Bend Gridlock

Bend made the national headlines last week (CNN: Rush minute becomes rush hour) because it’s the largest city in the west without a public transit system. And we’re not going to get one anytime soon, unfortunately. From the CNN article:

Public transportation advocates in the city are up against a steadfast car culture reinforced by the influx of Californians, plus a wealthy population that probably wouldn’t ride the bus even if one existed.

“If they are getting around town in their Lexus, they are not too concerned about the next bus stop,” said Brian Shetterly, the town’s chief planner.

All too true. Bend’s traffic is one of the big drawbacks to living here; I’ve watched it steadily get worse over the last decade, as more people have moved into the area but the infrastructure hasn’t scaled accordingly. I sometimes think Bend is a city with a small town mentality: people don’t want to accept that they are living in a city and therefore can’t or won’t deal with the issues that growth inevitably brings—like gridlock. Classic denial: “Hey, we live in a small town, we can’t possibly have traffic problems that need fixing.”

I’d love it if Bend got a mass transit system, I’ve thought we’ve needed one for years. I’d ride a bus, if one was available, and I think a lot of other people would, too, despite the picture the article paints. Here’s a hint: Not everyone who lives here is wealthy and tools around in a Lexus.

They wouldn’t need to start big, at first: maybe two or three routes in Bend, covering downtown, west up to the college, north to the malls and back down east along 27th and Knott Road, swinging south and back up Country Club maybe. Then a route to Redmond, maybe Sisters, and one to Sunriver/Lapine, but those extended routes could come later.

Oh, well. It’s nice to dream.