BEND, OR -- The city of Bend and St. Charles Health System are partnering with OSU-Cascades for a pilot project that could lead to more regional transportation options.
Casey Bergh, OSU-Cascades' Transportation Program Manager, says the new Mobility Lab will study microtransit to address transportation needs in underserved areas. It's a concept being studied in other areas, already, "In some cases, universities have contracted with Uber and Lyft. They set up boundaries so that rides originating in certain geographic areas qualify for a discounted fare." It could look different in Bend, but Bergh says it would still be app-driven and on-demand.
The pilot will start by looking for ways to fill the gap left by the cancellation of Cascades East Transit’s Route 12 in July, which served OSU-Cascades and COCC, "The beauty of this technology is it allows us to dynamically route, meaning that if another passenger wants to go to COCC at the same time, we may actually divert from the most direct path to pick them up and share the ride." Bergh says the school has already shown it can create successful new transit options; it's bike-sharing program has expanded across the city of Bend. He's optimistic the microtransit program will also show results, "Hopefully, demonstrate that there’s a cost-effective way to provide transit in this area of Bend and then inform the city’s Transportation System Plan, which is being updated right now, and the Cascades East Transit regional master plan, to determine if they want to include this kind of service in other areas of Bend or Central Oregon."
Bend City Councilors agreed to the partnership, Wednesday night, providing $50,000 to the program. St. Charles will contribute another $25,000. Bergh expects the Mobility Lab to create specifics for the program by the end of the year.