Mason Traffic and Transportation Issues Under Study

June 29, 2010Print-Friendly Version

By Dave Andrews

Increasing enrollment and new construction, combined with a prominent location near the heart of Fairfax City, have forced Mason officials to re-examine traffic schemes on the Fairfax Campus and in the surrounding community.

After initially focusing on Mason’s event parking issues, administrators concluded that the university needed a total transportation overhaul.

A transportation and traffic master planning committee was formed in January to get a strategic prospective on which areas of campus need the most TLC, and a consulting firm was hired.

“For years, the university had discussed a need to address the comprehensive traffic schemes on and around campus,” says Josh Cantor, director of parking and transportation.

“We realized that with the number of new facilities and increased enrollment, the university would need a new approach to traffic and transportation planning.”

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB), an infrastructure and development consulting firm, was already under contract with Mason to conduct various transportation studies, and the firm is now undertaking Mason’s first comprehensive transportation study as well.

“VHB’s first step was to identify the common issues that were important to the campus community — both positive and negative — through various meetings, workshops and focus groups,” says Cantor, who serves as co-chair of the planning committee along with Cathy Wolfe, director of campus planning.

VHB began gathering data to go along with those issues to determine if the concerns were justified.

VHB is collecting data on pedestrian counts, public transit efficiency, parking occupancy, general traffic congestion, university population distribution, enrollment and staffing increases and campus mapping.

The firm says that if the same campus transportation issues were to continue at their current rate, by 2020 Mason would be facing some serious transit predicaments.

Within the next 10 years, Mason will lose 2,400 parking spaces to new construction, according to VHB estimates. With an expected enrollment increase of nearly 20 percent over that period, the parking demand will increase by 3,400 spaces.

VHB has also identified the most problematic campus intersections and is devising proposals on how each can be remedied.

Some issues might seem less complicated than others. One suggestion was to implement assigned parking permits for general parking lots, using a weighted price scale.

More complex issues concern the traffic patterns along Braddock Road and Route 123. Those issues will likely be pacified with short-term improvements such as lane spacing and additional turn lanes.

As for the interior of campus, one of the areas under close inspection is around the Sandy Creek Parking Deck. The parking deck may need a total reconfiguration of transit entry, parking arrangement and pedestrian walkways.

VHB’s study will continue through August. At that point, the company will present proposals on how to tackle many of the core issues and effectively plan for future growth.

The university will determine the practicality of those recommendations, prioritize the changes that need to be made and acquire funding for each project.

4 Responses

  1. Mary Zamon says on:

    This seems like a horrible problem. And the only solution to my mind is parking further away- and I want to suggest a better transit to further lots. Something like a circulating set of trolley- style hop on and off routes – getting to a far lot and then waiting 15 minutes isn’t really acceptable. And if those far lots are on Braddock or 123- there is more time likely needed to just get to them in the first place- One other route might be around Patriot Circle so students and staff could hop on and off – when our office moves to a new building, we will probably need to allow up to 20 minutes on each side of a meeting elsewhere- or for folks to get to us –that adds up to a lot of time lost –

  2. Bob Smith says on:

    At the last Master Plan committee, the consultants suggested a REDUCTION in parking, and only faculty input that pointed out the absurdity of that [they based it on Mason numbers] and suggested a parking deck at each major entrance to minimize the need for Patriot Circle traffic [modestly, me] led to the current configuration. As that’s not going to be sufficient for the future, I think we need to again think outside the box. Shuttle buses from West Campus probably will just contribute to congestion on existing streets – I think we need to think in terms of a West Campus parking structure with either a dedicated busway or an aerial tram to get to main campus in a timely fashion. We probably also have room for a dedicated buslane to be added to Patriot Circle, with a clockwise flow and no competing traffic.

  3. bryan says on:

    A good part of the “traffic” problem is pedestrian. Students crossing from Presidents Park create a bottleneck in the flow of cars through the area. Create tunnels under Patriot Circle (and other locations) to let people cross safely and not impede the flow of traffic. Two birds, one stone.

  4. Dee says on:

    It is a relief to hear that additional turn lanes will be added on 123 and Braddock Road. This is long overdue. Hopefully this addition alleviates some of the back-up and reduces the morning commute. Taking up to 40 minutes to get from 7100 to campus is pretty unbearable.

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