Should UD buses be open to the pub­lic?

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By BROOKE SCHULTZ bschultz@ches­pub.com

Re­cent pub­lic meet­ings have rekin­dled an old de­bate: Should Ne­wark res­i­dents be al­lowed to ride Univer­sity of Delaware buses?

The de­sire for a part­ner­ship on bus trans­porta­tion resur­faced last month, with city coun­cil ex­press­ing a keen in­ter­est in work­ing with the univer­sity to ex­pand the pub­lic trans­porta­tion of­fer­ings in the city.

“We have a fan­tas­tic quar­tet po­ten­tially of trans­porta­tion sys­tems here in Ne­wark, if we could co­or­di­nate them all,” Coun­cil­man Chris Hamil­ton said. “A large part of that is UD; the buses go ev­ery­where, and they even have hy­dro­gen buses.”

DART, Ce­cil Tran­sit and the city’s Unic­ity bus ser vice have more than 10 routes through­out Ne­wark, but ac­cess to univer­sity buses would al­low for more ro­bust cov­er­age of the city via pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

While there is over­lap be­tween the pub­lic and pri­vate ser­vices, UD’s buses run routes on roads not ser­viced by the other tran­sit com­pa­nies, like through Academy Street, Pa­per Mill Road and Wy­oming Road.

To in­te­grate ser­vices, both UD and the city have to come to the ta­ble, how­ever.

The con­ver­sa­tion briefly opened dur­ing UD’s pre­sen­ta­tion to city coun­cil on the univer­sity’s im­pact on eco­nomic im­pact in Septem­ber, when Alan Brang­man, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, said that the univer­sity could “prob­a­bly do more” to col­lab­o­rate with the city.

“If we could come up with a bet­ter trans­porta­tion sys­tem, jointly

with the city, maybe that’s one of those things we can do bet­ter than we do now,” he said. “Cer­tainly, we have the ex­per­tise to try to fig­ure out how to do that.”

The dis­cus­sion was re­newed at a city coun­cil meet­ing last week when Heather Du­ni­gan, prin­ci­pal plan­ner for WILMAPCO, talked about her or­ga­ni­za­tion’s 2050 trans­porta­tion plan.

“I can say that other univer­sity tran­sit sys­tems have es­tab­lished joint agree­ments with their mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to al­low shared ac­cess to the buses, so it might be an ar­range­ment where UD stu­dents were given, as part of their tu­ition, free ac­cess to DART, if they show their ID cards. In ex­change, the com­mu­nity of Ne­wark [could] show an ID or buy a pass or some ar­range­ment to al­low them ac­cess [to UD buses],” she said at the meet­ing. “We haven’t reached that point of rec­om­men­da­tion yet for Ne­wark, but I do know that it’s been done else­where suc­cess­fully.”

An­drea Boyle Tip­pett, a spokes­woman for the univer­sity, said UD is look­ing to ex­pand rid­er­ship, though it has no de­tails cur­rently.

Tip­pett said that the univer­sity’s buses are a pri­vate trans­porta­tion sys­tem be­cause they are owned, op­er­ated and funded through UD.

“We re­ceive no state or fed­eral fund­ing to as­sist in sup­port­ing

bus op­er­a­tions, and thus, can limit rid­er­ship,” she ex­plained. “For the safety of the stu­dents and to as­sist in man­ag­ing ca­pac­ity of our cur­rent sys­tem, UD pol­icy cur­rently al­lows only UD-af­fil­i­ated stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff to ride.”

Du­ni­gan noted that the Ne­wark Tran­sit Im­prove­ment Part­ner­ship com­mit­tee was formed in 2017 in or­der to im­prove col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the var­i­ous tran­sit ser­vices, make them more user-friendly and at­tract more riders, she said.

The com­mit­tee is com­posed of UD, the city of Ne­wark, DART, Ce­cil Tran­sit and WILMAPCO. That in­ter­nal anal­y­sis mor­phed into a more for­mal study, she said.

“As part of the an­nual plan­ning pro­gram WILMAPCO does, we re­ceived a re­quest from DART and Ne­wark to study how we could im­prove tran­sit in Ne­wark,” she said.

For now, she said that they don’t know if a joint ef­fort on buses will be a rec­om­men­da­tion that comes out of the study, but said the group is work­ing to­ward more tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis and out­reach to un­der­stand what the pub­lic wants.

The work be­gan over the sum­mer with a sur­vey of bus riders and then con­tin­ued with talk­ing to DART driv­ers to gauge their ob­ser­va­tions of what was work­ing well. Com­mu­nity and busi­ness sur­veys are on­line now and a pub­lic work­shop is set for Nov. 13 at city hall from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

“I’m ex­cited, from the coun­cil meet­ing, that this is pri­or­ity for the city of Ne­wark and coun­cil be­cause that means there will be a in­creased in­ter­est in this,” Du­ni­gan said.

At the meet­ing, Hamil­ton rec­om­mended giv­ing the univer­sity a push to open up con­ver­sa­tion about a col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“I’m hop­ing that we all swing back with [Caitlin Olsen, univer­sity li­ai­son] and ob­vi­ously con­tinue echo­ing that through­out the univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

Tip­pett said the univer­sity is lis­ten­ing.

“The univer­sity has and con­tin­ues to par­tic­i­pate in con­ver­sa­tions re­gard­ing the trans­porta­tion sys­tem through­out Ne­wark,” Tip­pett said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ

UD stu­dents dis­em­bark from a univer­sity-run bus out­side Smith Hall on Wed­nes­day.

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