CSUN Pushes for Better Transportation Options to Ease Campus Commutes

CSUN freshman Howard Sebastian (standing, center), a secondary education major, waits for a rapid bus line at the campus Transit Center. Sebastian commutes two hours to school from his home in East Los Angeles, several times a week. Photo by Lee Choo.

CSUN freshman Howard Sebastian (standing, center), a secondary education major, waits for a rapid bus line at the campus Transit Center. Sebastian commutes two hours to school from his home in East Los Angeles, several times a week. Photo by Lee Choo.

California State University, Northridge junior Pamela Zamarripa spends two hours each day commuting by bus back and forth to CSUN’s campus from her home in Van Nuys. Zamarripa’s daily experience is multiplied by thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors who use public transportation to reach CSUN, many of whom face even more challenging and inefficient commutes.

“I would love to just take a car, but I don’t have one,” said Zamarripa, a sociology major. “By car, it would only be 20 minutes.”

The CSUN campus sits in the middle of a transportation desert of sorts, devoid of subway or light-rail connections and sorely lacking in the number of rapid bus lines. University officials are hoping to change this — and benefit the surrounding San Fernando Valley community in the process.

“At CSUN, student success is our number one priority,” CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison said. “Our relentless drive to challenge and support our students to persevere and to help ease burdens that might impede their progress compels us to take on issues that extend beyond the classroom; including mass transit in Los Angeles.”

University administrators are advocating for Metro transit officials, legislators and business leaders to support efficient, timely transportation options for CSUN’s almost 50,000 students, faculty and staff. On Thursday, March 3, CSUN will host a Valley Transportation Summit to discuss proposed transit solutions. The summit is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Grand Salon of the University Student Union. Participants are expected to include LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Mitch Englander and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg.

“This whole section of the Valley is not well served by transit, certainly not by dedicated lines,” said Colin Donahue, vice president for administration and finance and CFO for CSUN. “There’s a lot of local bus service, but you don’t have enough rapid service. And you certainly don’t have any dedicated service like rail. The most efficient transit is where you can stay in the seat, on one line. Everything is discontinuous around CSUN, including Metrolink.

“One of our goals is really to make CSUN a regional hub,” Donahue continued. “This is what we’re talking with Metro leadership and Valley leadership, legislators and business leaders about. We’re in a very underserved area, and CSUN happens to be right in the middle of it. Not only can we improve things for the campus community — we can serve the entire region as a station where various lines come together.”

CSUN’s transit priorities include a number of proposals: establishing rapid bus transit service from campus to the proposed East Valley Transit Corridor rail system, via Nordhoff Street — connecting the Sylmar and Northridge Metrolink stations; providing a cross-Valley link with rapid-line service from campus to Warner Center; providing rapid bus transit service between the Orange Line and campus, along Reseda Boulevard; expanding the capacity of the CSUN Transit Center on campus; relocating the Northridge Metrolink station slightly east to Reseda at Parthenia Street; and increasing and improving local bus service for the estimated 25,000 students, faculty and staff living within a 10-mile radius of CSUN.

For this last priority, university officials are particularly focused on tailoring bus schedules to late-evening classes to make public transit a viable option for more students.

CSUN administrators also are hoping to expand regional transportation links, to better serve those who commute from surrounding valleys such as the Antelope, Santa Clarita, Simi and San Gabriel Valleys.

CSUN senior Juan Macias is a prime example. He commutes more than two hours to campus from his home in Temple City, in the San Gabriel Valley, and he changes buses four times on his route.

“The English department attracted me, so I wanted to go to CSUN, even if the location is not ideal for me,” Macias said. The English major said he supports the proposals for better transportation options to and from campus and wishes more students could opt for public transit.

“Some people I know take public transportation even if they can drive a car, to avoid traffic,” he said. “It’s cheaper to take the bus when you calculate all the gas you waste when you’re stuck in traffic. If I take the car, I try to carpool with someone.”

Donahue said the university is committed to reducing traffic, and he estimated that members of the CSUN community make about 200,000 single-occupant vehicle trips to and from campus each week.

“We have a chicken-and-egg problem — because we don’t have a basic transportation system that’s timely and efficient for commuters, it’s difficult to increase the percentage of people using transit,” Donahue said. “We need a base to build on, and that’s going to require a major investment and looking at CSUN and this portion of the Valley in a different way.”

The Grand Salon of the University Student Union is located on the east side of the campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge. Parking is available in the G3 structure, off Zelzah Avenue at Prairie Street. For more information about the March 3 Valley Transportation Summit or to RSVP, call (818) 901-5588 or email senator.hertzberg@senate.ca.gov.

A complete description of CSUN’s transit priorities can be found at www.csun.edu/transitpriorities.

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