Raise your hand if you ride the bus to get around Bend. Not that many of you? We think so.
That may change as Bend grows. But to get people on the bus, first the buses need to be easy, often and get people where they need to go. Don’t get us wrong. The service is good as far as it goes. If more people are going to get on, it needs to be more robust.
That takes money. And it takes voters willing to pay that money — something Bend voters have voted down in the past. Now there is a debate over how much money to put in a Bend transportation bond for transit. Should it be $4 million? $7.5 million? $11.5 million?
The transit money would be a piece of a much bigger bond package — perhaps $200 million — of road and safety projects. What’s too little, too much and just right for transit? We don’t know for sure. The city is apparently planning to test people’s willingness to support various levels in a poll. That’s smart.
Voters do need, though, to know what they would get for their money. So we asked Tammy Baney, who is the executive director of the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council — the organization that runs the regional bus service, Cascades East Transit.
She told us $2 million would buy technology and infrastructure improvements to improve the East/West corridor along Newport and Greenwood for buses. Another $2 million would do the same for Third Street. Sounds good. If the city wants to sell that to people, voters need to understand how it will make life better for people riding the bus and everyone else.
Another $7.5 million would be for what are called mobility hubs. The idea is that Bend would create five sort of mini-transit stations. They would be located in each quadrant of Bend and one at or near the main transit station. The idea of the hubs is that they would enable local, decentralized connections for different kinds of transportation without traffic having to go through a central hub.
Add all that up and it would be $11.5 million for the bond. They do sound like projects that are worth doing. Would voters like that included in the possible bond? We hope so.