Recommendations Transport Change: An Overview of Transportation Improvements

Ed. Note: This is the first in a series on university transportation and parking issues, including recent improvements, plans for changes that will come, and transportation options that make travel at UNH easier.

By Jody Record, Media Relations
November 15, 2006

The findings of a two-year look at transportation on campus at the end of 2000 didn’t come as much of a surprise. The conclusion was that parking and transportation at UNH were “structurally irrational” and “must change.”

Much has.

In fact, several of the recommendations cited in the Transportation Policy Committee’s 2005 Status Report have been implemented and are already making a difference in the way people travel to, from and around the university.

“The five-year report shows success,” says Steve Pesci, director of special projects for Campus Planning, of the short and long-term improvement goals set by the TPC. “UNH is also proud to be one of only seven major employers in New Hampshire designated in 2006 by the US EPA as a Best Workplace for Commuters - based on our provision of commuter options such as free transit, carpool, ride-matching and our ongoing support of rail, pedestrian and bicycle mobility options.”

“That's a great accomplishment given our non-metropolitan location. It also helps us attract employees and students choosing to save money and commute without a car.”

And here’s one way that commute has been made easier: The UNH transit system is now the largest in the state.

That’s right, the largest. Last year, ridership was just shy of 1 million, and, overall, during the last five years, it is up more than 50 percent. And, where once there were only two, there are now seven full-time shuttle routes operating Monday through Friday, plus a weekend and winter snow ban service. What’s more, the Wildcat Transit now provides weekday daytime service on the hour during the academic year with an abbreviated schedule on weekends.

As the number of people taking the bus has risen, so has the frequency of bus runs, at 250 a week when classes are in session. What’s gone down is air and noise pollution, thanks to the introduction of cleaner, quieter alternative fueled buses.

This year, the majority of the older diesel fleet and half of the newer buses were switched to B20 biodiesel fuel, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent standard diesel. Six buses run on compressed natural gas.

In 2003, the Student Senate implemented a $40 mandatory transportation fee that was bumped to $50 the following year. The money has helped fund increased Wildcat Transit and Campus Connector frequency, Amtrak ticket machines for the Downeaster, and other non-parking related services such as the guaranteed ride home program that provides free emergency transportation for faculty, staff and students.

Additionally, the cost of faculty and staff parking permits has risen from $32 to $50; although short of the original recommendation, the increase has helped fund several incremental parking improvements.

“Look what $18 got us,” said Dirk Timmons, director of transportation services. “We’ve gone from running the shuttle every two hours to being able to run it every hour. Imagine what another $50 would get you.”

A critical goal stated in the TPC’s 5-year report is nearing completion; the newly-constructed south underpass connects Colovos Road with McDaniel Drive in front of Kingsbury Hall and the new undergraduate dorms being built next to Forest Park.

The project improves accessibility to Gregg Hall, Chase Ocean Engineering Lab and College Woods. Additionally, the two-lane street will provide safe passage for faculty and students who travel back and forth on the two sides of the railroad tracks several times a day.

Other recommendations put in place since the 2005 report was crafted include uniform signage for parking lots that easily identifies who can park where; the creation of a carpool lot, which has moved to C-Lot; and the expansion of Cat Cycles, a bike-borrowing program.

And then there are the parking lots—86 of them with about 6,400 parking spaces.

“Every day, at any time, there is parking on this campus,” Doug Bencks, UNH architect and director of Campus Planning, said. “Because of the transit system, we don’t have as many cars coming to campus. There are choices. People should not feel they have to rely on their vehicle.”

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