The future of transit in Redmond is crucial for Sara Turner, 33.
“I’m trying to find transportation from downtown Redmond to Bend and to my job at Burger King,” she said. “I don’t drive, so I couldn’t get to and from my job from different locations on the last job I had.”
An online college student, Turner would like to see the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and its Cascades East Transit agency expand the hours of its Dial-A-Ride program, or, better yet, add a fixed route service within Redmond.
Turner could be in luck, since Cascades East Transit is looking for ideas on how to spend additional money it will receive as a result of a new payroll tax that deducts one-tenth of a percent from the paychecks of Oregon workers. She was one of 21 people to attend an open house meeting Jan. 22 at Redmond City Hall to give feedback on what they would like to see done with the estimated $4.2 million Deschutes County will receive over the first two years of the program.
“This is going to be drastically more than we ever received (from the state),” said Andrea Breault, senior transit planner for Cascades East.
Others at the Redmond meeting, the third of six around the region that the transit agency planned between Jan. 15 and 29, appeared to agree with Turner. Breault said after the meeting that ideas expressed included increased weekend Dial-A-Ride service, as well as the need for service within Redmond, connecting residents to stores like Walmart, Safeway and Bi-Mart, as well as St. Charles hospital and local high schools.
Redmond residents appear interested in fixed-route service, even though it is typically available only in larger cities, Breault said.
“You usually have to hit the 50,000 mark to be considered,” she said.
Another possibility is increasing the number of daily round-trips to Bend from the Redmond transit hub that opened last year from the current eight.
To alleviate concerns about money raised going west of the Cascades, all money raised in Deschutes County by the new tax, which went into effect in July 2018, will go toward transit projects here, said Kim Curley, community outreach director at Commute Options, a nonprofit that promotes public transportation and other means of travel that reduce the number of cars on the road in Central Oregon.
“The Legislature did a really good job of designating the funds to go back to the county where it was generated,” she said.
According to intergovernmental council documents, the agency has a $16.2 million transportation budget in fiscal year 2018-19, which makes up 74 percent of its total budget. That is for its entire service area, which also includes Jefferson and Crook counties.
Along with getting ideas about what to do with the expected significant revenue increase, information collected at the meetings will go toward an update to Cascades East’s 2040 Master Plan, which is expected to be finalized in 2020.
“We were going to go ahead with that plan whether the extra funding came along or not,” Breault said. “It’s just a bonus. We want to include that in the project.”
Another factor to consider is improving transportation to Redmond Proficiency Academy, which has students from all over the region, Curley said.
“The bus that CET runs to RPA is really busy,” she said. “There is a big need for people to be able to get back and forth between Bend and Redmond, and Redmond really needs a fixed route.”
The most recent update to the plan several years ago included the new $1.7 million transit hub between Lowe’s and Fred Meyer in Redmond. It serves as a transfer point for riders of Cascades East’s Community Connector traveling between Bend, Madras, Prineville and Sisters.
Information collected could also be used in the city of Redmond’s own master plan update, said John Roberts, Redmond’s deputy city manager, who briefly checked in on the meeting.
“This is really important stuff to consider and help us implement our plan,” he said.
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