Best planning and implementation toolbox


Purpose of Tool:

A campus transit system serves students, faculty and staff in Ames, Iowa.
Image Source: [here]
Many universities, business parks, and special institutional locations are developed as either large campuses or two or more geographically separate campuses that require some form of transportation system to connect them. Campus transportation systems are often provided by the university on a no-fare basis for students, faculty and staff exclusively. Shuttle and disabled transportation services are also often provided in addition to the regular route services of the campus transportation system. Additionally, arrangements made between universities and the local government or transit agency may provide students, staff, faculty, and the rest of the campus community with rides on the local buses or transit systems for free or at a reduced rate.

In addition to educational institutions, businesses sometimes choose to locate in a “campus” or office park setting. While the character and purpose of these two types of entities is quite different, they can face similar access and circulation issues. For a more detailed discussion of transportation issues related to business parks and similar activity centers, please reference the Activity Center Transportation page.

Benefits of Using Tool:
Campus transportation programs and systems should address vehicular traffic as well as bicycle and pedestrian users to ensure that adequate transit, access and circulation patterns, and parking facilities are present on campus and effectively connected. Campus transportation systems encourage the use of public transportation, which has the following benefits for a community or region at large:
  • Reduces traffic congestion and parking demand, especially near campus,
  • Reduces parking demands to allow for higher densities in the core campus, thereby reducing infrastructure costs to the university,
  • Reduces emission of pollutants such as CO2 and other green house gases (GHGs),
  • Provides a relatively low-cost mobility option for non-drivers and drivers alike,
  • Allows students access to off-campus work opportunities which may be important for students of varied incomes,
  • Can improve upon or provide linkages for alternate modes of travel, such as bicycles, and
  • High rates of university-related ridership on transit systems can result in a higher frequency of service, which can make transit usage more attractive to residents of the community at large.

    Steps Involved to Use Tool:
    Campus transportation systems are usually implemented as part of a long-range plan and are coordinated with local planning agencies, such as the local metropolitan planning organization or department of transportation. Campus transportation systems are typically funded through a variety of sources, user fees and local transit agencies. The following elements may also be incorporated in campus transit systems:
  • Unlimited access to campus and surrounding transit services are often provided to students and staff through a fee agreement (sometimes these arrangements are known as a U-Pass or a ClassPass, for example).
  • Global positioning system (GPS) technologies can be used both for vehicle tracking and customer information purposes, such as automated location announcements for passengers.
  • Alternative fuels, such as low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel are popular with campus transport systems; campus fleets that have smaller transit vehicles will often use a combination of alternative fuels in their vehicles.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    An effective campus transit system must meet the needs of its users and visitors in order to achieve a high level of ridership. To ensure that campus-wide route planning and seasonal schedules are meeting demand, user focus groups, surveys, and consistent usage monitoring of the transit service is necessary. The cyclical nature of the school calendar can result in adjusted transit schedules, as summer is generally a slow period. The service schedule should, even in these slow times, be designed to accommodate usage by the university administrative and support staff who require year-round access to the campus. Periodic evaluation and adjustment of a campus transit system fare policy will also be crucial to its sustainability.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    Effectiveness of campus transport systems depends on a variety of factors, including expanded routes and increased service levels, existence of price incentives, and the success of ‘marketing’ campus transport to increase awareness of existing transit routes to the campus community. Other factors, such as increasing gas prices and decreases in parking availability on campus, may also influence ridership levels.

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    Iowa State University has had success with implementing a campus transportation system that integrates well with the greater Ames community. The CyRide bus system is a collaboration of the City of Ames, Iowa State University and the school’s Government of the Student Body, the latter funds nearly half (42 percent in 2006) of the enterprise. CyRide stops are plentiful on the campus, where rides are free. Bus fare for off-campus routes is $1. CyRide operates its fleet with two to 10 percent biodiesel fuel, has solar panels mounted on some bus shelters, and is planning on the purchase of hybrid vehicles to replace current vans within its fleet.

    Bourne Transit Consulting LLC
    724 Brookridge
    Ames, IA 50010
    (515) 233-2232

    1700 University Blvd.
    Ames, IA 50010
    (515) 292-1100

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    In general, ridership on campus transport systems has been increasing between one and five percent over the last decade. 1 This has helped to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips to campus, and to raise environmental awareness on the benefits of transit, as approximately 40 percent of campus transport systems use some type of alternative fuel in their vehicles.2 Factors unique to each campus transport system, such as availability and price of parking on campus, presence of fare subsidies (such as U-Pass), and fluctuating fuel costs will have a more profound impact on local transit ridership and its associated benefits.

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
    See the following sources for more information:
  • The American Public Transportation Association provides a list U.S. university transportation system links online at:
  • Transit Cooperative Research Program, Transit Systems in College and University Communities, Transportation Research Board, 2008. PDF: Online:


    1 Transit Cooperative Research Program, Transit Systems in College and University Communities, Transportation Research Board, 2008, page 21.
    2 Ibid., page 34.