March 18, 2003
Purdue, CityBus partnership a driving force for community
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. While the term "win-win" often conceals more than it reveals, it's hard to find a loser in the Purdue University-CityBus partnership, as traffic congestion and parking problems ease, and university staff and students ride free.
Purdue students are voting with their feet: They took more than 2.4 million rides on the bus in 2002. Purdue subsidizes CityBus with about $1 million, so students and staff can get on board by showing their university identification cards, said Jerome M. "Mike" Jasper, Purdue's manager of parking facilities.
"Each bus rider means that's one car that isn't contributing to congestion in West Lafayette and is moving us progressively to becoming a more pedestrian campus," Jasper says. "It's also important for Purdue which is in an expansionary mode to forestall building new parking garages so we have the space to build the new educational facilities we need."
Jasper says the national average construction cost for one parking garage space is $10,000 and that doesn't include land cost, ongoing maintenance or utilities.
From the CityBus point of view, the Purdue partnership has brought about growth in ridership while improving the quality of life in Greater Lafayette.
Overall ridership in Greater Lafayette was almost 3.6 million in 2002, says John Metzinger, development manager for CityBus. That's a 13.25 percent increase over 2001 and represents the largest per capita ridership in the state, according to Metzinger. Purdue riders accounted for 60 percent of CityBus' 2002 ridership.
"Purdue's impact is critical," he says. "It's great for the whole community. We'd love to have more faculty and staff who live in Lafayette and West Lafayette ride the bus."
Metzinger says the four-year-old partnership with Purdue has opened up more of Greater Lafayette as a housing option for students. And, for the ecologically minded, buses are a concrete way for Purdue students and staff to express their commitment to the environment by reducing pollution from automobile exhaust.
Chad Boutin, a Purdue science writer, says he rides the bus about three times a week for a number of reasons.
"In the big picture, I care about the environment," Boutin says. "With gas at $1.80 per gallon, I also care about my pocketbook. And the bus gets me to work with the least hassle."
CityBus has just completed a two-day on-board survey of bus riders and also has done phone surveys. Metzinger says the surveys are part of a five-year planning document for the Federal Transit Authority.
"We're trying to determine current status, unmet needs and a better sense of what people want," Metzinger says.
He says preliminary results of the phone survey show the community is positive about CityBus.
"We found 97 percent of respondents said public transportation was important to them and to the economic development of Greater Lafayette," Metzinger says. "Fifty-four percent had taken the bus.
"We found 21 percent of students and 8 percent of Purdue employees ride CityBus. What all this tells us is that there is still growth potential, particularly among Purdue's faculty and staff."
CityBus serves all of West Lafayette, Purdue and Lafayette and extends out to the Tippecanoe Mall, Klondike Road, and State Route 26 and I-65. On weekdays, buses run every half hour from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The hub for changing buses going to and from Lafayette and West Lafayette is at 200 N. Second St. in downtown Lafayette.
Purdue faculty, staff and retirees show their Purdue identification cards to ride buses. Buses are handicapped-accessible.
Writer: Mike Lillich, (765) 494-2077, email@example.com
Sources: Mike Jasper, (765) 494-9315, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Metzinger, (765) 423-2666, ext. 208, email@example.com
Chad Boutin, (765) 494-2081, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
A publication-quality photograph is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/jasper.bus.jpeg.