Committee analyzes public transit

In Campus News, Local News, News

Updated at 11:10 p.m. on March 12, 2013.

Cal State Fullerton expressed keen interest in a study to develop a public transport system that could potentially change the commute to the university for decades.

The College Connector Study, a city initiative, seeks to explore the viability of a quick link between CSUF and the Fullerton Metrolink station. It is Fullerton’s effort to encourage private investment, accommodate population growth, maximize sustainable operations and enhance quality of life.

The committee is considering different transit options, including streetcars and buses.

“We support the city’s efforts to enhance access to transit for members of the campus community,” said Berenecea Eanes, Ph.D., vice president of student affairs at CSUF.

City officials recently approached the university to secure support for the grant request. In turn, CSUF provided a letter of support to complement the grant application.

Eanes said the only role requested from the university calls for support to the grant and providing representatives to the College Connector Study Steering Committee.

The steering committee is comprised of 20 community members representing Fullerton residents, businesses, higher education and other organizations.

Kim Apel, CSUF Capital and Physical Planning manager, was selected as the member of the steering committee to represent CSUF.

The purpose of the advisory group is to involve the community in the study and build community support for the goal right from the start, he said.

Apel said the idea of improved transit from CSUF to the Metrolink station ties into the CollegeTown concept. The appeal and purpose is to improve the chances of that happening.

He said the potential project is complementary of CSUF’s goal to allow enrollment growth to occur without having to expand parking capacity proportionately.

“The Connector would attract more people to commute to and from the campus via good public transit, reducing the need to expand parking,” said Apel.

CSUF’s role within the advisory committee is to provide technical information and support to the advisory group, such as student enrollment, housing and parking data.

The university would coordinate the Connector plan with that of CollegeTown, in particular the design of future Commonwealth Avenue, and the connector’s terminal stop on campus. The study area encompasses a two-mile route and a quarter-mile buffer zone.

If the study results in a project, students could potentially have the option to use the new connector to commute to and from campus without a car or parking fees, according to Apel.

“CSUF currently subsidizes transit use by the campus community on OCTA and Metrolink, and this could potentially be extended to the connector,” Apel said.

Apel added that the city would take the lead on implementation, as it is doing now with the planning study. Once built, CSUF could potentially support operation by actively encouraging its use by the campus community.

Funds for the 12-month study stem from a grant from the California Department of Transportation received in 2012. The $270,000 grant was distributed to Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), a metropolitan planning organization that serves Fullerton.

SCAG and consultant the Planning Center, which is also a consultant to the CollegeTown project, entered into a contract in November 2012. The project kicked off behind schedule, officially in December.

Jay Eastman, senior planner, said the three mile area between the university and the station does not seem big in terms of regional context. However, having the three-mile area connected to Metrolink will provide commuters with regional access to one of the largest public universities in the nation.

Eastman said the study will look at the value of land developing potential within the corridor of study area and see what kind of growth potential and value exists, and from there determine if its viable.

“We didn’t want it to just be a transportation study,” said Eastman. “This is a feasibility study that … ultimately comes down to more of a land use economics question.”

Eastman said the study would contribute to determining the right kind of connector for the community.

Placement of the connector system has not been determined. In terms of an alignment, there will be six preliminary options that will be discussed by the steering committee, which is set to hold eight meetings until the end of the year.

“We’re doing this transportation study because it is incumbent on us to plan our own future and to deal with transportation issues,” said Eastman.

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