“Revenue neutral is what we were trying to get,” he says. “It’s seriously discounted and ridership jumped,” he stresses.
There are now more than 40 businesses that participate in the group pass program. That equates to more than 40,000 people in the community with a group pass in their hands. “You can be as small as five employees or as many as, at the University of Oregon, 25,000, 28,000.” He adds that businesses have realized if they provide the pass as a benefit to the employees, they might be able to get a couple more people. And it always goes back to the environment. “Back to this global warming, this eco-kind-of-sense, this carbon footprint, they’re going ‘wow, if we could just get one person to ride the bus’.”
More than EmX
As I walk outside the office and around the grounds, it’s not like other agencies I’ve visited. Many transit agency buildings I’ve seen look pretty similar to each other, some bushes and shrubs outside the entrance, maybe some flowers. This facility is stunning with beautiful foliage and flowers adorning the landscape. When you step inside the main office there is a courtyard in the center of the building with more plants, flowers and water. Just like with EmX, the attention to detail is apparent.
Pangborn mentions that it was really the doing of a previous general manager, Phyllis Loobey. “When we built it [the new facility] we were able to get federal match and we had local funds. We put it together and some people wanted to call it the Taj Mahal. If you look across the street, there’s a Butler Pole building. I think some people said why don’t you build a building like that?”
He mentions that Loobey was quoted in the paper saying we don’t build ugly. Pangborn says, “Some people have this idea of public service, it’s supposed to be cheap, it’s supposed to be crummy. Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” He adds with a touch of humor, “But then you build a nice [facility] and, ‘Well, who do they think they are using my tax dollars to build this Taj Mahal?’”
There are various ways they have saved power; they are also aware of other valuable resources. A possibility for the near future is xeriscaping; taking the native vegetation that requires minimal maintenance. “It’s basically because the critical resources that we’re really going to be very worried about immediately are water and power,” Pangborn states. “Probably remove the lawn and put vegetation in that is native to Oregon so that it can live, or maybe more drought-resistant because we may have less water and less rain.
“Over time we will change that. It’s back to that 1 percent,” he says. “You do it slowly. You do it in a way that makes sense.”
He seems to switch topics a bit, going from the landscape to his office, his old office before the current building was built. It all relates back to using the resources you have to the best ability. Describing his old office he says with a laugh, “I mean, you barely would fit in the two of us.” He says about his current office, “This is really a luxury and you know what, in five years we may have to convert this to an office that holds three or four people in it, if we’re lucky enough to have the funding to do that, and I move to the next office next door.
“That’s OK,” he says. “I’ve been in big offices and small offices and this is nice. I can put up my artwork and whatever but that’s not why we’re here.”
Pangborn sums it up by saying that they’ve been lucky in a lot of ways. “A community that’s supportive in terms of really understanding where we’re going.” He adds, “I mean it’s not all Pollyana. We’ve had people who’ve said Eugene doesn’t need a BRT.
“That’s healthy, that’s the dialogue that goes on in communities. But for the most part, we’ve had a business community and a funding source that has supported transit.” He adds, “We’ve had a board that’s been supportive and forward-looking. Staff that is really committed — top professionals — could have gone anywhere else in the United States and [they] chose to stay here and live here. It’s just been a really unique combination.