Bend Bikes Endorses the Transportation GO Bond
A lot has happened since we last wrote about the transportation general obligation (GO) bond. The COVID-19 pandemic derailed Council’s intent to put the matter to vote in May. With the economy in flux, Council grappled with whether to put the transportation GO bond back on the ballot in November, and ultimately did so with one compromise -- homeowners of Bend would not have to start paying taxes on it until 2022.
After much deliberation, Bend Bikes endorses the transportation GO bond as the best opportunity for positive improvements for people who bike, walk, and use public transit in the foreseeable future. Please read on for our analysis of what we like, what we don’t like, and how we came to our decision.
When Bend Bikes first opined on two proposed bond packages ($150 million and $250 million) in January of this year, we felt that the value of the active transportation and multi-modal projects listed in the larger $250 million package represented the minimum we could support. We had no particular opinion on the total value of the bond measure itself. Our primary objection to the smaller proposed bond package was that it cut the neighborhood safety program from $16 million to $4 million (which is the revenue source to help match state funding for Safe Routes to School, and could help complete the Neighborhood Greenways) and it cut funding for access to transit from $11.5 million to $7 million.
Now that the dust has settled, the final bond measure is valued at $190 million. With strong advocacy from Councilors Barb Campbell and Gena Goodman-Campbell, the official project list and specific project information contains:
- $36.2 million for projects specifically for people who walk and bike;
- $8 million for neighborhood safety projects, which includes improvements for people who walk and bike; and
- $8 million for transit.
Bend Bikes has been grappling with whether, as an advocacy organization, we support the final transportation GO bond package. It will be the biggest investment in Bend’s transportation system in Bend’s history and if it fails, we do not see anything on the horizon that would enable next generation bicycle infrastructure in our community. This means our transportation system would limp along business as usual. That said, it’s not the bond package we advocated for. It represents a lot of compromise and consensus building. While we do believe we will see some improvements for people who bike if it passes, we also have some concerns as well.
Here’s what we like in the measure, what we are concerned about, and how we came to support the transportation GO bond.
GO Bond Positives
- Complete streets in outlying areas: Adding off-street multi-use trails is a fantastic way to make people feel safe enough to let their kids commute to school and to have fun.
- Midtown crossings: It’s great to see the prioritization of Franklin, Greenwood, and Hawthorne to help move people east and west to and through downtown and Bend’s core.
- Key routes: Filling in infrastructure for people who walk and bike on a network of routes that will form the backbone of could be an exciting framework to moving people who choose active transportation safely.
- Neighborhood safety program: A wildly popular program to allow the city’s Neighborhood Associations to submit requests for safety improvements projects; we’re encouraged to see the program’s expansion from its current funding level.
- Transit hubs: We look forward to the creation of more connections to transit for people who walk and bike.
GO Bond Concerns
- Too much wiggle room: The vague descriptions of the bond measure’s projects means we are not exactly sure what we are getting with some of them and it’s hard to get excited without more details.
- Accountability as the projects roll out: There will be an oversight committee and we would feel more excited knowing there are voices from people who bike, people who walk, people with limited mobility, and people from other diverse communities represented on that committee.
- Missing complete streets in the center of Bend: The vision of complete streets in the center of Bend, which still has paint-buffered bike lanes, means the most vulnerable users (our kiddos and older folks) will not feel safe biking around the center of Bend. We will continue to advocate for separated bike paths and bike lanes with physical buffers!
- Cars first: It’s hard to deny that the bond measure still promotes a car-centric future for Bend. Its projects do not anticipate next generation cycling infrastructure which will create a sense of safety and motivate people to get out of their cars and onto bikes for routine trips to school, work, and the store. We would be excited if the projects were grounded in tangible goals like the ones from the City of Victoria, in Canada, a similarly sized community as Bend. The City of Victoria set goals that by 2041, 70% of all trips to work will be on bike, walking or via transit and 60% of all trips in general will be by bike, walking or transit. In comparison, the recently adopted Transportation System Plan is grounded in the goal of doubling the commute trips made by bike, walking, or transit in the next 20 years (so that means increasing those trips from a paltry 5.5% to 11%!).
Practically speaking, it is hard to turn down $36.2 million for improvements for people who walk and bike when the alternative is piecemeal funding, like the $900,000 allocated for the neighborhood greenways in 2017, in the near term and a hope and a prayer in the long term. Our best hope for any meaningful change in our transportation system is for the transportation bond to pass and to ensure the voices of people who bike are on the oversight committee.
We encourage everyone to make sure their voter registration is up-to-date and vote in November… and let the Mayor and City Council know how important it is to have the voices of people who bike on the oversight committee.
To understand how we got here, check out what we learned when Bend Bikes hosted a presentation at Commute Options by Eric King and Councilor Goodman-Campbell. If you really want to dive into the wonky details, you can also:
- Dig into Bend’s Transportation System Plan and 2040 project list from which the Bond package projects were pulled;
- Take a look at the summary of the official bond project list; and/or
- Explore the interactive map of the official bond projects.
If the transportation GO bond passes, continued advocacy from people who bike will be required. We will fight to get the voices of people who bike on the oversight committee, continue to nurture our relationships with City staff, and continue to push for more and better improvements at every opportunity. If the bond measure fails, we will fight and claw to get a better proposal before the Council and voters in the future.