Pedestrian and Bicycling Commuting
USF’s Tampa Campus Master Plan has laid the groundwork by containing an adopted Long Range Bicycle Lane Plan and associated policies for the construction of on-road bicycle lanes as part of roadway improvement projects. The Master Plan also contains an adopted Long Range Pedestrian Network and associated policies for the improvement of major pedestrian corridors. (University of South Florida 2005 Campus Master Plan Update, Element 11, Transportation, Figures 11-4 and 11-11 and Goals, Objectives, and Policies, C. Pedestrian and Non-Vehicular Circulation Sub-Element, October 2006, pp. 13-15). These Plans call for enhancing pedestrian corridors with the application of design standards and landscaping from Master Plan Elements 3 and 16, adding pedestrian features at all new improved signalized intersections, and providing convenient bike racks at all new and renovated facilities (University of South Florida Tampa 2005 Campus Master Plan Update, Campus Master Plan Goals, Objectives, and Policies, Chapter 11 Transportation Element, Policies 11A.4.1, 11A.4.2 and 11A.4.3., adopted December 7, 2006). The University has already constructed four miles of bike lanes on campus. Several pedestrian/bike projects have recently been completed and provide connectivity to off-campus neighborhoods: sidewalks and bike lanes on Elm Drive from Bull Run to 50th St., sidewalks and bike lanes on Holly Drive from Maple Drive to 50th St., the shaded western extension of Sessums Pedestrian Mall from Engineering to the new 1,000-bed residence Hall at Magnolia. Additionally, bike racks are being provided with every new building constructed on campus.
There is an increase in on-campus housing and dining and other services to encourage and enable students, staff and faculty to remain on campus during the day rather than take off-campus mid-day trips. Trees, trellises, and arcades have been established to increase shade on sidewalks. The USF Division of Public Safety provides a Bicycle Anti-Theft Registration Program. Both the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the USF Bull Runner Transit provide bike racks on buses. The USF Bicycle Club has been established by students in the past year. The Campus Recreation Center has planned a bicycle rental program to begin in the Fall 2009.
In partnership with the New North Transportation Alliance (NNTA), USF has received 37 bicycle U-racks in 2010, which are in the process of being placed by USF Parking and Transportation Services, throughout the campus. Some will be located inside parking garages to provide additional security and cover from weather. To supplement those provided by FPC and placed as part of new building construction, these additional racks fill in the gaps around existing buildings where additional bicycle parking is needed.
USF representatives have been actively engaged in the planning process with Hillsborough County, for the development and establishment of the University Area Multimodal Transportation District. This is a designation by the State of Florida that would channel land developer contributions toward transportation improvements that give priority to pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit. Other coordination with host local governments has included participating in and hosting the kick-off meeting for the Hillsborough County Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Committee, an effort funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, which is targeting the University area for a marketing campaign to promote safe walking. USF representatives have also been actively involved in public meetings regarding a County study to assess facility improvements to increase pedestrian safety along Fletcher Avenue near the University. in building insulation values for walls, roofs, windows, motor and equipment efficiencies, mechanical systems insulation, and controls for HVAC and lighting.
The USF Tampa Campus runs a biodiesel-fueled (at one time, 100 percent biodiesel, but not presently) fare-free campus bus service, the Bull Runner Transit. The Bull Runner Transit provides service for trips within the campus, as well as connecting to neighborhoods to the east, north and west of the campus, connecting to the HART University Area Transit Center, and providing service to the University Mall, located west of the campus. The system serves almost one million riders per year and that number is expected to increase now that a new Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) system has been implemented. The AVL offers several services including the ability to see arrival predictions for all buses at all stops, the ability to track buses along the routes so riders can plan their day accordingly, and the ability to set up alerts for recurring use via text message and bus viewing in real-time. In April 2010, USF will also implement automatic passenger counting on buses so riders will be able to know how full a bus is before it arrives. Plans are to eventually link this information to the Walk-A-BULL walk trip planner so that riders can spend less time waiting at bus stops.
