All posts by Commute Options

Walking School Buses Help Keep Kids Healthy

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Walking to school just got easier for students and families in Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson and northern Klamath counties through a new Walking School Bus program headed up by Commute Options. A Walking School Bus is an organized group of children who walk to school together with one or more adults. Much like a school bus, as the students walk towards the school, they pick up more classmates along the way.

In 1969, 48 percent of children aged 5 to 14 usually walked or biked to school. Today that number is as low as 13 percent. Research also shows that the health care costs in the United States for childhood obesity alone are estimated to be a staggering $14 billion per year. Health professionals across the country all agree that our children’s health is a top priority.

As kids become more sedentary, they are at higher risk of obesity related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Children need a minimum of sixty minutes a day of physical activity, and walking to and from school is an excellent way to weave that activity into daily life.

Walking School Buses help increase that necessary physical activity while also improving safety near schools, helping parents with time management, and reducing traffic congestion near schools. Kids can spend more time outside (and less time looking at a device!), more time in their neighborhood, and less time in a car. Children who walk or bike to school are healthier, happier, often do better in school and they are also more likely to become healthy, active adults.
Many Walking School Bus programs also report an added benefit of their neighborhood coming together to build community around the safety of children. Volunteer Walking School Bus leaders can include parents, teachers, high school students, seniors, business owners and elected officials, bringing people together for one goal – getting kids to and from school safely.

Commute Options is creating Walking School Bus routes throughout central Oregon, with meeting points, timetables, and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers at schools and in neighborhoods. Brian Potwin, Active Transportation Manager for Commute Options adds, “Starting in July, we’ll have a full-time coordinator to help communities implement Walking School Buses. We’re working closely with the Crook County Health Department and have identified several specific Bend La Pine school sites in Deschutes County. We’re also excited to work in Jefferson and northern Klamath counties as well.”
The Walking School Bus program is funded through a grant from the Central Oregon Health Council’s Regional Health Improvement Plan Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Prevention Workgroup.

Donna Mills, Executive Director for the Central Oregon Healthy Council says, “The best investment we can make is in our children’s health, and we are always looking upstream to catch poor health choices before they present themselves to kids and adolescents. When kids get more physical activity in their daily lives, they often do better in school and they are more likely to become healthy, resilient adults. Commute Options is the expert in getting kids walking more, so this is a perfect partnership to help us meet our goals.”
Commute Options is actively looking for interested neighborhoods, schools and volunteers to get started with the Walking School Bus program. Contact Brian Potwin at to learn more.

Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.

Cascades East Transit Will Seek Community Input for Future Plans

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

CET Bus Riders PhotoExciting things are happening to expand bus services in central Oregon communities. Oregon House Bill 2017, “Keep Oregon Moving” passed in July 2017 and regions around the state are gearing up to expand and improve public transportation services to serve residents and visitors. Here in central Oregon, our regional and city bus provider, Cascades East Transit (CET), is actively planning for the future.

CET provides bus services, including intra-city, community connector and demand response services, for communities in Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson Counties and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. In 2017, CET applied for and received a Transportation Growth Management grant from Oregon Department of Transportation to assist in updating the master transit plan for central Oregon.

Derek Hofbauer, CET’s Outreach and Engagement Administrator says, “This planning process will involve a lot of community input regarding future investments in our regional transit services. Through the planning process, CET will determine areas that are most in need of transit. They also will look at ways to assist residents, particularly low-income households, with reliable public transportation for getting to work and other important services such as medical care.”

CET will be seeking input from residents—you, your family, your neighbors, your coworkers—to help determine what our communities need for public transit services. Your feedback will help inform a plan that addresses the transportation needs and opportunities for all people in our communities. While receiving and compiling community input, CET will form a regional advisory committee to recommend plans and projects to improve and expand services using the Statewide Transportation Improvement Funds as directed by HB2017.

While CET is planning big for the future, this summer will include new transit amenities. New this year is an electronic fare system, which will roll out sometime this summer. Riders will have the option of using a pre-paid “touchpass” card or a smartphone application that can each be used as needed for bus fares. It will be quicker for loading passengers on the bus and you won’t need to dig around for change for your fare. CET will also likely be able to offer discounted fares for low-income households through this electronic fare system.

And more great news for summer time! The free Ride Bend shuttle will be available again this season and will be a loop connecting Bend’s west side, downtown and the Old Mill District. “Last year was successful and CET wants to continue to attract ridership from visitors and locals alike. We’re currently working with partners to iron out the details,” says Hofbauer.

