While campus transportation trends appear to reflect an environmentally and tech conscious student body, challenges remain to support the public transportation options students rely on to efficiently get around campus.
According to the 2014 biennial transportation survey report released last month, in good weather 49 percent of University of Wisconsin students opted to walk to class, 22 percent chose to bike and 18 percent elected to take the bus.
“I think the results are very positive. Given the size of this campus, we have very high [variety] of alternative modes [of transportation], and it’s something that’s been fairly consistent over the past 15 to 20 years,” Patrick Kass, director of university Transportation Services said.
According to the report, about one fifth of students currently use the Madison Metro on a given day. Last year the Madison Metro saw a record 15.2 million riders, pushing the system to capacity, Chuck Kamp, general manager for Madison Metro said.
Kamp said the caveat to increased ridership is not having enough buses to compensate for overcrowded routes. He said Madison Metro is looking for solutions like leasing and building parking garages to house additional buses, if more are made available in the future.
Companies in Madison like Epic are contributing to an influx of young millennials seeking to use these public transportation options, he said. Kamp said he sees young professionals using transit to a greater degree partly due to new smart phone apps for buses, which make it easier for individuals to understand how the bus system works and where buses are in real time.
Campus bus routes saw 2.17 million riders last year, a 22.3 percent increase compared to the year before, according to Madison Metro’s route productivity comparison. Students and faculty amount for about 45 to 50 percent of ridership for the bus system as a whole, Kamp said.
According to the Transportation Services website, the annual cost of campus bus routes, totaling around $1.5 million, is shared by Associated Students of Madison, UW Transportation Services and UW Housing. Free student bus passes used for non-campus routes are funded by non-allocable segregated student fees. This year ASM allocated $4,252,700 to the passes, according to their website.
The transportation report shows biking as the next most popular option. Kass said UW Transportation Services has adequately responded by putting more investment into this area, like improving the location and overall supply of bicycle racks on campus for the past six years. In addition, they are also focusing on improving walking paths, crosswalks and sidewalks for the large amount of people who walk to campus, he said.
“We’re looking to make improvements to make it a better and safer experience for people who are on campus,” Kass said.
While some projects in the university are aimed at newer alternative forms of transportation, like a program begun last year in which the university received four new miniature electric cars, these are mainly used for research, Kass said.
According to the School of Engineering’s website, UW was one of four institutions to receive the Innova Dash all-electric vehicles last summer. The university is using the cars to promote the use of electric vehicles and to better understand their optimal usage, project leader Suman Banerjee said in the statement.
“We continue to look at [alternative] modes and what we can do to improve, but right now we have fairly positive results,” Kass said.