Do More With What You Now Have
We have all heard the tired expression “Do more with less.” It has been so overused that usually the sarcastic reply is akin to saying, ‘Yeah, right – we’re so good at doing more with less that now we can do everything with nothing’.”
Well, what about doing more with what you already have? Is there a way in which universities can “get more” from existing transit and parking systems?
Most if not all universities would want their transportation systems to perform with greater capacity, reliability and convenience within the same budgeted resources – especially when expanding physically and demographically.
And Georgia Southern University (GSU) in Statesboro was no exception.
GSU’s recent growth and expansion had given rise to additional residence halls and generated the need for more campus transportation services. Not surprisingly, increased traffic from commuting students and intra-campus driving between campus facilities has grown as well.
GSU turned to Chance Management Advisors to identify improvements for schedules, operations and buses to better serve its 1.4 million riders each year.
A key requirement was developing improvements that could be accomplished within the existing university budget for campus transit services.
It also was important that the service recommendations continue to successfully support the university’s peripheral parking system, which is crucial due to the shortage of core campus parking.
What follows describes the Challenge, Strategies and Benefits derived from the project.
Realign Existing Resources, Service Patterns, Schedules and Routes
GSU’s former transit service consisted of eight buses, operating continuously on a counterclockwise loop, connecting the main campus with the Recreation Activities Center, the Stadium Complex and several major apartment complexes.
To supplement the capacity of the main route during morning and afternoon peak times, two other buses operated on a counterclockwise express route from the main campus to two apartment complexes. The loop route also served the largest GSU parking facilities.
The buses operating in a single-direction loop limited the speed, capacity and travel convenience of the service. Overcrowded buses and longer running times were the result, reducing the transit appeal for students and staff parking in peripheral lots. But there was more!
The loop route also did not help to reduce intra-campus driving and parking. In fact, traffic congestion in the campus core resulted due to students driving others between campus destinations. Naturally, this artificially increased parking demand, with cars relocating among parking facilities during the day.
THE SOLUTION, PART ONE:
Restructure the Transit Routes
A restructured transit service pattern was developed so that two routes could operate continuously with eight buses. One route would operate in both directions on the core campus, while the other would operate express service from the campus core to the apartment complexes on a continuous schedule, day and night.
Another key recommendation was to close two Statesboro streets traversing the campus and to limit their accessibility to buses, deliveries and authorized GSU vehicles, with the goal of eliminating traffic congestion and improving transportation and pedestrian circulation. It also encouraged students to park in peripheral parking facilities and use transportation, instead of building more parking in the core campus.
THE SOLUTION, PART TWO:
Market and Implement Improvements
Details of the new transit services were vigorously promoted among students, staff and faculty through a number of marketing channels, including the university website and the GSU Parking and Transportation website maps, and via notices, contact lists, the campus newspaper and at campus events. The closure of the city streets through the core of campus was coordinated with city officials, who also promoted the changes locally and on the municipal cable channel.
The changes described above increased transportation capacity 25% using the same fleet and operating budget! And the street closures were coordinated with the support and approval of the city, because the increased transit ridership and parking at peripheral facilities actually reduced traffic congestion at several intersections and on streets adjacent to the closed roadways.
Improved Use of Existing Parking Resources
Improvements to the bus service, including multi-directional transit routes and revised operating schedules, actually increased parking use at the larger, peripheral on-campus parking lots at the Sports Complex and the Recreation Activities Center. Parking availability also increased in the commuter and faculty/staff parking lots within the campus core.
Perceptions of the commuter/peripheral parking lots and the value of the respective parking permits improved as the actual travel times, perceived distances and overcrowding were diminished by the realigned and enhanced transit options.
Additionally, access to and use of the Recreation Activities Center have increased as a result of better transportation service and parking availability.
Encouraging a ‘Park Once’ Strategy
GSU is encouraging students, faculty and staff to “park once” on arriving on campus and to use the bus system to move about campus throughout the day when conditions are not conducive to walking. The benefits achieved through the “park once” strategy include:
• Alleviation of traffic and congestion on the roadways caused by using cars multiple times a day to pick up and drop off friends in the campus core, or to go to meetings across campus.
• A safer pedestrian environment.
• Promotion of cleaner air quality with lower toxic emissions.
• Reduction of the carbon footprint of campus.
• Improved utilization of peripheral parking lots through more efficient transit service.
The “Park Once” strategy gained even more credence with the redevelopment of the primary vehicular corridor through the center of campus into a pedestrian-friendly pathway that accommodates limited university and delivery vehicles, to the exclusion of other vehicular traffic. The restricted access to this corridor also removed the problematic “kiss ‘n’ ride” activity that contributed to congestion on campus.
More Efficient Transportation Service as a Tool for Sustainability
Using a fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, the improved transit services, access to peripheral lots, and the “Park Once” idea have also become a tangible symbol of the university’s commitment to sustainability. Reduced traffic, congestion and pollution are helping GSU accomplish its sustainability goals. These results have benefited the university community as well as the city of Statesboro.
An Update …
The transportation improvements and changes were implemented with the start of the fall semester in August 2010. Enhanced service reliability and convenience have generated an increase in ridership of more than 30% above the same period last year! The changes have increased customer satisfaction as conveyed through campus news articles and customer feedback to GSU Parking and Transportation officials. And last but not least, the changes have helped to improve access to and the use of campus peripheral lots.
As Parking and Transportation Director Bob Chambers commented: “Only 4% of the (more than 30%) ridership increase can be attributed to a higher enrollment, which indicates that students are simply riding the bus more often than before because the new routes are providing a greatly improved service and experience for them.”
Robert Furniss, Senior Operations Consultant for Chance Management Advisors, Inc., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Scott R. Spencer, CMA’s Senior Transit Consultant, at email@example.com.