Changes on campus equate to more students bussing

A lack of parking and an increase in international students leads to a rise in UPASS usage

Noticing more of your fellow students using city transit? Since 2015, UPASS usage at TRU has seen a 68 per cent increase. (Christian Varty/The Omega)

It’s no secret that students at TRU are taking the bus more often now. Bus riders on popular routes like Gleneagles and the North Shore exchange may have seen an increase in students, especially during early mornings and early evenings.

TRU’s sustainability office director, Jim Gudjonson and research assistant, Aaron Wiebe, gave statistics and helped shed light on why students may be using public transit more often.

“If we go back four years (to 2015) we had 34,000 people using the UPASS in the month of September,” said Gudjonson regarding statistics. “On average, 21.5 times each (person), for a total of 74,000 UPASS uses.”

Gudjonson then compared these statistics to last September in 2018.

“We went from 34,000 students using it each month to 51,000,” he said.

Overall he says there has been a 68 per cent growth rate overall from 2015 to now.

“I think overall the student numbers are up but the demographics are different. We have more international students,” Gudjonson said regarding why the rise in UPASS uses may have occurred. This has led to an increase of students on campus who are able to use the transit system.

There have also been more buses running during the busier times of the day, allowing more convenient times for students to take the bus. Aaron Wiebe says that domestic enrolment is steady but the number of international students has jumped.

“We think (student enrolment) is one piece but it’s a small piece,” Gudjonson added.

Another contributor to the increase in bus usage is the change in the parking framework on campus. Because of construction on campus and the closure of parking lots, students have fewer options when it comes to parking on campus. Parking lots close to Old Main and other buildings on campus are limited, causing students to park a distance away in Lots N or W.

Gudjonson also acknowledged the price of parking on campus.

“Our parking framework, which is different now, makes it more expensive to park in the centre of campus,” he said. “If you’re going to be pushed out to the peripheral and have to walk 10 minutes then maybe it’s now more convenient to take the bus.”

The lack of parking has caused students to seek out other modes of transportation. Options available to students include the RideShark app, where students can contact others to carpool, the Zipcar option and the internal bike share on campus.

Gudjonson added that TRU has been “incentivizing people to get on their bicycle and to walk more through various programs.”

“We have our bike share program, we have our e-bike purchase program and we are seeing a pretty good uptake in (those),” he added.

Although there are many options for alternative transportation to campus, there are still ways that they could be better. Gudjonson says that transit could still be improved, more alternate strategies could be used and that the promotion of these alternative strategies could be done better.

“We can do a better job promoting, whether it’s bike share, car share or RideShark, but those numbers are up for us a lot too,” Gudjonson said. “We think the parking framework, we think the changing demographics and also a small part, the construction and closure of some parking in the core, has also pushed people to think about other ways to get to campus.”