Are you interested in learning more about upcoming improvements for our local and regional bus services? Are you thinking about riding the bus, but not sure how to get started? Get involved! Sign up for the Commute Options newsletter at to stay updated or visit the Cascades East Transit website at

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.






Commute Options seeking board member

March 14, 2018

Commute Options is seeking applicants for a Board of Directors vacancy. CPA preferred, financial background required.

 The Commute Options board provides direction to the nonprofit agency promoting transportation choices in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties as well as in The Dalles, Lakeview and Klamath Falls. We also do employer outreach in a large section of eastern Oregon.

 Commute Options encourages bicycling, walking, car and vanpooling, teleworking and riding the bus.

 The board meets every other month on the fourth Thursday afternoon with some special meetings called as well.  The new position would begin in this May. Board members are nominated and appointed by the current board members. Most meetings are held in Bend. For further information please call or email for a board roles and responsibilities description and application. To apply please email your resume and completed application to:

Jeff Monson

Executive Director

Commute Options

50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4

Bend, OR 97702

541 330-2647

Oregon Friendly Driver Program: Sign Up Today!

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

All too often we hear about serious crashes between people driving and people riding bikes or walking. In fact, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has identified Deschutes County as having a relatively high rate of crashes involving drivers and people riding bikes or walkers that often result in injuries or fatalities. However, most of these tragic crashes are preventable. Research shows that behavior and personal choices influence crash occurrence and severity just as much as roadway design.

Commute Options has launched the Oregon Friendly Driver Program, where drivers learn skills that keep all road users safe. When we all understand the same rules of the road, we can reduce crashes and conflicts and have a better experience while getting where we need to be.

The Oregon Friendly Driver Program is a free 1½-hour class aimed at educating drivers on the best and safest way to use our streets with people on bicycles and people walking. The class, sponsored by ODOT, is geared towards people who drive for work, such as truck drivers, delivery drivers, bus drivers, contractors, and other employees that spend a lot of time on the roads. Unlike a bicycle safety or pedestrian safety class, this class is designed specifically for drivers to learn how to be a friendly driver.

To be an Oregon Friendly Driver you will learn about:

  • The rights and responsibilities of all road users.
  • How to avoid common crashes that could involve people bicycling or walking.
  • How to drive correctly through bicycling and walking specific road features such as sharrows, bike boxes, green lanes and crosswalks.

Upon successful completion of the class, participants will receive an Oregon Friendly Driver certificate and sticker, which can be displayed on their vehicle.

The City of Fort Collins, Colorado launched a similar friendly driver program in December 2015 and has seen a surge in interest in the classes. Over the last two years, the class has been taught to all city bus operators, over 800 high school students, and several private companies that want to educate their employees about how to be safe on the roads.

Lane County and Portland Metro also have similar statistics for crashes. Commute Options Education Coordinator Kate Armstrong is teaching the classes and helping to develop curriculum for the whole state. “Commute Options is collaborating with organizations in Eugene and Portland to develop a state wide curriculum that can be adapted to each specific region,” Armstrong said.

This program is open now! If you are interested in scheduling a class for your business and employees, contact Kim Curley at Commute Options: or 541-408-6111.

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.




Oregon Friendly Driver Program

The Oregon Friendly Driver program is a 1½ hour
interactive class aimed at educating all drivers on the best and

safest ways to share the road with people on bicycles and people walking.

The class addresses:

Common crashes and how to avoid them
What’s legal and what’s not legal, for both motorists and people riding bicycles
Why people riding bikes “take the lane” and what motorists should do in response
Why sharing the road is the safest alternative for both motorists and people riding bicycles
How to navigate bicycle related infrastructure such as: sharrows, bike boxes, and green lanes

Upon successful completion of the class, participants will receive a Oregon Friendly Driver certificate and sticker


Sky View Middle School Duo Raises the Bar for Biking to Work

Vice Principal Brian Uballez and Principal Scott Olszewski are biking champions at Sky View Middle School.  Photo credit: Katy Bryce
Vice Principal Brian Uballez and Principal Scott Olszewski are biking champions at Sky View Middle School.
Photo credit: Katy Bryce

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

When Sky View Middle School Principal Scott Olszewski and his wife were looking to relocate from New Jersey to the west coast, his goal was to “be close to wilderness and be able to walk or ride my bike to work every day.” Landing in Bend was a perfect fit and Olszewski has kept his promise to himself by riding his bike four miles each way to school and back.

