:: Running from the Thought Police ::

Reality-Based Thoughts, Ruminations, and Unsolicited Opinions of a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student alumnus and employee.
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:: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 ::

CATS Safety Subcommitee Meeting

As part of what's becoming a recurring feature, here's my report on this week's meeting. For those who are coming in late to all this, on 29 September 2005 a freshman in ACES, Sarah Channick, was run over and killed by a CUMTD bus. This was the third bus vs. pedestrian incident in two years, second bus vs. pedestrian fatality in the same span of time, and third pedestrian vs. vehicle fatality in three years. In reaction to Sarah's death, the Safety subcommittee of the Campus Area Transportation Study, a multi-agency group that was formed after the first bus vs. pedestrian fatality, scheduled a series of weekly meetings to present to, in the span of a month, offer a series of recommendations that would have an immediate impact on transportation safety in the University district.

The last meeting was largely a brainstorming session to come up with ideas. Today's meeting was supposed to sort through those ideas into short and long term ideas, and deal with what comes next. In reality, it didn't get that far, instead becoming a slightly less organized second brainstorming session, and as a result a subcommittee (of the subcommittee?) was selected to do the sorting.

The group did approve a speed limit of 20 mph in the University district for all roads that were brought down to 25 mph by the imposition of the district. The law enforcement representatives in the group noted that 5 mph doesn't make much difference in the damage of pedestrian vs. vehicle collisions, it does make a more pronounced difference between campus and the surrounding area. Also, the increased inconvenience of driving on campus with the reduced speed limit is not to be discounted. While changing speed limits on university-controlled roads is merely an administrative action, the two cities need to pass ordinances to make the change. The earliest possible date I heard tossed about was 2 November, assuming that both cities pass the ordinances needed. The limit change will be permanent, however it will be under "annual review" so that it can be easily brought back to 25 mph once some longer-term solutions are figured out.

I also learned some interesting information reguarding safety on campus as a whole.
According to previous CATS agreements, the MTD never makes stops to alight/disembark passengers at the intersection of Green and Wright. If you've ever wondered why your bus keeps going at that intersection, now you know.

The "all walk" signal phase at Green and Wright came about as part of the reduction of lanes on Green Street. Because green lights are so short at that intersection, the lack of pedestrians during that phase allows more cars to make turns and keep Green Street from backing up. The "all walk" also allows for diagonal movement across the intersection.

Part of the reason why Wright Street is so weirdly laid out is because they'd prefer to close the street to non-University/MTD traffic, but the presence of private property on the street keeps them from doing so. While most of the churches there have their traffic at off-peak times, the sororities would likely take more of an exception to the loss of street access during the day. Since the street couldn't be closed, CATS elected to make the area a labyrinth to discourage drivers who weren't specifically going to that part of campus.

The meandering route of the 22 Illini was drawn up by a student committee with an eye towards late-night safety, aiming more to provide transportation from outlying areas to common campus destinations. The frequency of the route, once per ten minutes, is designed to get students to ride the bus rather than walk in the middle of the night. The bus' frequency does decrease during the days on weekends, but in light of the route's purpose I personally think that the ten minute freqency during weekdays should be reexamined to reduce pedestrian/bus exposure.
The MTD, besides providing a map of all places where their busses turn on campus, is also reviewing the placement of a couple of its stops in the campus area to reduce pedestrian vs. vehicle conflicts. Illinipundit will also be happy that the question of whether or not there are too many busses on campus was brought up. The problem is that the campus is smack dab in the middle of the community and is a common destination for many people coming in from outlying areas, meaning that many community routes need to hit campus at some point in order to get decent ridership. Also, the function of a number of campus routes, especially the 23 Scamp and the 24, is to reduce the presence of cars on campus by providing transport to and from distant parking areas like E-14. The reduction of overall vehicular traffic being a goal of CATS, it seems fair to me to trade a few bus trips for the exponentially greater number of cars that they replace. I do know that the MTD is heavily considering straightening the route of the 22 Illini as it heads from the Quad into campustown, so that it will no longer turn South at Sixth and Chalmers but instead run West to Fourth, and then turn North and resume its regular route.

Another comment I heard was that studies (USDOT?) have shown that Education, Enforcement, and Physical layout are all necessary to deal with pedestrian safety, and that all three are required to be really effective. The educational component'll likely be the more immediate action, the enforcement of traffic laws for both pedestrians and vehicles is being stepped up, and the physical improvements have mostly already been recommended and are waiting for funding.

As before, I have more notes and materials than I'm putting up here, and I'll see what the DI has before I post more.

:: The Squire 12:20 AM :: email this post :: ::


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