Though the agency is still accepting feedback from the community, Cascades East Transit officials presented one primary east-west route for new “flex route” bus service in Redmond.
It is deciding between two proposed north-south routes. Both run on Fifth and Sixth streets downtown, but one loops back at Yew Avenue, while the other continues to the growing area near Ridgeview High School.
While the Dec. 4 event at Redmond City Hall was officially a meeting of the transit agency’s Regional Public Transit Advisory Committee and Transit Master Plan Steering Committee, it was also a chance for community members and representatives from the city, school district and nonprofits to give feedback on transit proposals.
Planning for the flex route service, which is similar to a fixed route except riders can call ahead to have the bus pick them up at a specific location, will continue this year, with service rolling out in spring 2021, said Andrea Breault, senior transit planner. The system allows the bus to pick up riders who live within three-quarters of a mile of the route who schedule the ride at least 24 hours ahead.
The 11.56-mile east-west route includes stops at Redmond High School, Redmond Municipal Airport and Consumer Cellular call center, a large employment destination.
While the east-west route drops people at Redmond Municipal Airport, some in the audience wanted to see it drop people by 6 a.m., since the airport has so many early morning flights. The airport is also a pick-up site for the Breeze bus to Portland and the bus connecting with Amtrak train service in Chemult.
“We’re not sure exact time or hours, but we’re going to try to have it running when a lot of the flights are coming and going,” said CET’s Rachel Zakem.
Both north-south routes being considered run along Fifth and Sixth streets downtown and near popular destinations like Walmart and Safeway, but there was disagreement over whether to go with the shorter 11.3-mile route or the 14.1-mile route that continues to Ridgeview.
“We were not sure if including Ridgeview right now in the deviated flex route was something that’s necessary, or if we wanted to wait to incorporate that until we have our actual fixed route set up,” Zakem said. “By that time, perhaps the development down there will be more suitable to having public transportation.”
Ridgeview is also an event center that holds concerts and sporting events, said Richard Ross, chairman of the Transit Advisory Committee.
“I think that should be considered in access for the school,” he said. “It’s not just for students.”
The routes were proposed to stop a block and a half from the Redmond Senior Center, but some wanted to see it go directly to the destination.
“I would strongly suggest that you find a way in (the route), because they’re feeding seniors at lunch time five days a week, and that would really be a wonderful service,” said Denise LaBuda, director of strategic initiatives for the Council on Aging of Central Oregon. “Seniors along this route either rely on other people or don’t go because they don’t have any way to get there.”
Others wanted a bus to stop closer to the Redmond Library and City Hall, but that idea is complicated by Deschutes Avenue being a bicycle-focused quiet street, where large vehicles like buses are discouraged.
Cascades East estimates the buses will take around 45 to 50 minutes to loop around the routes.
The most popular destination for a bus stop among those surveyed was the Opportunity Foundation’s Possibilities Thrift Store, which trains and employs people with disabilities, on South Highway 97, Zakem said. The medical district and several restaurants were also popular
The flex route will start with two 18-passenger buses, each with wheelchair ramps. Both routes will run through the transit hub between Lowe’s and Fred Meyer, allowing transfers between routes and to the community connector service to other Central Oregon cities.
Attendees were able to place post-it notes on large maps in the rooms, with suggestions for stops. The transit agency will continue taking suggestions on the flex routes.
“We’re evolving this as we go, every single meeting we change it a little bit based on the community’s input,” said Derek Hofbauer, outreach and engagement administrator for the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and Cascades East Transit. “So this is really important, we need to design a system that works for the community and works for the people who live there.”
The transit agency now has funding to put in about eight stops with shelters on each of the routes, though it might get money to add a few more, Hofbauer said. The flex route system could be seen as the bones of the fixed route system, which Hofbauer estimated could be in place by 2023.
The flex route planning in 2020 is being done in conjunction with a study on a larger fixed route service, Hofbauer said. The fixed route planning involves larger issues like preparing for new schools, parks and other facilities.
“We don’t want to put in a lot of infrastructure with this one, we want to use the existing stops, existing places of business,” he said of the flex route. “It very well might need to kind of move as the community grows, as neighborhoods fill in.”
Redmond resident Gloria Olson told the meeting that transit is important in dealing with climate change, as well as providing transportation for seniors, young people and the disabled.
“Are we going to tackle some of the most critical issues?” she asked.
Redmond City Planner Scott Woodford said he would like to see improved community connector service between Redmond and his home in Bend. He said the one-way trip to his home now takes about an hour and a half.
“It’s great that it’s there, but it would be nice if it were a little more convenient,” he said.
Redmond School District Superintendent Mike McIntosh said many Redmond Proficiency Academy students use the community connector, and he would like to see the program’s scheduling improved.
Denise Holley of Redmond urged the agency to increase weekend community connector service, saying her 18-year-old granddaughter has a difficult time reaching her job near the Bend Fred Meyer from her home near the western end of Redmond.
“You run Monday through Friday, but most of the people who ride the bus are less likely to be people who work that normal work week,” Holley said. “They are more likely to be people working in retail stores, hotels, restaurants, food services, where weekend work is required...I’m sure my grandaughter is one of many people who would like to get down to Bend on the weekend, if not for work, then for shopping, events going on in Bend, and be able to take the bus back here to Redmond.”
Cascades East is planning to start Saturday community connector service early next year.
While the transit agency is working on its own master plan, John Roberts, Redmond deputy city manager, said the city is also incorporating the transit updates into its comprehensive plan.
“The location of transit stops will have real implications as to how we plan and what type of master plans we promote,” he said.
Also of note at the meeting, Cascades East is planning another study on the feasibility of a route between Redmond and Klamath Falls. The study is being done with Basin Transit Service, the agency for the Klamath area.
The improvements are being funded by a new statewide payroll tax, which is expected to bring an additional $7.6 million in transit funding to Deschutes County over two years.