:: Running from the Thought Police ::

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:: Tuesday, October 11, 2005 ::

Roundup Of The Campus Area Transportation Study (CATS) Meeting

Here's my report on the CATS meeting that was held today and was open to the public.

In dealing with stuff discussed at an earlier emergency meeting, CATS will put a large subsection of the university district in a 20mph zone, with some boundary tweaking to help enforcement, as a temporarily measure until more effective changes can be discussed. A lot of physical improvements were recommended by phase one of the study, which coincidentally published its final draft nearly the same week as Channick's death. However, other than a few things, most of these changes have yet to be implemented. The draft has been approved by the University and the MTD, while the two cities are in the process of reviewing the document. Urbana will likely approve the document while appending a list of further concerns.

Because the act of turning, rather than speed, was the factor most important in both MTD fatalities, the list of physical changes will be reviewed with an eye towards places where busses turn. Bus routes themselves may be tweaked to improve safety, and street closures are on the table for discussion. The MTD reported that it was in the process of adding strobes to the front turn signals of its busses, with the prospect of beepers being held off until discussions with the larger community. The possibility of painting the word "LOOK" in crosswalks was also discussed, as were other possibilities of gaining the attention of distracted pedestrians. There was also some arcane babble about how to design the bump-outs on the intersection of Sixth and Chalmers. Campus has repainted all its crosswalks, and the City of Champaign is about to follow suit. Once a surveying crew finds the buried utilities in the area, a stop sign'll likely be placed on Sixth Street at Chalmers.

The bulk of the meeting was taken up by a brainstorming session. One interesting idea that was put forth was to mark the bus routes with paint or something that's easily identifiable. Such an idea may have merit, but I know of a number of campus street curbs that'd end up as rainbows under the plan (not that that'd be bad, it'd certainly add some local character to the campus). My major concern, though, is that routes like the 22 Illini are often moved due to construction, and keeping those markers accurate would be a challenge.

An ongoing crosswalk behavior and design study was discussed, which will hopefully have some data as early as the end of the month. The study is apparently expanding to include intersections in general, and will include both local pedestrians and drivers. Cyclists could likely be added to by raiding Campus Parking's database of bike registrations.

The current planned stage of the study is actually an education phase, and the professor who is conducting the above-mentioned crosswalk study had a good point: while educating the 10,000 or so new students/faculty/staff of the university about proper pedestrian behavior is a good idea, it may also be more effective to educate the local community of permanent drivers about the "bad" behavior of college students around campus. It was also suggested that the board should bring in an expert to deal with the education. The MTD's independent campaign to encourage pedestrians to make eye contact with drivers was encouraged. Also, an idea to encourage people to not listen extensively to cell phones or earphones while walking (on general principle of it being unsafe) was brought up repeatedly, though all concerned were at a loss of how to otherwise deal with the "electronically distracted pedestrian" problem.

The group also agreed to create focus groups of students, local drivers, MTD drivers, and the like to generate further suggestions. A desire to obtain a measure of "pedestrian counts" at intersections and a general idea of common routes was also expressed, both by the planners to better deal with the physical situation, but also by the MTD to incorporate that data into its training program.

Public comment included an opponent of reducing the speed limit, who was then responded to by another guest that half the point of having a reduced speed limit on campus was to discourage driving in the area, which is a good thing. Following the lead of one of the City of Urbana's concerns, a lot of public comment was directed towards the interaction of cyclists with pedestrians and vehicles. Education of both cyclists and pedestrians about proper use of bike paths were suggested, as well as an expansion of the bike path system into the near-campus areas not owned by the University.

CATS will continue to meet in the second-floor conference room at Illinois Terminal on Tuesdays at 3:30pm for the next four weeks. The public is still welcome to attend. Also, later in the month the City of Urbana will be holding a public meeting on the redesign of Lincoln Avenue, which is also a mess. I wasn't able to catch the time of that meeting, but it's still a bit off yet.

On a related note, the MTD's consulting bit seems to be focused on what they can do training-wise, which is a good thing. However, many have commented that some MTD drivers operate on the assumption that, due to the size of the bus, pedestrians will automatically yield to them and get out of their way, which isn't conducive to safe driving habits.

I've got more notes than even this huge mess of text lets on (wow, Communications and Citizenship in the Community merit badges were actually good for something), but this is generally the good parts version. I'm sure the DI'll have a less long-winded tomorrow.

:: The Squire 8:51 PM :: email this post :: ::


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