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    Home / College Guide / High traffic on ECU’s campus continues to increase
     Posted on Friday, March 17 @ 00:00:09 PDT

    With pedestrians, cars, skateboarders, buses and now delivery robots, the traffic around East Carolina University’s campus has increased, leaving students, faculty and staff concerned about safety and getting to class or work on time. Amari Murell, sophomore anthropology major, said she commutes by foot to campus from her apartment at the Boundary at West End. When walking to her classes, she said she has to cross Contanche Street to get to campus. “I dont have to walk too far to get on campus but the majority of the time I have to use a crosswalk (at Contanche Street) to get to my classes,” Murrell said. “It can get a little out of hand sometimes. The crosswalk lights up when you want to go to the other side of the street. Sometimes therell be people crossing before the light goes off and they just walk, not paying attention to drivers or giving them a signal. It can get a little unsafe at times.” During her freshman year at ECU, Murrell said she had to walk everywhere to get to places. She said during that time she has learned how to be smart and cautious when commuting around campus. Next to the traffic of cars, Murrell said she sees a danger coming from ECU’s bus transit as well.

    “The other day actually I was trying to catch up with my friends after they had already started walking ahead of me and they were about to cross (Contanche Street),” Murrell said. “One of ECU’s buses was just leaving the Main Campus Student Center (MCSC). The driver didnt see them early enough to stop at a proper time. It was a very close call before someone could have gotten hit.” Something Murrell said she would like to see done to improve campus traffic is regular check ups on the crosswalks around campus to ensure they work properly. She said there have been times where the lights weren’t working and students were confused when and whether or not they could cross the street. Murrell said having police officers helping out with people crossing the streets and making sure cars and buses are stopping or driving at the right time would make her feel safer. When it comes to the delivery robots being added to the traffic at ECU, Murrell said she can see the advantages and disadvantages of the new food service. “I try to be more aware of my surroundings when I see the delivery robots,” Murrell said. “I try to make sure to see where theyre going and make sure they are staying on the path.

    I feel like students here need to respect what the delivery robots purpose is for a little more. If students were reminded that these robots actually have peoples food in them, rather than being a toy, I’m sure they’d be better taken care of.” On occasion, Murrell said she uses the parking garage by the MCSC. She said she doesn’t have a long-term permit and rather purchases a ticket paid by the hour. Murrell said the traffic within the parking garage and safety can be a challenge at times. Even though the parking deck can cause confusion with traffic coming in and out, Murrell said she still feels like it is one of the safer options to find parking on campus. “In the parking garage, there can sometimes be a little high traffic,” Murrell said. “Not only with people walking around but also with other students coming out of their parking spaces to leave the building.” For the future Murrell said she would like to see more alternative transportation options offered at ECU. During the summer of 2022, she said she enjoyed using the electronic scooters to get around campus and is sad to see they’re not around anymore. Lindsey Bayes, a sophomore majoring in English, said she lives on Stratford Road and commutes to ECU by car.

    She said she has been getting to campus late many times because of the heavy traffic around the university’s parking garage. “I have missed class several times because of traffic and waiting to get into the parking garage that is completely full,” Bayes said. “I know that students have other options like riding the bus or walking to campus, but I do not have time to do that because of my ECU athletic schedule. It is just super frustrating.” Bayes said her commute should only be around five minutes, but because of the traffic, it’s taking her three times longer to get to ECU. During lunch hours, Bayes said the congestion is the heaviest. She said some things she faces while getting on campus are slow moving people and an overfilled parking garage. “The problems that I face while in the garage are the traffic that is very slow moving as people are looking for spots and exiting the garage, not enough parking spaces, cars parking and taking up multiple parking spaces or parking over the line so that other people cannot park next to them,” Bayes said. “The biggest problem is that the parking garage gets shut down because it’s full.” Instead of letting students in one by one as cars leave, ECU shuts the whole parking garage down, allowing no one to enter, Bayes said.

    This causes her to be late to class as she has to drive back home and take the bus or walk, which also causes her to be late to her practice, Bayes said. “If calculated in Apple Maps, this is approximately a 29 minute walk from my class to practice,” Bayes said. “My class is from 2 to 3:15 p.m. and my practice begins at 3:30 p.m. The only way that I can get to where I need to be on time is to drive and I’m not able to do that on Wednesdays because the parking garage is always closed at that time.” As a student that lives off campus and has to sometimes drive to class, Bayes said she expects there to be available parking so she can be on time to her classes and other required activities. Wood Davidson, director for ECU Transit, said the high traffic around the universitys premises has been known and acknowledged for many years. He said figuring out a solution to decrease the traffic around campus has been a challenge. “I’ve been at ECU’s campus for around 24 years and we’ve been talking about possible solutions for the high traffic for what seems like all of that time,” Davidson said. “We have a lot of students, faculty and staff that converge on a couple of small different spaces which makes it hard to find alternative areas.

