Howard, who expects to graduate this week, rode Route 12 regularly between OSU-Cascades and COCC because he preferred studying in COCC’s larger library. On Wednesday, he caught a ride on Davila’s bus back to OSU-Cascades from a last-minute study session.
“It doesn’t mean much for me personally because I’m finishing school this week,” Howard said. “Were I to still be continuing on, it would be nice to have a bus route.”
OSU-Cascades students receive free bus passes with their student IDs, and Howard says he sees a few students regularly riding the bus.
Still, many students seem to use cars over the city’s buses.
Michelle Rhoads, Cascades East Transit’s transportation manager, said the bus provider re-evaluated its routes because a $3.4 million, three-year pilot project that paid for several new routes was set to expire. Along with eliminating Route 12, Cascades East Transit plans to shift its Route 7, which now runs along Greenwood Avenue, turns north on 27th Street and then west on Courtney Drive before making its way back to Greenwood and Purcell.
The bus doesn’t always run on time, so it will begin turning west on Conners Avenue instead of Courtney Drive, Rhoads said.
“We know this change affects real people,” she said.
People who live in areas that are losing bus service and can’t walk to the next-closest stops can use Bend Dial-a-Ride. Other bus riders who could be affected can use the bus service’s online trip-planning tool or call the main station at 541-385-8680 for help.
Cascades East Transit was able to preserve one route near St. Charles Bend that looked like it was in danger of disappearing after the city of Bend pledged $150,000 to continue the route for another year and other partners promised $85,000. Route 6 runs from the Hawthorne Station past the Bend Senior Center, up 27th Street, in a loop around St Charles and back to Hawthorne Station along Wells Acres and Butler Market roads. Route 5 follows the same route but in the opposite direction.
Keeping both allows more efficient service, Rhoads said.
“If the 6 would have gone away, it would have reduced the effectiveness of the 5 as well,” she said.
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