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UNH and student transportation investments pay off

By John Reed, Media Relations

A $35 student transportation fee in place for nearly six months and recent university investments are paying dividends in the form of campuswide improvements to university transportation systems.

On July 1, 2003, UNH students began paying a $35 annual fee. Since then, use of the Campus Connector and Wildcat Transit has increased substantially. From July to November 2003, Campus Connector ridership was up 15,000 riders compared to the same period the previous year. Wildcat Transit ridership increased by 8,000 riders for the same period. This marks the third straight year of transit ridership increases at UNH.

“It’s very encouraging to see an increase in ridership because not only is this a sign of good logistical transit planning, but also that people are getting into the spirit of transit options,” said Dirk Timmons, director of Transportation Services.

Transportation officials attribute the increased ridership to the increased service made possible by the Student Transportation Fee and to improved routes and schedules.

“This increase in ridership is showing that our investment in transit is paying off. People are able to see that it’s actually easier and faster to use our transit service than it is to drive their cars to campus and that helps to alleviate the parking problem,” said Stephen Pesci, special projects manager for campus planning.

Transportation Services also has made improvements to Campus Connector routes, the two most significant being the West Edge Express and inter loop routes.

Instead of trying to cover as much ground as possible, the routes cover the most in-demand areas as often as possible, Timmons said.
“These routes really speed things up, and if you want a successful shuttle system, this is everything,” he said.

Over the coming months Transportation Services and Campus Planning will work with the Student Senate to fine tune ways in which the fee can be used to continue improvements in 2004-2005.

Not only is ridership up on Campus Connector and Wildcat Transit, the Amtrak Downeaster has seen a more than 250 percent increase in ridership in the last 12 months. Since coming to Durham in December 2001, the Downeaster has gone from weekend-only service with 268 Durham riders in its opening month to seven-day-a-week service with nearly 2,300 riders in December 2003. In November 2003, the Downweaster hit a record of more than 3,400 riders.

“Ridership skyrocketed in October-November 2003, even more than we had expected with our increased service. Ridership is growing by more than 5 percent per month,” Pesci said.

Sales at the automated ticket machine in the lobby of the Whittemore Center have steadily increased. The student fee-funded machine was installed last spring. While UNH students make up the majority of passengers coming to and from Durham, there also has been a large increase in ridership by UNH faculty, staff and Durham community members. Within the next 12 to 18 months, Amtrak hopes to expand Downeaster service to Freeport, Maine.

Another successful university investment is the recent upgrade of the College Road and Main Street intersection. Completed the first week of December, the project has reduced eastbound traffic backups on Main Street with the addition of a right turn lane onto College Road and signal upgrades. The project has also improved pedestrian safety with the installation of new crosswalks and signals. Also added was an additional bus stop scheduled to open the week of Jan. 19.

The project is “a quick fix for a critical bottle neck. It’s a cost-effective interim solution until the reconstruction of the Main Street corridor in the 2005-2006 academic year, which is expected to receive federal funding,” Pesci said.

The project “shows how we are directing our transportation funds to make noticeable system improvements. It’s been a big and hopefully noticeable success.”

The project was a joint effort between UNH and the town of Durham. Main Street and the intersection itself are maintained by the town.

 


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