    Ultimately, whatever we’ll do, it’ll negatively affect a certain group. Whether its the residents around campus, students or the parking spaces.” As of right now, he said ECU has not decided on a definite plan to improve the traffic situation on campus. Davidson said ECU Transit has been trying to take a look at how many buses need to be in the same space at the same time. The bus transit at ECU struggles the most, he said, with the areas of College Hill Drive, West End Neighborhood and the parking lot around Christenbury Gym and the Brewster Building. “We have tried to really take a hard look at how many buses need to be in one space,” Davidson said. “When do the buses come in and out? We have some buses that are on the opposite side of campus. So we try to balance the buses from one side to the other. But the other side runs up and down Fifth Street, which has more residents than 10th Street. Bus traffic is a concern for some of the residents on that side of campus.” The reality of why there havent been a lot of changes to assess traffic is that attempting to address the issues has consequences for user groups, Davidson said. He said it’s hard to determine what spaces need to be utilized differently, which could for instance take away parking slots.

    Davidson said offering new bus lanes or adjusting the ones already existing to provide better service has been a difficulty as well. ECU Transit’s funding by the university has been reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic and Davidson said a lower budget makes it hard to establish new concepts for transportation on campus. “Our funding was significantly reduced after going through a pandemic,” Davidson said. “ECU’s enrollment has declined and our expenses have skyrocketed. Fuel, maintenance, wages - all of these areas have had a big impact on our budget. So the number of students equals the amount of dollars that we would get from our student fee. All in all, it’s been a big challenge for (ECU) Transit to figure out what to do and how to give better service.” Davidson said the number of people using the bus transit has decreased. Many students, faculty and staff rather use their own vehicle to get to campus rather than using the transportation options. Due to the higher usage of cars, Davidson said the congestion around campus has grown. He said habits changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and caused many people to prefer their own vehicle over public transportation. “Wed love to have more folks on the bus from the dorm areas around campus,” Davidson said.

    “If someone does bring a car, they should choose a commuter pass in the area out by (ECU) Athletics. Then they can use the bus to get you back and forth to the main campus. With that, we would be reducing the number of automobiles that are adjacent to the main campus.” Davidson said students, faculty, and staff using the parking garage regularly at the Main Campus Student Center without a permit should consider purchasing a commuter pass as well. He said the parking garage has only one entrance and exit, causing potential overflow and accidents. For everyone not feeling safe during high traffic hours around campus, Davidson said he advises drivers and pedestrians to pay extra attention to their surroundings. “Make sure that you are paying attention to whats going on around you,” Davidson said. “Try not to pay too much attention to your phone. Don’t have your head down on your phone when crossing streets. If you have earbuds, make sure that you can hear the traffic, horns or other signals that may be going on around you.” Field Operations Captain for ECU’s Police Department Chris Sutton said most of the accidents on campus that result from traffic occur in parking lots and are a result of backing into another vehicle.

    Another common occurrence, Sutton said, is when one vehicle strikes another vehicle also in the parking lot or garage. “In parking lots, we often see the driver leaving the scene creating a hit and run,” Sutton said. “Hit and run wrecks normally result in a charge, while other wrecks may not result in a charge. If the damage is below $1,000, the wreck is considered non-reportable. We still may complete a wreck report but not issue a charge. Typically insurance companies work to compensate for the damage to the vehicles.” To analyze and control the traffic around campus, Sutton said ECU officers are required to conduct selective enforcement activity. While conducting the selective enforcement activity, Sutton said officers will record statistical data on speed, crosswalk or seat belt violations. “We have one officer that spends the majority of his work day conducting crosswalk enforcement activity,” Sutton said. “He moves around in different problem areas but spends a large chunk of his time on 10th Street. If motorists are not obeying crosswalk laws around campus, there is a really good chance this officer will be in your rearview mirror at some point.” In addition to the enforcement activity, Sutton said ECU’s Police Department completes periodic traffic analysis reports as well.

    For the past years, Sutton said, even though traffic has increased, traffic collisions on campus have decreased. He said in 2019 there were 192 accidents reported, while in 2022 there were 140. Sutton said the periodic traffic analysis is a requirement to maintain ECU’s accreditation status. “We spend a lot of time and energy on traffic-related issues and we are always looking for ways to make traffic safer for pedestrians and motorists,” Sutton said. “The best way the community can help us is to slow down, watch for others and minimize distractions.”

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