Today, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has four primary means of transportation for students, faculty, and staff:
- Personal automobiles
- Public transit
Walking from destination to destination is by far the most common way people get around campus, and the University’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page cites that more than 14,000 students and a fair number of university faculty bring bicycles to campus to take advantage of the 4.7 miles of bicycle paths. As for driving, about 75% of all students here have a car on campus, according to U.S. News & World Report. The public transit options, run by the Champaign-Urbana Mass-Transit District (CUMTD), offer a lot of services:
- Frequent and regular buses with generally comprehensive routes
- Specialty curb-to-curb paratransit for individuals covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act
- SafeRides for safe transit after dark in remote locations
- Specific bus routes like tranSPORT for express transport to the University’s Assembly Hall on game days.
With so many options invested in by the university administration for how students, staff, and faculty can get to class, it may seem like the current system doesn’t need any improvement. However, we all know how large the Urbana-Champaign campus is–7.1 square miles of total building facilities, in fact, not including any of the distances between all these buildings–and once this is taken into account, it’s easy to understand how walking from destination to destination on a daily basis can be both unfeasible and a waste of time.
That said, the two major modes of individual transportation–biking and driving cars–aren’t perfect either. While students, faculty, and staff bringing bicycles and private automobiles to campus is fairly common, both of these require time commitments of finding parking each bike or car trip as well as significant finances in the vehicles. For example, a user-generated article from Forbes Magazine estimates the average cost of purchasing a standard bicycle at around $400, with an average maintenance cost of $100 per year. As for automobiles, Samantha from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s undergraduate student admissions blog notes that a parking permit on campus costs an average of $600 annually and also involves hefty costs like paying for gas and automobile insurance. Additionally, pedestrians are emphasized through campus infrastructure policies like frequent pedestrian crosswalks, many major roads being reconstructed as one-way streets, and low automobile speed limits, all of which are relatively high barriers for new drivers to navigate. International and out-of-state students are particularly disadvantaged as they cannot easily bring a bicycle or automobile to campus; these students would have to either rent out campus space or somehow bring the bicycles or automobiles home for the summer, and continually repeating this process throughout his or her time at the university is both costly and impractical.
Meanwhile, while the services provided by the CUMTD are very useful–often only having a few minutes for margin of error and already paid for in student tuition fees or covered in staff and faculty’s benefits–they can also be insufficient. For instance, the CUMTD does not operate on major holidays, only runs skeleton crews of bus routes every half hour after nightfall, and has limited weekend schedules. As services stand now, students, staff, and faculty who need to meet after hours, on holidays, or on weekends for extracurricular activities, group projects, or conferences cannot rely on the CUMTD. Additionally, there is an inherent lack of convenience and independence from relying on public transit in general, and being just a minute too late to board a bus can result in the unfortunate (and commonly shared) experience of being late to classes, meetings, or interviews.
One solution for these inefficiencies would be to introduce a bike-sharing program at UIUC. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the specific policy we hope to install as well as benefits of doing so!