A Cal Poly civil engineering class presented its ideas to an audience at the San Luis Obispo County Library on Nov. 18 about building a new bus route from Cal Poly to the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport.
Students from civil and environmental engineering professor Eugene Jud’s Public Transportation class worked in five groups and each came up with two plans for building a new bus rapid transit (BRT) route. BRT is a method of bus transit which is faster and more efficient than regular bus travel.
It would run from Cal Poly through downtown San Luis Obispo and the Marigold area to the airport.
The first proposal was a detailed but cost-effective plan which could be achieved by 2020. The second was a more expensive plan which could be completed by 2035, when the national economy is expected to have improved, Jud said.
“I didn’t see the final projects until the presentation, and I was astonished by the richness of some of their ideas,” he said. “This project is more focused on the city than others, but there were some very creative details.”
Jud said this project helped his students learn about how BRT works and gave them a chance to come up with ideas about how to reduce the high level of car traffic around San Luis Obispo.
To prepare for the project, Jud brought guest speakers from the civil engineering and public transportation industries around San Luis Obispo to talk to the class. The class also went on a field trip to Santa Barbara to observe how the city’s public transit worked.
Richard Howell, the general manager of the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, said a bus route to the airport would not take long to implement and would reduce the need to add more parking at the airport. He said the number of passengers who use the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport went up 20 percent last month, and the airport experiences a large number of Cal Poly students around Thanksgiving and spring break.
“I love good ideas, and if we have the facilities, why not?” Howell said. “I think the class did a lot of work and came up with some ideas that I’d be interested in looking into.”
The main goals of each group’s bus route proposal included reducing the number of vehicle miles of transit through effective land use as well as encouraging public transportation and other alternative transportation like bicycling.
Though each group was required to come up with their own plan, the results also had some common features, like signal preemption at intersections (which would automatically turn traffic signals green for the buses), giving the BRT buses their own lanes on the street — called queue jumps — and providing designated resources for bicyclists.
Another guest speaker invited to speak to the class was Ed King, the executive director of the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority. King said he thought most of the proposals were very well thought out.
“This is a great corridor to envision a project like this,” King said. “If you look at the travel patterns at the airport, it’s just logical to have that type of service; I think it could be accomplished at a reasonable price.”
The plans all had their respective unique characteristics. One group suggested using curb cuts, which would make street corners less sharp and easier for buses to turn. Another suggested asking companies in San Luis Obispo to provide alternative work schedules for their employees so they could have time to catch the bus to and from work.
Civil engineering senior Cameron Beck said he was impressed with the ideas proposed by his classmates.
“Seeing how the other groups showed their ideas helped me show mine better,” Beck said.
Although Beck said a BRT route like this would be beneficial to San Luis Obispo, he said he can’t see it happening.
Each student group made a seven-minute presentation to the audience about their proposal, and afterward the audience was given a chance to examine each plan. The guests were given a grading sheet on which they rated each group based on how they presented their designs, their general concept, their goals and the quality of their Powerpoint presentation. The students graded each other as well. All opinions will be considered when Jud determines the final grades.
“I hope some parts of these plans can be implemented quickly,” Jud said. “You cannot predict the political will. I think these ideas would pay back within five to seven years.”
Jud said the Public Transportation class’ BRT project proposals will go on display after Dec. 15 in the southern Research Development Building corridor.