Fill up the tank and empty the wallet.
It’s becoming all the more difficult to avoid as gas prices reach a new milestone in Central Oregon today, at an average $5.50 per gallon.
Amid the spike, more locals are turning to options like buses, e-bikes and carpooling to get around town.
Cascades East Transit (CET) has offered free bus rides since the pandemic began, save for recreational routes like the Mt. Bachelor shuttle.
They have seen a rise in ridership over the past couple of months across the region.
“For three months over the fall of last year, we had roughly 67,000 rides on our regional community connector system and our fixed routes in the city of Bend,” said CET’s Outreach and Engagement Administrator Derek Hofbauer. “Just in the past few months between March and May, we had about 75,500 rides. So that’s a 13% increase in rides.”
He believes the rise in riders is largely due to gas prices.
“We think a lot of that is due to community members wanting to save money, realizing our buses are currently free to use, planning their trips and letting CET do the driving to get to their destinations,” Hofbauer added.
It’s not just the wheels on the bus that are turning more frequently.
E-bikes, like those sold at Bend Electric Bikes in Downtown Bend, have seen greater demand in the past couple of months.
“My paychecks have been greater, so that’s definitely my notice there,” chuckled bike mechanic Jared Conklin. “There’s a lot less on the floor. It seems like we sell maybe two or three bikes a day. Before, it was one or two.”
He said that many people who come in to look at bikes cite gas prices as a reason they’re moving from the street to the sidewalk.
“They’re like ‘I want this for efficiency and for fitness, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed the gas prices lately.’ Definitely a big contributing factor for people getting on more of the commuter styles,” he said.
For others, saving money looks like sharing the load with others.
“We offer a vanpool program, it’s all about having four to 15 people together in a pre-arranged group, traveling to and from work together,” said Brian Potwin, the Executive Director of Commute Options. “With the rise of increased gas prices and also people going back to work, we’ve had a lot more interest in van pooling in the last couple of months.”
With no end in sight to this steep incline, local transportation organizations want folks to know that options are available.
“You can plan your trip as cascadeseasttransit.com,” Hofbauer said. “We also have an app called Transit App that tracks buses in real time, you can also use that as a trip planning platform.”
Recreation services like Ride the River and Lava Butte are launching on June 18. On that same day, CET is also bringing back Saturday regional services.
Conklin believes there are more benefits to e-bikes than just saving money.
“I believe it’s a little bit more community oriented,” he said. “Being on a bike riding around, you’re talking to people, you’re engaging with people as you roll by them.”
If you are interested in having a van pool for your business, visit the Commute Options website for more information.