CET buses line up at Hawthorne Station

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Lots of great things are happening with transit in Central Oregon. Commute Options recently talked with Cascades East Transit (CET) to get the latest updates on ridership, the recent route expansion, and plans for new and improved services over the next year.

In September of 2015, CET rolled out expanded routes and services that included adding three new bus routes: Route 7 that services the Bend medical district area, Route 12 which provides a direct connection between OSU Cascades and COCC campuses and Route 10 which connects Hawthorne Station to the Colorado/Simpson tech employment centers. This year, CET will complete the expansion by:

• Installing 54 new stops on the new routes. Major stops will be developed at several popular destinations, including St. Charles, OSU Cascades and downtown Bend. Infrastructure will also be improved on the current routes.
• Improving rider experience with additional services such as a mobile app that will provide real-time data on routes and possible Wi-Fi on the buses.
• Boosting marketing efforts to educate the community about the bus system and how to use it on a regular basis.

“The Bend CET expansion has resulted in a 30% increase in transit services in the Bend area – more routes, later hours of service, and shorter wait times between buses.”

“Coupled with our plans for upgrading bus stops, securing new buses and adding rider amenities like real-time online bus location information, our system will be more convenient and get riders to their destinations quickly and efficiently,” adds Andrew Spreadborough, Executive Director for the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), the agency that oversees CET.

The Bend City buses see about 31,000 rides per month, with the most popular routes being the two lines that access both north and south portions of Third St. The next most used route is the new direct line that connects to Bend’s medical facilities. Route 3, accessing COCC, is also a very busy route. Spreadborough is quick to point out, “Based on the data that we see, student ridership makes up the largest ‘group’ of people that ride the bus.”

In addition to the Bend City routes, CET services all other Central Oregon communities through their Rural Community Connection System, which is seeing an increase in ridership, particularly with routes from Madras, Prineville and Sisters into Redmond. Currently those routes are not optimal for employee commuting schedules, but CET plans to meet those needs by the end of 2016.

CET will continue to operate the “Ride the River” shuttle to accommodate river floaters and they anticipate much higher ridership due to the removal of the spillway and the addition of the waterpark. CET also teams up with Deschutes National Forest to shuttle visitors up and back down Lava Butte in the summer.

Public transit, both in Bend and between all Central Oregon towns is a key component of having a transportation system that serves the needs of all residents in our communities.

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.