September 14, 2006

Campus transportation revamped

Director of Campus Transportation and Parking Services Brian Shaw updated the University community on revised bus services and new alternate transportation options resulting from the University’s Master Plan.

The University has plans to equalize parking rates on north and south campus and to make alternate transit options more accessible and cheaper than parking for the University community, Shaw announced in a spring Transportation and Parking town hall meeting that was available online for a short time in August.

The Master Plan has increased the demand for parking by replacing parking lots with buildings, which have also drawn more people to campus, Shaw said.

To decrease this demand, the University is funding alternate transportation options and raising parking costs slightly as a disincentive, Shaw said.

Specifically, the University will standardize parking rates, curtail subsidized parking, enhance demand management programs, and increase enforcement measures.

“We also want to reduce the demand so we can continue to grow and prosper as an institution, and minimize the impact on surrounding neighborhoods, and limit the need to build more parking…” he said. “And we also want to provide choice and flexibility for all people to get here so you don’t feel you have to drive.”

Shaw said that building a parking garage would mean less space for classrooms, research buildings, or dorms.

The University’s “Base Program” for the 2007 fiscal year implements “critical elements to get people comfortable with changing their commute behavior,” Shaw said. The plan incorporates a guaranteed ride home program (free taxi or car rental in cases of emergency), an occasional-use parking program that allows participants initially free and then reduced parking rates in specified parking areas, an I-GO car-sharing program, and reduced rates and better spaces for those who carpool or vanpool, Shaw said.

Since July 3, the 171 and 172 CTA buses are free not only for students but for anyone with a University or Hospital ID. The 170, 171, 173, and 192 bus routes have also been modified, and a CTA El shuttle to the Red and Green lines is scheduled to begin in the fall after Labor Day, according to Debra Garfi, transit operations administrator for Transportation and Parking. Garfi said that a bulk e-mail would be sent to the University community when the schedules are finalized.

The CTA will now operate the East Hyde Park Express bus route, and it will be free to anyone with a University ID, Shaw said.

For the long term, intercampus shuttles are likely to be implemented in 2009, as well as CTA buses going east and west of campus. The University requested a proposal for a shuttle operator for charters as well as late-night transportation, and is working to improve door-to-door paratransit service to those with physical disabilities. The University is considering incentives for bikers and walkers for 2009 and might increase 173 bus service to also run in the morning.

The University will increase parking rates on campus incrementally over the next three years with the goal of having monthly parking rates equalized at $80 by 2009, Shaw said.

He also said three or four parking lots will close over the next few years, and that the new Woodlawn structure will cover that demand for parking.

Parking rates have not been raised since 2001, while costs of operation have continued to increase. In addition, the University now has to factor in paying taxes to the City of Chicago and Cook County, Shaw said.

Shaw said alternate transportation options could help people save money by avoiding the costs of gas, parking fees, and auto insurance. He also pointed to quality-of-life, environmental, and flexibility benefits. Shaw added that Parking and Transportation Services will help people plan their commutes.