The results of a recent transportation study exploring the parking habits of those who park on campus, has been used to consider policy alternatives to reduce UCSB’s traffic and parking problems.

In the study, funded by the California Partners in Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH), 2,300 people were surveyed on various modes of transportation used to get to campus. For nine months – beginning in April and ending in December of 2004 – faculty, staff and graduate and undergraduate students were asked via e-mail to participate in the online survey. The findings of the study were used to come up with a number of transportation alternatives to ease parking traffic on campus. The survey was lead by Val Noronha, director of the Vehicle and Transportation Analysis Laboratory and Rick Church, a professor in UCSB’s Geography Dept.

Noronha said that the resulting report on Spatial and Temporal Utility Modeling to Increase Transit Ridership would be a baby step toward finding a solution to the parking problem at UCSB. Although the study was done specifically for UCSB, Noronha said the findings of the study would be applicable to other large employment centers nationwide.

City officials and transportation planners are still in the process of reviewing the study and have not yet approved any solutions, Noronha said.

Data collected from the survey shows that the average travel time to campus ranges from 20-30 minutes. The majority of travelers do not make multi-purpose or multi-stop trips on their way to campus – suggesting a low number of carpoolers – and the most common form of transportation reported was bicycle. According to researchers, this last finding was partially due to the large number of undergraduate respondents.

Based on the findings of the study, the report suggested raising prices of on-campus parking to influence drivers to find alternatives. Survey results demonstrated that people would only be discouraged from buying on-campus parking permits if they exceeded an annual cost of $500.

The report also suggested, as solution to the parking problem, the creation of off-campus parking structures with a shuttle service to transport people to and from campus. Survey respondents said this solution would only be effective and worthwhile to them if the structure were located approximately 14 minutes away.

The report also found that 30 percent of those surveyed had never used buses as a form of transportation, do not know where the nearest bus stop is located and do not have any knowledge of bus time schedules. Noronha said the information suggests the public transportation system in Santa Barbara remains largely unused and that people are participating more in single occupant vehicle transportation.

“It seems that there is a perceptional divide among those who do use the bus system and those who do not,” he said. “There are those who do find that it is comfortable and convenient, and those who do not believe that it is an efficient or comfortable way to travel.”

Noronha said he believes this perceptional divide will have to be addressed before travelers initiate any change in transportation and begin to fully utilize public transit.

To increase knowledge and use of public transit, the study mentions a Transit Week Incentive Program in which travelers would be encouraged to use the bus system and would be rewarded with small incentives to continue bus use in the future. Noronha believes that this kind of program would encourage and promote transit use.

“It doesn’t take much; it will only take 200-300 successes to make a big dent in reducing traffic and parking expenses for the university,” Noronha said.

In addition to active campaigns promoting transit, the report also suggests scheduling classes and events at UCSB during the evening and midday when traffic is low and parking is in low demand, creating more express bus routes with fewer stops and creating parking incentives for carpoolers.

Also, the study suggests the possibility of increased telecommuting whereby workers would work out of their homes certain days of the week and would be available by telephone or e-mail, thus reducing traffic loads on certain days of the week.

Church said more research will have to be conducted for the cost analysis of policy alternatives, the consideration of train use will have to be studied in depth, and meetings with city officials in the near future before any changes are made.

“The county is pursuing a number of alternatives so it will be interesting to see what the future five years will hold for traffic and parking,” Noronha said.