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Friday, July 25, 2008

Top 10: Schools that Need Train Stations

Catholic University, Gallaudet University, and University of DC sit atop Red Line stations. Tiny Southeastern University is right outside Waterfront station on the Green Line. Bowie State has its own dedicated MARC station. What's great about this is that it connects these students to a city that can offer experiences and opportunities that add value to any type of education. It creates a higher standard of living for the students, and it makes the campuses more accessible to people who want to learn. It connects communities to the cultural exchanges that occur on college campuses: the concerts, the plays, the sports, the festivals. It better prepares students for the real world, and to some degree, it prepares the real world for them.

Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to go to college around here if you have a car, particularly if it is a school where you can't live in the dorms. We all know a forced bus-to-train transfer automatically decreases the likelihood of ridership, so I compiled my list of colleges and universities that most need train stations.

All figures are from Wikipedia unless otherwise noted.

10. Columbia Union College
This is basically just a commentary on how Takoma Park needs a trolley or something running through that town. Adventist Hospital, the shops at Carroll and Philadelphia Avenues, and the dense-ish areas of the town are a tad isolated from the rail infrastructure. Columbia Union College has only about 1100 students, but I believe the community could benefit from connecting this school to the outside world.

9. University of Maryland, College Park
Hopefully soon this will not be an issue. Flagship University of the State of Maryland, largest employer in Prince George's County, and educating over 36,000 students, This school is underserved by a Metro station miles away from the campus center. The forgotten factor: UMCP also houses University of Maryland University College, which has over 90,000 students. Most of these are online, but several classes are taught on the campus, and plenty of jobs are located at its headquarters near the proposed Purple Line West Campus station.

8. United States Naval Academy
Considering its proximity to the Nation's Capital, the Naval Academy's 4,400 midshipmen do not have a single rail line connecting it with DC. Since it's also part of a military base, there would be dual purpose to have the option to connect it to facilities located around the district.

7. Howard University
Supposedly served by the Shaw station on the Green and Yellow lines, Howard ought to have better rail access. The current station serves the medical center well, however another station on/under Georgia Avenue could also serve the campus a bit better.

6. American University
Similarly to Howard, American is "served" by the Tenleytown station. In practice, it's almost a mile from campus center to Tenleytown station. With over a thousand full-time and adjunct faculty and nearly 10,000 students, and a popular venue like the Bender Arena, transit ought to evenutally be able to come a little closer to this prestigious institution.

5. Prince George's Community College, Largo (no dorms)
The flagship campus of PGCC, the Largo campus could feasibly be served by a Purple Line that connected from New Carrollton through Largo Town Center. 37,000 students attend PGCC, mostly at the Largo campus. As PG County begins its renaissance, educating the community is of utmost importance. Rail access to the community college will make this happen.

4. George Mason
I have no idea how this campus got it's name on the Vienna Metro station. It has to be two to three miles away. The Fairfax Campus is home to the majority of the school's 30,000 undergrad and graduate students, as well as the Patriot Center, a popular concert and sports venue. But don't take the Metro unless you are wearing your hiking boots. It's a pedestrian-unfriendly trek.

3. Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale (no dorms)
Serving over 63,000 credit and a quarter of a million non-credit students, NVCC is the second largest multi-campus community college in the nation, and the largest educational institution in Virginia. Unfortunately the headquarters is in Annandale, with nary a train station to be found. The Annandale campus serves the most of the eight campuses, 23,000 students according to NVCC's website. One look at the giant parking lot on the campus and you can guess the preferred method of reaching the campus.

2. Georgetown University
Here's a campus where the students don't even have a fixed transit service to watch their beloved Hoyas basketball team play at the Verizon Center! Set in a very walkable part of town, the closest Metro station is across the Potomac in Rosslyn. Perhaps the city's most prestigious institution of higher learning, Georgetown holds over 6,800 undergrads and almost 7,300 graduate students, as well as a hospital. The Blue Line may eventually be diverted from Rosslyn to run under M Street, which would serve the school and the hospital. Right now, students and faculty will have to settle for the walk across the Key Bridge.

1. Montgomery College, Rockville (no dorms)
Nearly 60,000 students from all 50 states and 170+ countries (more than any Ivy League school) attend what is certainly amongst the world's most diverse institutions of higher learning. Over half of them attend the Rockville Campus, which, like the other MC campuses, has no housing. The critical flaw is that the campus is situated in the middle of a three mile dead zone along the Red Line between Rockville and Shady Grove stations. An infill station at Montgomery College would likely have high ridership, and make the Rockville Campus more accessible to the Takoma Park Campus (the second largest campus, Germantown is the smallest of the three Montgomery College campuses.) Considering the array of demographics that attend Montgomery College, this would greatly assist in educating the lower socio-economic groups, which is good for them and great for the region as a whole. And all we have to do is build a station on the existing track right across the street.

Educating the region is important. Educated people are good for the economy. They are less likely to commit crimes. They are more likely to embrace the abundance of diversity that this region boasts. Unfortunately, school is expensive. It's even worse if you have to own a car to get there. Additionally, college campuses are a great place to breed a culture that releases itself from car ownership. People are walking everywhere; to school, to work, to leisure activities. With a transit connection, we're not only linking students to opportunities to learn, we're teaching them the value of getting out of their cars. What could be better for the urban environment?

Did I leave anyone out?


Dan Reed said...

The U-Md. campus is about a mile away from the Metro, and shuttles run between the two every eight minutes during the day. A lot of students/faculty/staff use the Metro (and the shuttle), and it's used as a big selling point to prospective students as a way to connect to the region a whole. On my second day of freshman year, they sent my class into the city for a Metro scavenger hunt.

That being said, I of course think the school could benefit from a stop on campus, but only because of how well-used the existing Metro station is.

Dave Murphy said...

That's why it's all the way at number nine. But for a school of that size to be served by one line that is that far from campus, even with shuttle service I find it a bit preposterous.

Marymount University is only about a mile from its Metro station. I chose UMD over Marymount by virtue of the size and importance of the site and the station's lack of orientation to the campus. For example, how many people Metro to Terps games? Probably a much smaller percentage than Georgetown games, who play at the Verizon Center virtually on top of a station served by three lines.

I'm not comparing the Comcast Center to the Verizon Center, but when you factor in Byrd stadium and all the other major venues on campus, along with its regional importance as a flagship school and a major job center, this station ought to have superior connectivity to that of other universities in the area.

As a Maryland guy myself I find that the station fails to adequately serve to fully connect the campus with the rest of the city. I'm a strong proponent for the Purple Line on campus. I applaud the Shuttle UM service as among the best I've seen, but it doesn't make up for the difference.

Daniel Nexon said...

Georgetown University runs a number of accessible and frequent shuttles from its campus. Yeah, Georgetown could use a METRO station in general, but it is pretty easy for students, faculty, and staff at the University to get to Rosslyn, Dupont Circle, and elsewhere.

Dave Murphy said...

I'm quite sure all the schools I have named have adequate bus and shuttle services. It's good to know that Georgetown is not being neglected. However, considering the local, regional, and national importance of this institution, I think it should be more accessible on our regional transit system.