To alleviate growing congestion issues at Bend’s only transit hub, Hawthorne Station, the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council will be identifying additional locations for transportation hubs as a part of its long-range planning.

On Wednesday, business owners and residents around Hawthorne Avenue met with several staff members of COIC, as well as Bend City Councilor Bruce Abernethy, to discuss the future of the bus station and transportation planning in general into 2040. COIC operates Cascades East Transit, the regional transit system.

While the planning process, which kicked off at the beginning of this year, encompasses three counties, the discussion focused mainly on the agency’s vision to explore locations for additional transit centers around Bend.

The goal would be to lift some of the traffic pressure off of Hawthorne Station by establishing other “mobility hubs” that could handle transfers and serve other areas of town, said COIC Executive Director Tammy Baney. Currently, all of the buses go to and from one main station on Hawthorne Avenue.

“The hub and spoke model is archaic, so we’re rethinking that into the future,” Baney said.

The plan is in part a broader response to a group of business owners who say the Hawthorne Station has reached capacity and is causing congestion and parking issues.

Dee Burzynski, the office manager of the Denture In on Fourth Street, said she often has had buses and people in cars waiting for buses block access to her business because of limited space. “It makes people not want to come to my facility,” Burzynski said.

Business owners also say the number of people who loiter at the station — or on their doorsteps — makes the area feel unsafe and hurts their ability to do business.

“We’re not going to get people out of their cars if they don’t feel safe,” said Jim Lewis, owner of Hutch’s Bicycles on Hawthorne Avenue.

While these concerns aren’t directly addressed in the master plan, the agency is considering a program that would have ambassadors at the station act as travel guides for people who may have trouble knowing how to navigate, said Andrea Breault, senior transit planner.

“A lot of it’s education,” Breault said. “They loiter because they don’t know how to get to the next bus.”

Other short-term solutions — including renovating some of the existing property to accommodate more bus traffic and parking, banning parking on one side of Fourth Street and replacing aging buses with smaller transport vehicles — are also being considered.

A final master plan is scheduled to be voted on in the spring.

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

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