Olszewski is not alone in his efforts. Vice Principal Brian Uballez, after seeing his co-worker’s dedication, jumped on board and the two now have a friendly camaraderie, holding each other accountable for riding bikes. To date, Olszewski and Uballez have respectively driven their cars a total of nine days this school year. Not bad considering it is the middle of winter!

Olszewski and Uballez each have different accounts of how they became bike commuting super stars. Olszewski is father to a toddler, and combining that with running a middle school, he doesn’t have much time to exercise. However, he has to get to work somehow, so riding his bike gives him an hour of exercise every day. He and his wife also own only one car. “We bought the car in 2010, and we it just hit 50,000 miles on it. So, we really don’t put miles on the car.” He also doesn’t consider himself to be a cyclist. “I wear normal clothes, have a basic old commuter bike, and if my bike needs anything fixed, I ask Brian (Uballez) to do it for me!”

Olszewski’s four mile commute includes roads as well as canal trails. He admits that he has had some challenges including run-ins with distracted drivers or not-so-friendly dogs on his route. But that doesn’t stop him from his daily ride because he knows that it keeps him physically and mentally fit. And he surely doesn’t mind the premium parking that he gets as he rolls directly up to the school.

Uballez, on the other hand, is an avid cyclist that has about eight bikes in his garage. A self-professed bike geek, he recently turned Olszewski on to studded tires for his bike for the winter. Uballez varies his route to and from work, depending on how much exercise he wants and he picks up his daughter at another school using a trail-a-bike that she rides off the back of his bike.

“I find it interesting that people think we are crazy for riding our bikes to work in the winter. But think about all the people that go skiing in very cold temperatures all winter long! It just takes a different perspective a the right clothing.”

Sky View Middle School participates in the Safe Routes to School Program and the students aren’t the only ones learning how to ride bikes safely. Olszewksi honed his “biking through roundabout” skills during one of the sessions. Contact Brian Potwin at for more information about Safe Routes to School.

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.

Holiday Cheer from Commute Options

kids biking to school in winter

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

It’s hard to believe 2017 is coming to an end already. It was quite a year for active transportation in central Oregon. Smaller cities like Redmond, Sisters, Prineville and La Pine implemented fantastic infrastructure improvements. Bend residents celebrated in the streets at the 2nd annual Bend Open Streets and our Safe Routes to School programs taught over 3000 school kids how to safely walk and ride their bikes to school. The City of Bend made some wonderful improvements for biking and walking and Cascade East Transit expanded services and added new low floor buses.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for 2017! We’re sure that next year will be just as exciting, so we’re sharing a few gift ideas and inspiration to get moving in 2018.

Ride your bike. The snow may fly this winter, but you can still get your bike ready for spring. Many of the local shops have specials on bike tune-ups so you can get your wheels rolling for next year – a great holiday gift for the aspiring bike rider! Next year, try exploring a new bike route to work. You might find a lovely path, a friendly neighborhood, or a new favorite coffee shop stop along the way.

Walk a little more. Walking IS the super food of activity and everyone can benefit from more walking. Even if you live too far away to walk to work, you can incorporate more walking into your daily routine. Combine walking to the bus stop and ride the bus the rest of the way. Or try (yes, on purpose) to park further away from your destination. You’ll get a little walking in and you’ll spend less time driving around looking for parking.

Get on the bus. Winter is a great time to give the bus a try! Cascades East Transit now has a mobile app that shows real-time data on bus routes so you can better plan your trips. They also recently added three new low-floor buses that help people board the bus safer and quicker. And don’t forget about the Mountain Season Pass for unlimited bus rides to and from Mt. Bachelor this winter. For only $149 for kids and $199 for adults, you can ski all day, then relax with a book or take a nap for the ride back to town.

Share the ride. Find a team of people at work, or near your work site, to share rides with during the snowy months. That way, you can share the task of driving and you’ll help reduce the number of cars on the icy roads. Treat your carpool buddies to coffee and snacks or chip in with your favorite audio book.

Work from home. If your employer allows it, try teleworking one day a week from home. With today’s technology, you can be connected to your workplace without having to drive there. If you are an employer, know that studies show that people who are granted work flexibility see a boost in productivity.

Happy holidays from all of us at Commute Options!

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.

