and student transportation investments pay off
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
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
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,
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.
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.