Operational similarities between Rutgers University at New Brunswick/Piscataway may not readily apparent, but at the most basic level, both places are spatially diverse yet singularly-owned, self-contained places populated by untold thousands of people needing to moved from one place to another. Both places have developed elaborate means to accomplish these needs, the development of their own transportation systems. Both systems are operated by private, for-profit companies, both rely predominantly on bus service, and both feature significant financial hurdles in adding capacity. Yet, both are used by thousands of users each day, though Rutgers could adapt elements of theme park transportation for transporting students.
Disney Transport is the Disney-owned entity responsible for transporting guests from parking lots to theme parks, from theme park to theme park, and from any of the dozens of hotels/resorts to every location within the 47 square miles of Walt Disney World. This is accomplished primarily by buses, but the resort is best known for its monorail, which connects two theme parks, three hotels, and two surface parking lots with thousands of spaces between them. In addition, water taxis, pathways, and ferries round out the remainder of the transportation offerings. For the most populated locations (theme parks) point-to-point transportation is prevalent. Yet, for those traveling from hotel to hotel, the system is a hub and spoke one (with the theme parks functioning as de facto “hubs”).
Rutgers’ transportation is primarily point-to-point, connecting each campus to the others directly. Like Disney World, however, Rutgers has unofficial “hubs”, or heavily-trafficked bus stops that serve academic centers. Scott Hall is such an example, though to a lesser extent the campus centers serve a similar function. Much of the student population of College Avenue is contained within a single block, yet residents have access to two bus stops that serve locations less than a quarter mile away from each other. On other campuses, larger areas are served by only one bus stop (e.g. Cook Campus) problems can be attributed to the challenge in spatial distribution, yet for the most part the system remains solidly unimodal. Alternative forms of transportation such as walking or biking have not occurred at the levels necessary to provide significant relief for the overcrowded buses.
While a monorail has been proposed (albeit tongue-in-cheek) for Rutgers, a system such as the PeopleMover could efficiently transport users on shorter, intra-campus routes. In a project for my Urban Transit Policy class, my partner Liam Blank has proposed transfer points on each campus, which would shorten inter-campus transit times and encourage alternative transportation methods. However, users would have to adapt to a change in the point-to-point system (which provides a one-seat ride from location to location), even if a transfer point is theoretically faster. Intermodality and self-powered transport would be a key aspect of efficient, sustainable, and stable transportation systems. On that end, the Ivory Tower could learn a thing or two from the Mouse.