Students ride fare-free on both the Bull Runner Transit and the HART regional transit system. Those who commute by transit at least two times per week have access to the free Emergency (taxi) Ride Home program. Free carpool and vanpool matching services, such as the Bay Area Commuter Services’ (BACS) Tampa Bay Ride Share, offers interested commuters a way to identify and meet others who live and work or go to school near each other and who also want to ride share. Bay Area Vanpool is another service available to USF staff, students and faculty, for groups of 7-15 commuters who live and work or go to school near one another and who can save money by co-leasing a van and sharing the ride.
Because of USF’s leadership in providing commuter options, USF is a designated member of “Best Workplaces for Commuters” a national recognition program. USF is home to the nationally recognized Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) and also works closely as a founding member of the New North Transportation Alliance (NNTA), a transportation management organization and public private partnership that seeks to reduce single occupant vehicle travel and improve air quality (University of South Florida Campus Master Plan Goals, Objectives, and Policies, USF Tampa 2005 Campus Master Plan Update, adopted December 7, 2006, Chapter 11 Transportation Element, Policy 11A.2.5). The USF Tampa Campus has been an active member in NNTA since 1994 and initially provided seed grant funding. NNTA’s first Board Chairman was the Director of USF Parking and Transportation Services. NNTA partners jointly identify and address transportation issues in the major destination center known as New North. Central to the New North service area is the USF Tampa Campus. Partners in NNTA include the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, Busch Gardens Theme Park, the University Mall, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, HART, Florida Department of Transportation, and numerous neighborhood and civic associations.
NNTA, which is staffed by CUTR, has provided bicycle safety workshops for students, staff and faculty, and distributed free titanium U-locks to reduce bicycle theft. CUTR staff has also launched, through NNTA, the annual Tampa BayCycle campaign, which encourages bicycle commuting by the USF community. CUTR staff, through NNTA, has also sponsored the printing and distribution of the Hillsborough County Bicycle Facility Map, developed by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). CUTR staff, through NNTA, has also provided detailed input as part of the Hillsborough MPO Long Range Transportation Planning Process, regarding needed bicycle and pedestrian facilities off-campus in adjacent communities where many USF students, staff and faculty live.
This past year, the NNTA Board voted to urge Hillsborough County to make good on its promise to use City Investment Tax funds to complete roadway improvements for the 22nd Street Main Street Improvement Program, a length of roadway located in one of the poorest communities in the County just west of the USF Tampa Campus. The new improvements included better sidewalks, bicycle lanes, public transit bus bays and shelters and safety improvements for pedestrians, such as cross walks, speed humps and reduced speed limits.
An hourly car rental service, WeCar (hybrid cars leased by Enterprise Rent-a-Car), launched in July 2009 is available to students, faculty, and staff at very low rates. This car rental service enables commuters, who would otherwise have to drive to campus due to the need to run errands during the day, to leave their cars at home and take transit or some other alternative mode to campus. The policy framework for supporting commuter options at USF is in place, as shown in the USF Tampa Campus Master Plan 2005, which includes objectives to reduce the impact of future traffic growth (University of South Florida 2005 Campus Master Plan Update, Element 11, Transportation, A. Traffic Sub-Element, December 7, 2006, pp. 4-10).
In addition, USF Facilities Planning and Construction is actively engaged with Hillsborough County and its host local government, the City of Tampa in the state campus master planning process and the local government comprehensive planning process. This planning process lays out the long-term planning for land use mix, and densities/intensities that enable the further development and redevelopment of off-campus housing within the service area of the Bull Runner Transit and within walking and bicycling distance to the campus
Motor Vehicle Idling
Multiple edge campus intersection improvements have been completed in collaboration with Hillsborough County to reduce greenhouse gas/air pollution due to excessive idle time.
