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Planning Office Survey Paves the Way For Possible Transportation Changes

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

By Jennifer Chung
Staff reporter

The Planning Office has released its semi-annual transportation survey to collect input from members of the MITcommunity.

Initially distributed in early November, the transportation survey has questions for all walks of life. The survey asks about all modes of transportation, including mere walking, and deals with all use of transportation, including travelling from off-campus to an on-campus office, or ambling from a dormitory room on the outskirts of West Campus to 10-250.

The survey comes in three formats - one for on-campus students, one for off-campus students, and one for faculty and staff members; the off-campus students' survey is the longest one. According to Michael S. Ramming G, who created the survey, more faculty and staff surveys have been turned in than both types of student surveys combined.

"Unfortunately, the undergraduates are especially underrepresented, and the number of on-campus students' surveys we've received is low," said Ramming.

Survey gives data for support

One of the main purposes of the survey is to see where MIT students' sentiments lie. Many potential ideas could be implemented, if only there was more support.

"Someone suggested that we get a monorail,"said Lydia S. Snover, assistant director for planning information in the Planning Office. "We're considering an on-campus shuttle as an alternative."

"How should the transportation money be spent?"Snover said."Even walkers' needs are being considered; there's a question on the survey, for instance, which asks if we should have better landscaping."

"Do drivers want the roads around campus to be improved? Should there be smoother sidewalks for roller-bladers? Would bicyclists like more inside bike lockers? Or should we spend the money on upgrading communications systems, so that people can work from home?" Snover said.

Other possibilities include offering an airport shuttle for students, adding more crosswalks or even tunnels by the west campus dormitories, or having shuttles for travel from the farthest dormitories to the main campus. The latter idea might become more enticing as the weather gets colder, Snover pointed out.

Survey utilized by many groups

Additionally, the faculty-headed parking and transportation implementation task group, which is separate from the Planning Office, has used some of the information from past surveys to recommend consequential transportation changes.

The task group recommended subsidizing MBTA passes; however, based on several things, including a general parking and transportation survey in January of 1994, the task group also recommended increasing the cost for a parking permit from $20 to its current price of roughly $300.

Another reason for the survey is because of federal, state, and local regulations. MIT is required to have relatively updated information about transportation practices - the government can audit at any time to make sure that the information has been filed. Since the entire survey process (including creating the survey and analyzing the results) can take nine to twelve months to complete and several thousand dollars, MIT only runs a survey once every few years.

"In Cambridge, there is a local ordinance having to do with how many people are parked here," Snover said. Also, construction on campus has displaced several parking lots. "We'll need to have a new garage," Snover said, adding that some of the results from this survey will be used to fulfill information requirements if and whenMIT tries to create new parking areas.

Saferide questions included

Originally, a separate survey for Saferide was going to be released in the spring; however, it was easier to incorporate Saferide questions on the current survey, for comparison purposes.

"We know that there are students who care about Saferide," Snover said. "The question of expansion comes in, but we can't make a case without more data."There are several things which could happen with Saferide. "Should SafeRide be in service 24 hours a day? Should there be bigger buses? And what about the safety issues?" she said.

Other issues explored

Aside from transportation issues, the Planning Office will be able to use the survey results in other areas. For instance, some of the results from the survey will dictate how dormitory housing grows.

According to Snover, expansion is no longer planned to occur on the east side of campus. "It is the intention that Vassar will become a campus street,"Snover said; "All of the potential undergraduate housing sites are on Vassar." This is partly in response to a project by theMBTA involving the urban ring, which, if implemented, would involve mass transit along the northern part of MIT's campus.

MBTAproject involves MIT area

"The urban ring project is currently a major investment project," said Clinton Bench '94, MBTA transit planner. "The term urban ring refers to the circumferential corridor outside of downtown Boston."

"Some people perceive that the MBTA is a radially-oriented system,"Bench said. "That is, the focus is on downtown Boston. Urban ring recognizes alternative commuting patterns."For instance, some commuters may go from one side of the urban ring to the other, not needing to go downtown.

The urban ring would provide for cross-town connections, and part of its aim would be to better distribute passengers. "Take the commuter rails," said Bench. "There are lots of tiny stops in the suburbs, but there are only a few stops downtown. Perhaps more people would use transit if there was an opportunity to transfer before getting downtown."

"There are currently eight alternatives with the urban ring project," said Anne S. Galbraith, MBTAdeputy director of planning. "Most of the combinations involve some way of getting from Sullivan Square to Ruggles,"with buses going to the airport and JFK/UMass on the ends, respectively.

Of those eight alternatives, several directly incorporate one specific mode of transportation - for instance, adding more buses - and a few involve mixed modes of transportation. One potential idea is to create a branch of the rapid transit orange line at Sullivan. If that were implemented, a T-stop might be built directly under MIT at 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Galbraith said.

"We've held several workshops about urban ring in the past eight months," Galbraith said. "There will be another public workshop this winter, and the study should be completed in mid-1998."

The survey will be available until the end of December at either the Planning Office or at travel97.