Campus Transport Solutions
Texas A&M's Transportation Solution
How often are you late to class? Do you often find yourself stressing about getting around on campus in a timely manner?
Well, both of these questions can be attributed to the problems that campus transportation currently experiences.
The two main problems we have here today lay with the existing bus system and the bike share system.
Vs. Bike Share System
Perhaps the largest issues facing the bus system are the fact that busses are over crowded and inflexible in their scheduling.
Because the on campus transportation problems are the the largest contributor to the problem, we researched the routes and determined that on campus routes are more crowded.
According to the Texas A&M transportation web page on transit facts, linked here, the most trafficked on campus route is route 6, the 12th Man. Route 6 has an average daily ridership of 5,300 people and has 4 busses assigned to it, leaving every 10 minutes. For comparison, also from the same page on transit facts, the most trafficked off campus route is route 36, Cotton Bowl. Route 36 has an average daily ridership of 5,600 people and has 6 busses assigned to it, with busses leaving every 5 minutes.
This is an issue because with roughly the same daily passenger count moved, the off campus route has 50% more busses. This leads to overcrowding on the most popular on campus route, frustrated students and headaches for all.
In addition to the overcrowding issue, bus scheduling is inflexible and not responsive to demand, especially during the evening hours. According to the Texas A&M interactive webpage for bus routes, linked here, after 7:30 pm all busses cut back on service. After 7:30, all busses switch to limited service until 12:30 am when service stops. This leads to bottlenecks on each subsequent bus and the potential for frustration.
Bike Share System Issues
First, we will look at some of the background as to why bike share systems are doomed to failure. In one of the most closely watched bike share systems in the nation, New York's program is struggling financially. In an online article for the Washington Post, Emily Badger finds that New York's system is losing tens of millions of dollars annually despite high ridership and year long service subscriptions.
Closer to campus, Texas A&M's own Maroon Bike system is limited by a checking out process that is too cumbersome. In an online article for ABC 40 KRHD found here, Eric Pointer explores what the process is for checking out one of these Maroon Bikes. Eric found that first the student first has to fill out a complicated online form, then go to a key station, some of which are in controlled areas of campus, such as certain south side campus dorms. Next, the student must swipe a card, get the right key, then go back to the bikes to unlock it.
After the student has completed the ride, they must return the bike to the original location and reverse the process to secure the bike and avoid any late fees.
-- Alan Shepstone
Causes of Problems for the Texas A&M Bus System
The Texas A&M bus system is plagued by both delays and overcrowding due to a limited number of buses and due to heavy traffic in the College Station area. The TAMU Transportation Services website, linked here, explains that they only have 80 buses available to them. These buses are split up between on-campus routes, off-campus routes, paratransit, and University shuttle services. These buses must often deal with heavy traffic, especially on Aggie game days. In a Houston news article by KHOU, it was shown that Texas A&M had given one million dollars to the city of College Station to improve traffic. This money was mostly used to optimize the timing of traffic lights, but the effect on traffic was minimal at best, and problems still persist. Because riding the bus is a necessity for some, the issues with overcrowding and delays will continue unless a different option is presented.
There are many inconveniences involved with using the Maroon Bike program. One of the most common is the location of the Maroon Bike stations. The Maroon Bike Homepage shows all of their locations, and they are all limited to the northeast of campus, close to Northgate. While this may be convenient if you are in need of a non-motorized mode of transport on a Friday or Saturday night, it is far less convenient if you need to get to class from the Commons. According to Google Maps, a student living in the Commons would need to walk about two thirds of a mile just to get to the closest Maroon Bike Station. That is a ridiculously long way to walk just to get to a mode of transport. Even if they do rent a bike, the possibility of it being stolen is very real. Bikes, especially on a crowded campus like Texas A&M, are very easy to steal, even if locked up. In a College Station news article by KAGS TV, a statistic was presented that 167 bikes were reported stolen during a one year period between 2012 and 2013. With issues like these, the Maroon Bike program is, at best, difficult and inconvenient to use.
With a Segway rental system on campus, students will be punctual for lectures regardless of late or full buses. In order to achieve this objective, we are suggesting Texas A&M to have multiple rental stations throughout the huge campus. Examples of place on campus that can have rental stations are Memorial Student Center, Blocker, Sbisa, West Campus, and basically anywhere that has high volumes of human traffic. Another way would be to analyze the current bus routes and identify the routes that have the highest number of riders. From there, we can then choose the appropriate locations for rental stations. With the implementation of this system, whenever students need a Segway, they can just go to a rental station, hop on a unit, and wave goodbye to their friends at the bus stops.
Another way the Segway rental system can affect the on campus bus system is by redirecting the human traffic that the buses encounter. According to the website of Texas A&M's Transport Services, titled 'Transit Fact and Figures', there are approximately 53000 people who ride the buses daily. Thus, if there is a Segway rental system, this amount of riders can be reduced, effectively making the trips more comfortable for everyone without having to ride in cramped buses.
The campus Segway rental system can also solve the problems that the bike share system encountered. The first problem that the bike share system encountered was the fact that this program is only limited to North Campus. As mentioned previously, the campus Segway rental system will have multiple rental stations throughout not only North Campus but also West Campus. This will allow students to travel between these two parts of the campus with ease.
For the rental system, we are recommending a rental process that is simple and clear. First, if a student wants to rent a Segway, he or she can just walk up to a student manned rental station and present a form of ID, either the student's student ID or driver's license, and this ID will be held by the staff. Once this is done, the student will leave the rental station with a Segway unit. Upon the return of the Segway, the student will be charged according to the number of hours rented. A reason to have student manned stations is so that any problems on site can be dealt with a human, instead of the fully automated bike share system.
An added benefit of the Segway is that it is safer than bikes. According to the spec sheet published on the website of Segway Incorporated, the company that invented Segway, with a top speed of only 12.5 mph, the i2 model, as shown in the picture, is suitable for getting around campus without posing any harm to pedestrians. In a different online article published on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), written by the WPI Media Relations, WPI has been using Segways on campus since 2002 without any major accidents so far. In addition, as stated in the user manual available on the website of Segway Incorporated, the i2 and x2 models have a feature called 'Security Mode' that essentially locks the wheels and will sound alarms when moved after this mode is activated. This is exactly like the security systems that we have for cars. Also, this feature eliminates the need for parking racks like what the university has prepared for bikes. Hence, it is clear that Segways are safer than bikes in terms of danger posed to pedestrians as well as theft prevention.
Since Texas A&M is a public university, costs are important for all campus projects. Thus, we are proud to say that the Segway rental system is not only cheap, but it will also generate revenue for the university. With a price tag of $6500, 76 units of i2 model can be purchased with $500,000. Assuming that all units are rented for $2/hour and 9 hours/day, this upfront cost can be recuperated with exactly 365 business days. Thus, the ROI is one year and any profit generated after that is net revenue for the university.
With these facts and figures, we implore the Texas A&M Board of Regents to implement this Segway rental system as soon as possible with the help of Campus Transport Solutions. Sit back and enjoy the ride while Campus Transport Solutions solve your transportation problems.
By: Francis Wong