U has diverse transit options

A Minnesota Daily poll found 29 percent of students walk to campus.

by Jason Juno

There is no clear choice for how students get to campus, and nearly equal numbers of students walk, drive or take the bus, according to the latest Minnesota Daily poll.

Twenty-nine percent of students said they walk to campus, while 28 percent drive and 27 percent take the bus. Eleven percent said they ride a bicycle, and 4 percent carpool.

Walking and biking are different, but they are similar because they require exercise. Therefore, 40 percent of students get to campus via modes of transportation that use exercise, said David Levinson, professor in the department of civil engineering.

Because so many people commute to campus – one that is in a particularly urban area – it is not unusual to have so many people drive, Levinson said.

However, a school such as the University of Illinois is outside an urban area, and it would be impractical for so many people to drive, he said. But Northwestern University is in the Chicago area and would then have numbers similar to the University of Minnesota, he said.

The attraction to drive over taking the bus is simple: the convenience, Levinson said. The University of Minnesota also “chooses” to have parking available, he said.

Transportation improvements

Thirty-eight percent of students said more parking and cheaper parking are the biggest transportation improvements necessary on campus.

The University of Minnesota has 20,174 total parking spaces, according to Parking and Transportation Services statistics. In fiscal year 2002-03, 5,250,372 cars parked in those spaces.

Levinson said more residence halls or other housing would have to be closer to campus if the University of Minnesota wanted to curb driving. Also, higher prices for parking would deter people from parking.

Parking and Transportation Services marketing director Jacqueline Brudlos said approximately 80,000 people come to campus each day, and there is not enough parking for everyone. It is her department’s mission to promote forms of transportation other than cars, she said.

Still, the University of Minnesota needs parking, she said.

“Parking is a necessity,” she said. “Busing, biking and walking will not work for everyone.”

Most of the University of Minnesota’s parking spaces are filled daily, Brudlos said.

Chemical engineering first-year Jeina Winters said University of Minnesota parking costs too much at the $3.25 daily lots.

While she said she believes the price is fair, she does not like the idea of paying to park.

Whether people wanted more parking as the most desired transportation improvement depended on the distance they live from campus. Of those who live within 10 miles to 12 miles from campus, 47 percent said they wanted light rail and 33 percent said parking. For distances greater than 12 miles and less than 10 miles, students wanted more parking.

Having a road as busy as Washington Avenue Southeast cut through campus is a rarity among universities, Levinson said. Most have roads that straddle campus, similar to University Avenue Southeast, he said. The idea behind such roads is to make universities pedestrian-friendly.

But, because a great deal of non-University of Minnesota traffic uses Washington Avenue Southeast, it can feel less safe for pedestrians, Levinson said. That’s because traffic that doesn’t stop at the University of Minnesota tends to be going faster, Levinson said.

Washington Avenue Southeast existed before the University of Minnesota grew to both sides of the roadway, he said.

Twin Cities residents, like those in many other metro areas, choose mass transit to get around less than 1 percent of the time, Levinson said. Compared to the Twin Cities overall, a larger percentage of University of Minnesota students use public transit.