Friday, February 12, 2016

OSU-Cascades may use drones to deliver students to campus

Kick back and enjoy the ride
In an effort to have as little an impact as possible on Bend's congested west side, the leaders of OSU-Cascades are looking at drones to fly students to campus from more "affordable" areas of the city.

OSU-Cascades (OSUC) hopes to partner with when the e-tail behemoth begins delivering packages next year.

This news emerges as an OSUC advisory committee recently recommended a web of bicycle underpasses and overpasses to accommodate those students who may use bikes to attend the difficult-to-reach future campus. There are no funds, though, earmarked for such an ambitious undertaking.

OSU-Cascades plans on opening in September 2016 with one building for classrooms at the 10-acre campus. There will be no on-campus housing or dining options for the first year, at least.

This means students must find housing elsewhere in Bend, one of the most expensive rental markets in the state.

And, Bend's west side is the least affordable area in the city.

The only rentals under construction that could house potential students are at least three miles from the OSUC campus.

The new rental units proposed for NorthWest Crossing, about a mile from the OSUC campus, are designed specifically to exclude college-age kids.

So, that makes OSUC a commuter college in a town with few commute options. Most of the side streets in the older parts of town have no sidewalks, let alone bike paths.

There are only two-lane roads on the west side and no room to expand them.

The numerous roundabouts on the west side can make cycling to the campus dangerous.

Bend's fledgling bus system, doesn't have service after 6 p.m., and none at all on Sunday. Rumor has it that OSUC may want the city of Bend to use some of that proposed 5-cent-per-gallon tax on vehicle fuel to expand the bus service or to construct bicycle overpasses. If so, Bend residents will likely defeat the tax measure on the March ballot.

Add in the snowy, icy roads that we experience at various times from October to April, and commuting to OSUC from across town can be treacherous.

This is where drones come in. They can easily lift a student and transport him or her all over town. Yes, from brewpub to pot shop to tattoo parlor and beyond.

It helps that there are now more licensed drone operators in America than licensed pilots of real airplanes.

The standard air restrictions will apply, of course. In Bend, that means no drones can fly over high-end subdivisions like NorthWest Crossing, Awbrey Glen, Broken Top or Awbrey Butte. All other parts of Bend are fair game.

Some weight restrictions may also apply.

The use of drones to deliver students to OSUC will free up the roads from student traffic and forestall any improvements of the roadways by a few years. Plus, that web of bike overpasses and underpasses may not be necessary at all.

It's a win-win situation.

Go Beavs or Fly Beavs!

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