New political action group: 'Fix Bend Transit' seeks to make it higher priority; city council to discuss issues
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A group of Bend residents called the Hawthorne Avenue Neighbors are calling for big changes, much sooner than proposed by the city and Cascades East Transit, at the Hawthorne Transit Station in northeast Bend.
Hawthorne Station is Bend's only transit hub, which hundreds of people travel through every day, catching a bus or connecting to a new one for their trips.
"I look at this from an engineering perspective, and it's failed," Ken Fuller, a Hawthorne Neighbors member, said Tuesday. "Basically, from an engineering perspective it's failed."
Fuller was one of the engineers who helped shape the station, and is now calling for changes.
The Hawthorne Neighbors group wants Cascades East Transit and the city to add more funding to future transportation plans.
Right now, with Cascades East Transit's master plan as it stands, just 2% of the city's proposed $650 million Transportation System Plan would go toward transit facilities, a number that Fuller said should be closer to 10%.
Fuller also told NewsChannel 21 that due to Bend's growing population, the current Hawthorne Station "needs to be a physical footprint bigger, in my opinion."
Fuller suggested Hawthorne Station expand into its neighboring building, the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council offices, an idea which is currently not in CET's plans.
If approved, CET's transit master plan would add mobility hubs as a way to relieve some of the congestion at Hawthorne Station. The hubs would be spread out through Bend, rather than bringing all the buses to one spot, but could take five to 10 years to bring to the city.
"So the development of mobility hubs will allow CET to get off of a spoke-and-hub model," said Derek Hofbauer, outreach and engagement administrator with Cascades East Transit. "Instead of all the buses coming into Hawthorne Station as a transfer point, we could actually have them going to different locations around Bend."
The Hawthorne Avenue Neighbors group has also formed a political action committee, called Fix Bend Transit, to lobby for transit to be a higher priority.
Public transportation and the city's updated Transportation System Plan will be a topic of discussion at Wednesday night's city council meeting.
Here's a news release from the transit group:
City of Bend and Cascades East Transit transportation planning lead to weak investments in transit
Advocacy group creates Fix Bend Transit PAC to prioritize transit issues in upcoming election
BEND, Oregon, Aug. 17, 2020—Dozens of neighbors and businesses in the Hawthorne Avenue area announce today the formation of Fix Bend Transit, a political action committee (PAC) focused on elevating the importance of transit facility investments in Bend and an equitable transportation system overall.
The legacy of transit planning in Bend isn't pretty. Three failed bond measures. The big blue buses. Opening a transit station at the intersection of two neighborhood streets. Now, just when the City of Bend and Cascades East Transit were poised to make bold new plans for Bend’s transit system--we're faltering once again.
For instance, of more than $650 million in new transportation projects by 2040, the City of Bend’s new Transportation System Plan calls for less than 2 percent to be spent on transit. This even as the City adopts a new policy outlining efforts to create an equitable transportation system.
And though CET is planning to grow transit dramatically, the new CET 2040 Transit Master Plan calls for no new transit facility investments in Bend for at least a decade.
At the heart of the problem is Hawthorne Station, the main transit station for Bend and the region. The station was selected to serve as an interim transit hub more than a dozen years ago but has grown and grown. Transit agency leaders have said there is no disputing that the station is "at capacity" today.
In addition, a 2019 traffic and engineering study found immediate safety issues that make Hawthorne Station a dangerous site, especially for people with disabilities—including the conflict of uses in the area between delivery trucks, cars, pedestrians and bike riders.
The facility is out of compliance with nine key Oregon Department of Transportation standards for transit stations, and its location makes it inconvenient for many in our city to access, especially because there is no space for a park and ride.
Ultimately, the study concluded that we cannot grow transit in Bend without substantial immediate investment in new facilities. But the new 2040 transit plan appears to retain Hawthorne Station as Bend and Central Oregon’s primary transit center for the next 20 years with no other facility investments for a decade to come.
With no new facilities, how will we provide the growth in transit so greatly needed to support Bend’s vulnerable populations, reduce congestion on our roads and provide equitable access to employment, education, and healthcare?
Bend needs leaders who are not afraid to champion transit. To promote this leadership, in the coming weeks the Hawthorne Avenue Neighbors will issue a questionnaire to candidates holding and running for key offices. The results of the questionnaire will be shared in a scorecard on the group’s website, www.brokenbendtransit.com.
Visit the website today to learn more about the Hawthorne Avenue Neighbors and this important effort.