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New Student Union, suggestions for student transportation

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I

am absolutely thrilled about the student union that is planned for our campus. A student union on the southern end of the Quad will help fill our campus in very nicely.

Before it is built, however, we need to find money. Students stepped up to the task by approving a fee to fund the student union. Now, the university needs to find funding for the remainder.

A couple of unmet needs the campus has are better connections to downtown and transit services that our more urban students expect. I served as a student member of the Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) in May 2012. One of the recommendations was to bring more students downtown. A great way to do that is with transit-oriented development, or TOD. TOD is a type of development that is structured around bus routes and other “alternative” forms of transportation.

At present, UIS is served by three public transit routes. Two serve the campus during the day and a third serves the campus in the evening.

One solution for funding the remainder of the student union would be to include transit in its development. Numerous grants from the Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Housing & Urban Development are out there to be had. If the student union were to include a transit plaza, with indoor waiting space and GPS monitors for passengers to see when the next bus would arrive, a strong grant proposal could be written and part of the cost for the student union could be defrayed by federal grants.

Such a proposal would achieve several goals at once: part of the student union would be funded, the campus would be better-connected to downtown, and the university could continue to attract scholars from urban areas, who typically expect transit when they move to a college campus.

I encourage the administration to form a strong partnership with the mass transit district in Springfield and to explore ways to form a mutually-beneficial arrangement of strong transit connections to the campus while also providing a steady stream of passengers and, in turn, passenger revenue. Additional revenue could then be allocated toward expanding service more.

The Millennial generation drives less than its predecessors. Including more transit options on campus is a great way to send a message that UIS is a good place for Millennials to attend college. UIS is one of the last public universities in the state to get on the “transit bandwagon.” If Macomb, Carbondale, and Edwardsville can have great transit, why can’t we?

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