July 23, 2018 | ° F

Transportation routes to change with College Avenue Greening

Photo by Ramon Dompor |

Director of Transportation Services Jack Molenaar outlines potential changes to the bus schedule for next semester from construction of the College Avenue campus greening.

With construction for the College Avenue Greening Project soon to come underway, the Department of Transportation Services will be impacted for the next two years.

Director of Transportation Services Jack Molenaar and Manager of Transportation Planning Jennifer Stuart Lane hosted a transportation forum last night in Room 411 of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus and presented the department's proposed changes to bus routes and parking permit rates for the upcoming year.

Douglass College junior Ashley Sawyer said she was glad the department decided to have the forum.

"I think a lot of students have a lot of complaints about the bus system and we don't often get opportunities to speak to the right people, we just gripe amongst ourselves," Sawyer said. "I'm disappointed the crowd was so small considering 95 percent of us complain about the buses but there were 10, 15 people there."

With many of the bus route changes coming because of construction of the College Avenue Greening Project, two temporary bus stops will be created across from the Student Activities Center and on Bishop Place near the Hurtado Health Center.

Molenaar said all buses coming from Busch and Livingston campuses to the College Avenue campus via Route 18 South to Huntington Street will now stay straight onto George Street and stop across from the SAC. They will then make a right on Seminary Place, left on College Avenue, stop at the Scott Hall bus stop and then at the SAC.

"We have to be able to serve the activities quad section of College Avenue plus the academic section, so in order to still serve this section we're creating a temporary stop on the other side of the SAC," Molenaar said.

Molenaar said the temporary stop at Hurtado will service the residence halls and that these changes were made to ensure the campus can still operate somewhat for two years.

School of Engineering first-year student Matt Kohut said he was happy the department gave students and members of the community a chance to talk about issues they have but is worried about some of the proposed bus route changes.

"I don't think there's much room to have a bus stop and let people off, so that's generally my only concern," Kohut said.

In addition to alterations to Busch and Livingston buses, similar changes will take place for the EE and L Routes.

Lane said these buses will continue to stop on George Street near the train station and then proceed to the Scott Hall stop. This will be followed by the temporary stop on Bishop Place near Hurtado and then turn right onto George Street. The L will then continue with its existing route, and the EE will continue along George Street to the Cook/Douglass campus, she said.

Further, the F route will access and leave Cook/Douglass campus using Commercial Avenue and will stop in front of the Public Safety Building on the Commercial Avenue side, Lane said.

She said the bus stops for the REXL and REXB routes will remain the same, except they will now access Rte. 18 using Commercial Avenue in both directions. She said this will improve the frequency of service.

Lane said the BrunsQuick Shuttle will no longer service the Rutgers Student Center and instead will access the temporary stop across from the SAC.

The department also created a proposal to change parking permits to a tiered system.

Commuter parking zones are currently one flat fee for all zones, but with the new proposal, high demand zones would be charged more in order to provide a lower cost parking permit alternative for commuter students in lower demand zones, Lane said.

"The goal being is that as we go forward in the future the deck permit prices will go up faster than the surface lots. So as we go forward, the distance between the two will get greater," Molenaar said. "We try to always keep a low cost alternative, which actually would help more students than not."

Currently, College Avenue campus (Zone A), Busch campus (Zone B), Livingston campus (Zone L) and Cook/Douglass campus (Zone C/D) all cost $170, she said.

The department is proposing that the College Avenue and Douglass campuses will have higher rates while Busch, Livingston and Cook campuses will have a lower rate, Lane said.

With their proposed changes, Zone A permits would cost $225, Zone B $135, Zone C $135, Zone D $225, L $135, Night Commuter $115 and the Easton Avenue Parking Deck $525. The proposal does not affect resident parking permits, she said.

Students and University affiliates voiced their concerns and were able to propose changes to the department such as extending the frequency of the BrunsQuick Shuttle, passenger operated doors on buses and left side route signs on buses.

Students also suggested that shelters be created at the BrunsQuick Shuttle stop on Hamilton Street in front of Ale ā€˜n' Wich bar and on Courtland Street and that bus signs more clearly distinguish between the A and the H buses than can currently be read easier from far away. Molenaar said eventually the bus system would move to a color system.

School of Engineering senior Mark Cattuna said he was glad the department is making much needed improvements to the transportation system.

"I guess there weren't many students here. At least the couple [that came] showed interest in a variety of issues as far as public transit, parking and walking," Cattuna said.

Molenaar said the department is hoping to add more buses at the beginning of each semester, which will cost about $20,000.

"We're looking to add service the first few weeks of each semester ā€” add extra buses ā€” because that's when students are actually going to class," Molenaar said.

He said their bus budget is about $8 million a year and transportation fees cover more than half of it, with the rest covered by state funds.

"Right now we're using more and more parking fees to supplement the bus budget than we ever have because of all the cuts we've been getting on the state side," Molenaar said.

Because none of the proposed changes are definite since their budget has yet to be finalized, they are going through 20 different budget scenarios. He said the department has been raising the transportation fee on students' term bills fairly aggressively in order to minimize their exposure on state funds.

Students raised concerns about bus drivers not stopping at stops or not stopping when they flag down the BrunsQuick Shuttle. Molenaar and Lane said students should contact the department when this happens.

"We can actually go into NextBus and track that. If you give us the time and just get the bus number we can then see yes, they did not stop for you and bring it up and show them the video and show the bus going by," Lane said.

Molenaar said with the NextBus technology, they can go back and rewind every route and see exactly what a driver did or didn't do and can view video at their stops, which have cameras.

"We do have drivers that aren't good sometimes, and when they get a number of complaints we then ask that driver to be removed from service," Molenaar said.

Heather Brookhart

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