Trails, Parks, Sidewalks and Crosswalks Connect Community

A cyclist rides through the tunnel on the Larkspur Trail

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Like many of us in central Oregon, good friends visited my husband and me this summer to enjoy everything that Bend has to offer. Each time we went out to dinner, or to an event, or to go to a park, we all hopped on our bikes (the littlest on a trail-a-bike) and rode bikes to our destination. Our visitors would say, “This is amazing, being able to go so many places on trails and bike paths!”

Parks and trails help make cities more livable, not only by creating natural “green” spaces, but also by providing important transportation choices. Urban trails are a critical part of a healthy transportation system because they allow residents and visitors to access off-street connections between neighborhoods, business districts, schools and parks. In terms of community “livability”, the ability to avoid busy streets while biking or walking to destinations ranks high on the list.

Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) is currently working on an updated comprehensive plan that will help shape Bend. Through a variety of surveys, questionnaires, focus groups and public meetings, BPRD discovered that soft and hard surface trails topped the list of park facilities most important to residents. According to Michelle Healy, Planning and Park Services Director for BPRD, “there is a strong emphasis on trails not just for recreation uses, but for transportation purposes as well. People like to use trails to get around.”

Residents also provided very insightful feedback on how they get to and from parks and recreation facilities. In an online questionnaire completed by 1400 residents, many respondents said that they are willing to walk 10 minutes or more to get to a park or recreation facility. However, the biggest barriers or problems that people encounter while walking to a park are bad intersections that are difficult to cross. Through this data, BPRD reaffirmed that improving walking and biking infrastructure throughout our city makes it easier for people to access public spaces, as well as businesses and services.

Planning, building and maintaining infrastructure that makes walking and biking safer and more convenient depends on collaboration and partnerships by many agencies. BPRD is working with the City of Bend, Oregon Department of Transportation, utilities and irrigation districts to not only create and improve trails, but to improve access to parks and facilities. They will first identify intersections and streets that may pose challenges for walkers or bikers, then work together to improve those areas.

Healy says “Trails continue to be identified as a high priority by the community. People are looking to trails to provide recreational and fitness opportunities, as well as a means to more easily commute around town by foot or bike. BPRD is working closely with other agencies and community partners to explore opportunities to provide trails that link people directly with key destinations, such a parks, schools, and businesses throughout Bend.”

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.



Transportation Bill To Boost Buses in Central Oregon


In July 2017, Oregon reached an exciting milestone when the state legislature passed Oregon House Bill 2017, also known as Keep Oregon Moving — the most comprehensive transportation bill Oregon has ever passed. Keep Oregon Moving includes dedicated funding for maintaining roads and bridges, creating safer biking and walking infrastructure and strengthening and improving public transportation around the entire state.

Details on this new funding are still being finalized, but we do know that substantial improvements in public transportation will be coming to Central Oregon. The public transportation portion of the bill will be funded through an employee payroll tax at one-tenth of one percent tax on wages. It equates to less than $1 a week for the average worker, or about $50 a year. This funding will generate $115 million a year in Oregon for better public transportation. Of the $115 million to fund transit, ninety percent will go towards programs and systems, four percent will go to intercity services and one percent will go to a technical resource center to help very small rural communities.

The funding is county-based, so it is truly a local tax. That means the payroll tax that is collected here in Deschutes County, will stay in Deschutes County and will go towards bus system improvements in Deschutes County. The funding is also only to be used for new or expanded services such as additional routes, times, buses, bus stops, facilities and more.

Public transportation is beneficial to Central Oregon. It provides equal personal mobility and freedom for all people of all ages, abilities and economic backgrounds. A robust public transportation system supports the local economy, helping people access goods and services in an efficient manner. Public buses also reduce congestion on our roads and improve air quality.

In particular, the business and economic development community should recognize that public transportation helps build a stronger workforce because it helps employees reliably get to and from work. For every day that an employee misses work because they do not have adequate transportation, you lose revenue and your employee loses income. A strong public bus system helps your business, your employees and your community.

Now is the time to get involved in shaping public transportation in Central Oregon. If you are a business owner, start thinking about how public transportation can help you and your employees. Perhaps you want more customers to come to your business. Would a nearby bus route help? Or maybe you know you could better retain employees if they had a more reliable means of getting to and from work. How would a better bus system help?

This is an exciting time in Oregon and planning has begun on how our region can best grow our bus services. Commute Options is here to help you get involved. Start by contacting our local public transportation agency Cascades East Transit, or contact Kim Curley at to find out how.

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.