Study results determine Long Range Transportation Plan for C-U

By Nick Zombolas

As Champaign-Urbana continues to develop and as the population gets larger, plans are being made to improve transportation for the community. The Champaign-Urbana area, along with the village of Savoy, is helping with the plans as part of the ongoing Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS).

In order to determine the transportation needs of the cities, Cynthia Hoyle, city transportation planner, said the study asked for the public’s opinion.

“There was a lot of public input,” she said. “They did a fantastic job on the public interest process for this plan. There were several different kinds of surveys and comment cards that asked the public what kind of improvements they would want to see.”

Officials involved in the study recently introduced the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), which is based on the study and details how transportation systems will develop over the next 30 years.

The study also promotes public involvement during a 30-month planning process. Although this phase of the process concludes this month, Hoyle said participation by community members is still encouraged.

“We are taking the basic goals of the public and identifying them to come up with various transportation scenarios,” she said. “It is beneficial to have continuous public opinion coming in.”

Hoyle also said the study covers the Champaign, Urbana and Savoy area because that is where officials predict the most development will occur within the next 20 years.

In addition to identifying the problems with and improvements needed for the existing transportation system, Hoyle said organizers and officials of the LRTP want to increase the safety of transportation systems both for automobiles and pedestrians.

“We always want to continue to improve safety for the public while transportation is being utilized,” she said.

Rita Black, engineer for the Champaign County Planning Commission, said transportation accessibility will be enhanced in addition to preserving many factors of the current systems.

“We want to improve mobility for drivers and safety for pedestrians and bikers in these urbanized areas,” she said. “These areas need to be improved because we have many bikers, pedestrians and transit systems. About 25 percent of transportation is done by these three modes.”

As the transportation plan progresses, it will continue to have an impact on the University.

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) was once working on a plan to bring a fixed guide-way system to Champaign-Urbana. The system would have provided transportation to campus in the form of a tram. According to Tom Costello, assistant managing director for the MTD, the plan and its $178 million price tag received criticism from the community and the city councils.

Urbana City Council Alderman James Hayes, Jr., said the tram alternative was too expensive.

“We voted that it was OK for the MTD to continue a study, but we weren’t going to give them any money,” he said. “We didn’t want to take money out of the budget for the MTD. We had our own needs.”

As part of the study and the organization’s involvement with the plan, the MTD is also looking to change current bus routes, improve transfers and cut down on the number of stops on routes. Also, the MTD is considering denoting certain lanes on streets to become bus lane routes to make the routes run more efficiently.

Hoyle said that despite these plans the possibility of a tram still remains.

“It has not been turned down for good,” she said. “I think the community did not understand the problem. They just saw the solution proposed before hearing the problem.”

Paul Bradarich, sophomore in LAS, said the LRTP might be a better option than the tram.

“I don’t know how necessary a tram would be on a college campus,” he said. “Looking at a plan that far into the future seems smart because these cities are always growing.”

To begin improving transportation options, the MTD has already installed global positioning satellite locating systems to notify riders of the next available bus to come to certain stops.

Over time, transportation improvements will continue on campus. These improvements could provide growth to the University and the surrounding communities.

Hoyle said by conducting the study, the community may eventually be spending less money on transportation.

“It would cost the taxpayers less if we implement a new plan,” she said. “It would cost over a million dollars more if we kept the existing transportation system and the community continued to grow the way it is.”