Campus Drive, one of the University of Maryland's main thoroughfares, has been operating under restricted access for much of the summer. Starting on June 19, Campus Drive was closed to cars and then, in mid-July, to buses and other forms of transit.
The road is now expected to reopen Saturday, and Patch recently sat down with University of Maryland's director of transportation services, David Allen, to talk about why the road was closed and what the university learned over the summer about making the campus more pedestrian friendly.
College Park Patch: Was closing Campus Drive your idea?
David Allen: No. Actually, we call it "restricted access," since it never really completely closed. The road is always open to emergency vehicles, and transit buses were able to go up for part of it.
But the Facilities Master Plan that's 20 years old talks about a restricted access Campus Drive and a more pedestrian-friendly area. So folks in administrative affairs put together this test to see what it would be like if we were to restrict the access permanently. Clearly, this is nothing like the fall or spring, in terms of the volume of cars, so it's not really something that you can test completely. But there are lots of things - disabled parking, opinions of the shuttle - that can be tested during the summer.
Patch: How did the test go?
DA: I think it has gone surprisingly smoothly. There have not been significant backups. But again, the backups on campus are because of students crossing the street. So it's hard to judge traffic based on this test. On the surface and looking at it, I think it's been a success.
Patch: Why did the test happen in the summer when it's not an accurate reflection of how it's going to be during the school year?
DA: Baby steps. It's a baby step to see what it's going to be like restricting the access to Campus Drive. I think any kind of first test during the spring or fall semester would not have been wise. I think the summer was a good idea. There are things that we learned in the summer that we will adopt during the next test, whenever that may be, that will help that test go better than it would have without the summer test.
Patch: Is the next test scheduled?
DA: Not that I know of. But it will happen some time in the future.
Patch: So does this plan does look like it's going to move forward?
DA: I would think so. But there is a committee that is going to look at all the data that has been generated. We're counting cars. We're counting people on buses and getting information there. All of this information needs to be synthesized to determine if we are going to move forward. It's just an observation, but I suspect that it will move forward and that there will be another test.
Patch: What did the data you did gathered reveal? Are there any problems?
DA: There are some issues there, yes. There's some issues with disabled parking; there's some issues with access to the health center, to the garage, to the union. [During] half of the test, shuttle buses could go up Campus Drive, and half of it they couldn't. I think that buses should be able to go up Campus Drive. I think that restricting cars is a reasonable thing. In the Facilities Master Plan, there are hubs, and the off-campus buses come to the hub, and then you get on another bus and the hub buses take you around campus. I think that process could deter people, because changing buses is a hassle. So we'll be looking at that, too.
Patch: I guess I'm a little confused. If the goal is to make it easier for people to use public transit and to walk around campus, why couldn't buses go up?
DA: If it's truly pedestrian friendly, then nothing's going up.
Patch: By it's nature, it's not really pedestrian friendly because it's a hill. I'm pretty spry, and I'm out of breath by the time I get up that hill.
DA: I guess that's part of the whole test. If you really want to see a pedestrian-centered space, that includes removing buses, too. There would be like, a bus every minute, let's say. So how does a bus every minute affect the pedestrian-ness of the thoroughfare? There are webcams and things that are getting a sense of how it looks, with buses and without them, with cars and without them. And all the counting mechanisms around campus are going to stay during the fall, so theoretically, you could extrapolate. If we have 10 cars, then we have 10 times more of a situation in the fall than we did during the summer.
Patch: Has it been a problem for you personally getting up here?
DA: No. But there are two parking lots, H and HH, on Campus Drive that are closed. Although, I've not heard from them significantly. But they're out of their parking lots.
Patch: You haven't heard any mutterings?
DA: Just a couple. Far less than five, maybe two or three. But it could be that campus says, "We're doing this," so why complain?
Patch: I read that there was an uproar on campus when the plan was initially unveiled.
DA: Oh, absolutely.
Patch: Suffice to say, the backlash wasn't what you anticipated?
DA: My view is that the uproar was about transit. The students were concerned that if you stop transit - and the university wants to promote transit - those two things don't really go together. That was their biggest concern. This test may not answer that question.