USF’s U-Pass program averages 31,500 HART rides per month. Students ride fare-free and faculty and staff pay just $0.25 per trip. USF’s involvement in the dialogue with public partners has positioned the USF Tampa Campus to be served by major transit improvements. These include HART’s application to the Federal Transit Administration for New Starts funds for a rapid transit system connecting downtown Tampa to USF and beyond, and the development of a “Multi-Modal Transportation District” (MMTD) adjacent to the USF Tampa Campus in unincorporated portions of Hillsborough County. The MMTD is a Florida state designation that will give greater priority to transportation investments for pedestrian, bicycle and transit access over capacity improvements serving the automobile. Through this community engagement, USF is laying the groundwork for improvements in public transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities that will enable USF students, staff and faculty to safely commute to and from the campus without the need for a car.
Parking cost and availability stand out to be the most important reason in motivating bicycling, according to a student researcher who conducted a 2008 survey of campus bicyclists (Rana, Tejsingh  “A Survey Design of Studying Bicycle Trends at University of South Florida,” Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of South Florida, Tampa, p. 18). Indeed, this is an accomplishment, as principles of parking management can encourage use of alternative modes of transportation by managing location, availability and cost of parking. There are additional benefits to bicyclists. About 67% of survey respondents of the above cited study indicated they feel that biking has improved their health “somewhat” or “greatly” (Rana 2008, p. 25). The university has constructed four multilevel parking structures that have reduced surface parking sprawl and pedestrian/car conflicts. These efforts have eliminated 120 acres of heat islands thereby increasing the permeable areas and landscape and waterscape on campus. The university has also modified class scheduling to effect a more even distribution of parking demand thereby increasing existing classroom and facilities use. USF allows departments to offer compressed work week (CWW) to employees whose duties can be appropriately applied to a CWW schedule while maintaining job performance and satisfactory customer service. USF Human Resources Department provides guidance to managers for offering flextime. In addition, USF allows departments to offer telecommuting to employees whose duties can be appropriately applied to a telecommuting work arrangement while maintaining job performance and satisfactory customer service. USF Human Resources Department provides a telecommuting policy.
A motor vehicle procurement policy (including golf carts) exists for all campus administrative, operations and academic departments, and includes alternative fuels as an important criterion in purchase of vehicles. University extensively uses electric and gasoline golf carts to minimize operating costs and carbon footprint. Additionally, a conscious attempt is made to reduce the number of street licensed vehicles and need to make out of campus trips using street licensed vehicles. This is accomplished through increased use of on-campus stores for maintenance and office supplies. The Physical Plant is experimenting with a solar powered golf cart retrofit kit for future wider application. Additionally, Physical Plant is in the process of purchasing larger electric powered vehicles for the purpose of delivering campus mail, paper rolls, cleaning supplies, and furniture. The new electric vehicles are slated for retrofit to facilitate solar powering of the vehicles. The fossil fuel based vehicles will be retired upon arrival of the new electric vehicles.
The USF Travel and Compliance Department in Accounts Payable transitioned its processing of travel requests and reimbursements to an electronic system last year. This will enable the ability to do queries on the data to provide more detail regarding passenger miles traveled.
The USF Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) offers several courses on transportation that incorporate principles of sustainability, including “Access Management,” “Public Transportation,” “Transportation and Land Use,” and “Transportation and Society.” CUTR also provides the technical support for NNTA and numerous education programs for transportation professionals, including public transit management and bus maintenance programs, and the Florida Commuter Choice Certificate Program (FCCCP). The FCCCP provides transportation professionals in the field of transportation demand management locally, statewide, and nationally to hone their skills and knowledge in the latest developments in the field. Most recently, the training modules have been adapted to an online “webinar” format to reach out to more students and enable professionals to engage in professional development activities without having to drive or book airline flights. This has resulted in lowered emissions of criteria air pollutants (federal Clean Air Act) as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The National Center for Transit Research at USF CUTR, provides opportunities for graduate students to engage in research in public transportation. The Bull Runner consistently employs students as bus drivers. Presently, approximately 60 percent of drivers are students. The Bull Runner Transit provides real life operations experience for the students while using a readily available human resource asset.