California State University, Northridge and the surrounding community share the challenges of parking and traffic congestion associated with CSUN’s nearly 50,000 students, faculty and staff.
At a packed transportation town hall meeting, held Nov. 8 in CSUN’s Orange Grove Bistro, university officials discussed their efforts to ease parking and traffic congestion holistically by reducing the number of cars on the road during rush hour, making it easier to park on campus and improving access to the university via transit.
CSUN officials outlined plans and recent changes to add parking spaces, make open parking spaces easier to find and encourage more students to park on campus rather than in surrounding neighborhoods. CSUN is working with local and regional transit providers to make the campus more accessible by bus and rail. The university is even exploring adding more housing for students and employees, which would reduce the need to drive in the first place.
“The smart transportation solutions we’re pursuing will not only address pressing needs today, but will make for a better Northridge, a better Valley and a better Los Angeles for decades to come,” said Robert Gunsalus, CSUN’s vice president for University Advancement and president of the CSUN Foundation.
The proposed solutions were detailed by a panel of CSUN officials, including Francesca Vega, director of Government and Community Relations; Colin Donahue, vice president for Administration and Finance and chief financial officer; Anne Glavin, chief of police; Ken Rosenthal, associate vice president for Facilities Development and Operations; and Michael Yu, Parking and Transportation Services manager.
The town hall was also attended by representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), LA County Supervisors Kathryn Barger (R-5th District) and Sheila Kuehl (D-3rd District), and LA City Councilman Mitch Englander (R-District 12).
Half of the two-hour meeting was dedicated to answering questions from residents of neighborhoods around campus and other audience members.
“We want to be responsive to our neighbors,” Vega said. “Having these gatherings provides us feedback we can use to identify potential solutions or pilot programs that respond to the needs of our community members.”
One potential project arising from feedback at the meeting: CSUN may conduct a study to determine just how far away students are parking off campus, and on which streets, Vega said. Although CSUN police and facilities officials have conducted informal analyses in the past, the campus has never done a formal study of the issue.
Representatives for Los Angeles County Metro and Metrolink were on hand at the town hall and discussed future plans for transit that could make it easier to commute to campus. In spring 2018, Metro will conduct a feasibility study for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that will be funded by the successful passage in 2016 of Measure M, a Los Angeles County sales tax to provide $120 billion in transportation funding over 40 years, including funds for new bus and rapid transit projects, highway improvements, and transit operation and maintenance costs. The BRT study will determine what routes would best serve the needs of commuters in the San Fernando Valley.
CSUN’s goal is to identify where concentrations of students live — such as the Sylmar area — and better link these areas to campus. CSUN also has advocated for moving the Northridge Metrolink station slightly east to Reseda Boulevard at Parthenia Street. Metro recently conducted a relocation feasibility study and is considering its options.
“If we want to reduce the parking issues, we have to find other ways for people to get here that are legitimate,” Donahue said. “We have to have a level of service that is convenient, affordable and robust.”
Yu and Rosenthal discussed several upcoming projects and recently introduced programs that encourage people to park on campus and not on neighborhood streets:
- A new G6 parking structure will add approximately 1,500 new parking spaces at Plummer Street and Zelzah Avenue. Officials plan to begin construction in summer 2018 with a target completion date of December 2019.
- A traffic signal at Darby Avenue and Plummer Street, expected to be complete in March 2019, will help alleviate the backup at this intersection, which can extend to Darby and Vincennes Street.
- Also at the corner of Darby Avenue and Plummer Street, CSUN is adding 165 parking spaces to lot B5. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of the current semester.
- An incremental parking option recently implemented on campus enables students to pay for hourly parking rather than for full-day parking.
- Students also will be able to pay for metered parking spaces via the CSUN app, a feature expected to have a soft rollout this semester.
- A parking guidance app expected to be launched during the spring 2018 semester will help students find open parking spaces, eliminating the need to drive around looking for an open space. Digital signage directing drivers to open spaces is planned for a date to be determined.
CSUN’s participation in Metro’s U-Pass program, which provides students with unlimited rides for a semester for $95, has quadrupled the number of students who travel by transit, from 400 to 1,600. In 2016, LA Metro adjusted its schedule to better align with CSUN’s class schedules to improve transportation after evening classes.
Glavin discussed measures taken to make walking and biking to campus more attractive, including efforts to distribute U-locks to deter bicycle theft, which Glavin said is the No. 1 crime for colleges and universities across the U.S.
CSUN is also exploring the market viability of the 1,800 new beds of student housing, as well as faculty/staff housing, included in the current campus master plan, Rosenthal said. Students who live on campus, especially freshmen and sophomores, are more likely to not own a car, Donahue said.
CSUN’s Office of Government and Community Relations holds periodic town hall meetings to provide updates on its planning initiatives and to give community stakeholders the opportunity to voice concerns.
“My office has an open-door policy, and we are here to listen to the community’s concerns,” Vega said. “Their input is important, and we work very hard to be a good partner.”
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