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Surge in riders prompts continued free Ride Bend van service

Ride Bend free on-demand transit
The OSU-Cascades Mobility Lab managed a pilot study of Ride Bend, an on-demand shuttle transportation system, last summer and fall

Through March 30; options explored to continue beyond then

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Partners have decided to continue a revamped, free on-demand Ride Bend van service that attracted more than double the users this fall over a year ago, according to a study by a transportation research lab at Oregon State University-Cascades.

The study was conducted to help inform area transportation leaders if an on-demand transportation service can be a good solution for Bend and Central Oregon, officials said Tuesday.

The study results encouraged local partners Cascades East Transit, Central Oregon Community College and the City of Bend to continue the service through March 30, with the Mobility Lab overseeing operation and continuing to monitor usage.

The free, on-demand pilot service allows users to hail a ride and input destinations using an app or phone reservation.

More than 3,500 riders used the service during the study period, which ran from July 1 to Dec. 13, and overall rated the service a 4.9 out of 5.

Passengers experienced minimum wait times –- less than six minutes in the summer, and less than 10 minutes in the fall – and were transported in 12-passenger vans, one of which was wheelchair-accessible.

The pilot study also determined that fewer people used the service during the summer, as compared to a fixed-route version of Ride Bend operated the previous year, with technology use suggested as a barrier.

“It’s clear that residents, visitors and college students responded positively to convenient and shared transportation where users simply hail a ride using a phone,” said Casey Bergh, director of the Mobility Lab, which conducted the study. “We have work to do though, to help all community members feel comfortable using technology to access transportation.”

During the pilot study, the most popular pick-up and destination locations, in order of popularity, were:

  • in the summer, downtown Bend, the Old Mill District and OSU-Cascades
  • in the fall, Central Oregon Community College, downtown Bend, OSU-Cascades and the Old Mill District

Students at OSU-Cascades also advocated for continuation of the Ride Bend service and contributed $10,000 to its resumption.

Partners are currently exploring options to continue the service beyond March 30.

“The OSU-Cascades Mobility Lab study is helping partners understand the demand for an app-based transportation service, said Tammy Baney, executive director of the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, an umbrella organization that includes Cascades East Transit. “We hope to see more residents choose Ride Bend, a new mobility option that helps alleviate traffic congestion.”

Ride Bend launched in 2017 as a fixed-route service operated daily by CET during summer months to accommodate locals and visitors, and reduce traffic and parking needs in downtown Bend and the Old Mill District.

The pilot study operated daily from noon to 8 p.m., and on weekdays starting Labor Day, when the service expanded west to 14th Street and to the COCC campus.

The Mobility Lab is a collaborative convened by OSU-Cascades that brings innovation in transportation options to the region by informing policy, developing pilot projects and assessing the effectiveness of transportation options.

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