PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 27, No. 12, Jan. 17, 2008
Buses rerouted to ease campus congestion, improve safety
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Although the lull on campus that descends annually during winter break came to an abrupt end when students and faculty members flooded back onto campus to begin the spring semester, one campus street is a little quieter and less congested than before. The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District rerouted six of its buses as of Jan. 2 and no longer has buses traveling on Mathews Avenue, south of Green Street.
The MTD moved all six routes one block east onto Goodwin Avenue, as recommended by the Campus Area Transportation Study and the University’s Multi-Modal Transportation Study.
Removing the 21 Quad route, which has service at five-minute intervals between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays, eliminated 140 buses a day from Mathews, a congested single-lane street with metered, parallel parking spaces on both sides and high volumes of pedestrian, vehicular and bicycle traffic.
“This is just another step in our effort to make the core area of campus pedestrian friendly,” said Pam Voitik, director of Campus Services. “Moving the buses off Mathews onto Goodwin gives us an area between Wright Street and Goodwin where it’s predominantly pedestrian traffic all the way down to Gregory Drive.”
University and Urbana officials also are considering the possibilities of changing the metered parking spaces on Mathews to permit parking or closing the street to vehicular traffic. Morgan Johnston, transportation demand management coordinator, said much of the single occupancy vehicle traffic on Mathews consists of motorists who circle the block repeatedly hunting for parking spaces. That could be diminished by restricting the spaces.
During summer 2009, Urbana will be improving Goodwin Avenue between Clark Street and Gregory Drive to make it a “complete street” – a street that successfully and safely integrates multiple modes of transport, including pedestrians, buses, bicycles and cars in the same right-of-way – in accordance with the recommendations in the Multi-Modal Transportation Study completed in March 2007. The improvements to Goodwin will include installation of 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes on both sides, new street lighting and pedestrian “bumpouts” that will extend the sidewalks 8 feet into the intersections to shorten the crossing distance.
As part of the safety enhancements, MTD will consolidate its bus stops on Goodwin to one mid-block stop on each side of the street between Springfield and Green, in front of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and between Nevada and Gregory streets. The stops also will have the STOPwatch global positioning information system signage that displays the anticipated wait time for buses.
Urbana received a $900,000 federal Highway Safety Improvement grant for the project; the remaining $600,000 in costs will be split between the city and the UI.
Champaign received approval from the Campus Area Transportation Study Technical Advisory Committee for “complete street” improvements on Wright Street, including removing the bike paths that run parallel to the vehicular lanes and creating bike lanes on the street.
“Now we have to sit down and figure out how much it’s going to cost to make these kinds of changes, how do we do a cost share, and then when can we get it started,” Voitik said.
Johnston is exploring several other traffic safety/management initiatives recommended in the study, including a park-and-ride program, and she is developing a campus bike plan with provisions for bike parking that she hopes to complete by August. Additionally, a traffic sign inventory may be conducted over the summer to determine where signs can be eliminated or should be updated on campus.
A CATS subcommittee has developed a preliminary proposal for a communitywide campaign recommending monthly activities and messages promoting – and enforcing – safe conduct by pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. The program is in draft form and is pending review and approval by CATS.
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Among the strategies that the UI is investigating to reduce the number of private vehicles on campus and the demand for parking spaces is a car-sharing program. The UI, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, the city of Champaign, and the city of Urbana recently issued a request for proposals for a car-sharing program that would allow members to rent vehicles by the hour or by the day for business or personal use.
According to the request, students, faculty and staff members, and community residents in the MTD district who paid to join the program would be able to reserve vehicles online.
After a member reserved a vehicle, the vendor would send the reservation information to the vehicle through wireless technology. The member would retrieve the vehicle from a designated parking spot, use an electronic pass to unlock it, and return the vehicle to the same spot when they were finished with it. The vendor would be responsible for the insurance, the vehicles and their maintenance and for providing related services such as reservations and billing.
Zipcar, one of the largest car-share vendors, offers a variety of individual and group memberships, including a University Partners Program. Its clients include the University of Chicago, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hourly rates start at $7.50, but vary depending on how each program is structured. Zipcar provides gas cards for drivers as well as roadside assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members can use the service in any city where Zipcar has a fleet – including Boston, Chicago, London and Toronto – and can reserve cars minutes ahead or months ahead.
To be eligible, drivers have to be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license, and have safe driving records that meet Zipcar’s standards.
According to Zipcar’s Web site, each shared car takes 20 personally owned vehicles off the street.
In July 2006, Zipcar provided a program proposal for the Champaign and Urbana communities in which Zipcar said it initially would provide three cars.
However, given the amount of interest expressed by employers and real estate developers in Champaign and Urbana, it’s possible that a larger initial fleet would be available. UI students under the age of 21 who meet the eligibility criteria could be allowed to join – if a market analysis indicates that a larger population is needed for the program to succeed, said Cynthia Hoyle, a consultant to the MTD.
“There are people who are interested in not driving to campus,” Hoyle said. “But for a variety of reasons they cannot get stranded – they have a doctor’s appointment or a sick kid” and want to have a car available when they need it for routine errands, appointments or emergencies. Other universities offer guaranteed ride home programs and/or car-sharing programs, and although people don’t use the programs all that often, “they have to be confident that the option is there if the need arises,” said Hoyle.
“My husband, (mathematics chair) Sheldon Katz and I would love to join a car-share program,” said Hoyle. “He doesn’t have a parking permit; he doesn’t drive to campus. But occasionally he has to for some reason and then has to pay a meter. … This is an option that is expanding our mobility. It’s giving us an option to get what we need to get done without having to always have a car and a parking space.”
Vendors must conduct market assessments and submit their proposals to the MTD by Feb. 11, with the goal of implementing a pilot program by August or September.
News Bureau, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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