Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

GIS as a Sketch-Plan Tool to Replace Traditional Transit Route Planning Practice for College and University Communities: The Use of GIS to Analyze for the Planning of Transit Routes, Bus Stops, and Coverage Areas Is Inexpensive, Reliable, and Accurate

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

GIS as a Sketch-Plan Tool to Replace Traditional Transit Route Planning Practice for College and University Communities: The Use of GIS to Analyze for the Planning of Transit Routes, Bus Stops, and Coverage Areas Is Inexpensive, Reliable, and Accurate

Article excerpt

Background and Study Methodology

Personal vehicles driven by young and relatively inexperienced drivers on university campuses nationwide create challenges that make it imperative to explore innovative solutions to mobility and parking issues.

Because university authorities traditionally control campus land use, transit, and parking services, transportation plans that address these issues and identify solutions can be implemented easily. Auburn University--a prominent land-grant and comprehensive research institute in Alabama--is no exception to the need to grapple with transportation planning. Auburn launched its transit system (called "Tiger Transit") in 1997 to address the needs of student commuters and a shrinking parking supply. Specifically, Tiger Transit was introduced to

* provide safe, convenient, and low-cost access to the university for as many students as possible;

* reduce traffic congestion on university streets and city streets surrounding the university;

* make the core campus pedestrian friendly by removing vehicles from an area heavily used by pedestrians;

* reduce the demand for parking and on-campus housing; and

* help the university to recruit and retain students (Chaudhari 2007; Curtis 2006; D. George pers. comm.).

Initially, Auburn's transit service proved beneficial by not only protecting the campus from the influx of automobiles, but also by decreasing the demand for parking and on-campus housing. However, by 2005, the demand for parking had again increased: there were only 10,000 parking spaces for the almost 30,000 people coming to campus each day, including students, staff, and faculty members. (This university population of 30,000 represented more than two-thirds of the population of the city of Auburn, which was 42,000 per the 2000 census.) Only 6,500 parking spaces were shared among 23,000 students, creating an acute shortage, and the parking situation for faculty and staff was not much better. Parking spaces were also being replaced by new construction; for example, the Department of Building Science's new building was constructed on what used to be the Goodwin parking lot.

Further compounding the situation was the fact that the university had removed but not replaced much of its substandard housing, relying instead on private developers to provide housing for students. In 2005, only 16 percent of Auburn students lived on campus; students generally preferred to live in newly developed neighborhoods based on the "city of villages" concept and in off-campus trailer parks because of lower rent and better facilities. This created a high demand for parking and transit for students commuting between campus and their apartments.

As a result, by 2007 Tiger Transit faced a number of issues:

* Ridership was basically steady despite the expansion of bus routes from 11 to 14 (a 27 percent increase) and an increase in both the frequency of buses and the transit service area. Following the expansion, daily ridership grew only from 11,587 to 13,141 (a 13 percent increase), which was not considered significant.

* Operating costs were increasing due to higher fuel prices.

* The system was able to serve only 70 percent of the student population.

* Dissatisfaction with the service was growing due to poor coordination among bus route schedules.

* Appropriate infrastructure was lacking; for instance, out of 149 total bus stops, only 24 had shelters (Chaudhari 2007; Curtis 2006; D. George pers. comm.).

These issues prompted the university to conduct an investigation into the capabilities of Tiger Transit to more effectively serve the student population. In the case of transit system evaluation, effectiveness is a measure of a system's ability to provide an adequate level of service, convenient locations, and characteristic amenities that meet the objectives and needs of riders. …

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