By the year 2050, San Luis Obispo County could see a light rail train system, a faster bus system, safer bike paths, trails and lanes, making San Luis Obispo a more efficient and sustainable environment for its people.

Cal Poly’s civil engineering students developed plans and ideas for the city’s future in a public transportation class taught by professor Eugene Jud.

“Good ideas can come from anywhere,” Jud said. “These students are the engineers of tomorrow and they could have an actual impact on how San Luis Obispo will look in the future.”

Students presented their plans for the city at a public exhibition Nov. 18 at the San Luis Obispo City-County Library for current planners, city officials and public transportation representatives who stated their concerns about the students’ proposals.

“As Cal Poly students, we have a duty to plan for the future,” civil engineering senior Dom Crosariol said.

As part of their assignment, students were asked to create plans for the city in 2050, while addressing sustainable land use, activity centers, and solutions for better mobility and accessibility to Cal Poly and downtown. Some students suggested a light rail system that would provide an affordable mode of travel by connecting housing developments to office buildings, commercial businesses and to Cal Poly. They said that speed, convenience and safety were reasons to build the system.

“The light rail would service Cal Poly, downtown and SLO South and would improve pedestrian mobility,” civil engineering senior Chris Hall said. “Everything from homes to businesses, small eateries, tourist-friendly areas and recreation centers would be within a quarter-mile of a light rail.”

Representatives from Caltrans attended the exhibition to offer some insight for how realistic a light rail system in San Luis Obispo would be.

“It’s amazing the many ideas different people have,” Jud said. “There is no limit to the imagination and students are allowed to have relatively wild ideas. The main idea is just to educate the public about the future possibilities in this city.”

In addition to a light rail system, students suggested improvements to the current bus system that would include equipping the traffic lights with GPS control so they would sense a bus and give it “preferential treatment,” making the system significantly faster and more efficient.

“Our goal is to develop a sustainable SLO South centered on alternative modes of transportation to get people out of their cars and into using public transport systems,” civil engineering senior Ben Larson said.

Jud explained that short-term ideas for improved efficiency could go into effect sooner than 2050. Developments like mixed-use buildings with residencies above commercial businesses and better bike lanes and bike trails could be built as soon as 2020.

“A lot of this project was just planning from what the city already has working,” said civil engineering senior Wally Hutcheson.

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