Bend’s central Hawthorne bus station is getting a makeover.
The interior is being spruced up, shifting from a “Blade Runner” palette to something inviting and warm. Perhaps more important is that the buses are going to get pulled in on the property, instead of idling on nearby streets.
Those are welcome changes. But the problem for many with the Hawthorne location is the location. It’s awkward, sandwiched among businesses and a shopping area. Some of that is inevitable. A bus hub had better be buzzing with activity, or it means buses aren’t important to the community.
The officials at Cascades East Transit — and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, which supervises it — are working, though, on a possible future without the Hawthorne location. Bend might have more of a decentralized system. Maybe more smaller hubs. More on-demand services rather than just fixed routes. Maybe just not a location at Hawthorne.
Hawthorne could be a valuable piece of property because of its location. You could take that land, sell it and redevelop it into a mix of housing and perhaps more. It’s in a sweet spot, positioned already near shopping and near the area of downtown the city is aiming to redevelop. You could live there and walk to many places you have to go. We have to imagine the neighboring businesses would much rather have that development rather than the bus station.
Tammy Baney, the executive director of COIC, told us the idea is being explored. Development ideas are being discussed. A new location is being hunted.
One catch is the 20-year state grant signed on July 29, 2011, to help build the Hawthorne station. COIC couldn’t just sell the property, take the money and move. It would have to convince the Oregon Transportation Commission the move was a great deal. Baney was previously the chair of that commission. She knows COIC would have to have a plan that would improve transit service and be better for the community. Then the OTC might OK it.
Moving a transit hub from Hawthorne isn’t a cure-all. Along with offering more on-demand services, it may win more approval for the bus system and turn more people on to using transit for getting around.