TRAFFIC AND PARKING
Improvements to traffic circulation and parking can not only make the school work better for students, staff, and faculty, they can also dramatically change the perception of the College and be an important tool in unifying the campus and strengthening the identity of the College.
The plan proposes substantial improvements to traffic circulation and parking on the campus. The goals are to improve the traffic flow by rationalizing the road system to build flexibility into the system, and to improve parking efficiency by building logical, open-ended search patterns. The quality of parking lots can be improved by changes to the landscape and paving, and by making clear, safe, attractive pedestrian routes through lots. An overall goal is to increase pedestrian and vehicle safety, by improving sight lines, lowering speed of travel, and clearly delineating travel lanes.
As a school with a substantial commuter population, traffic flow and parking are an important part of students' college experience. Based on conversations with students and administrators and our own field observations it is clear that traffic congestion, at certain times of the day and year, degrades the quality of college life. There are several areas of potentially dangerous conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians, along with relatively high accident rates at two intersections. High speeds and limited sight distances along College Road create unsafe crossings for students moving between the Residence Halls and classes. Perpendicular parking along Library Road limits sight distance, creating an unsafe condition for pedestrians walking from parking lots on the periphery of the campus across Library Road to classes.
While most of the campus is beautifully landscaped, there are heavily used parts of the campus where vehicles dominate the landscape making it difficult to appreciate, especially at the large parking lots around the perimeter of the school (lots A, B, and J). Large parking lots with ill-defined edges greet first time visitors entering the campus from Mt. Pleasant Ave (lots A and B). Service access, particularly at Donovan Dining Hall and the Student Union, are inefficient, disrupt traffic, and are unsightly. Parking lots form a gulf, the so called "Pit", dividing the East Campus from the main campus. In spite of the fact that there are an adequate number of parking spaces on the campus (several lots are underutilized, including lots A, L, and parts of B) there is a perception by drivers that there is not enough parking near their destinations.
Primary circulation on the Rhode Island College campus is diverted to the perimeter roads, College Road and Library Road. They provide students with access to the academic core and the surrounding parking areas. (see Existing Vehicular Circulation Diagram). College Road, the main east/west route on campus, runs along the southern property line and provides access to all other campus roads. It is two-way road except in the area between 1st Avenue and 5th Avenue when it splits into two one-way roads. This routing was initiated to reduce speed and the volume of "cut-through" traffic currently using College Road for access to surrounding major roadways. College Road is variable in width (22' to 30') and the vertical and horizontal geometry is poor in certain areas (poor sight distance at the intersection with Cole Road due to the vertical inclines in College Road, and at the pedestrian crossing to the Residence Halls near Parking Lot K.) At the intersection of Fifth Avenue/Barnard Circle a 90 degree curve where radii and pavement width are currently inadequate, creates a dangerous maneuver for vehicles traveling eastbound and for vehicles entering the traffic stream from 5th Avenue where no traffic control is provided.
The speed study summary graphs the number of cars (X coordinate) travelling at various speeds (Y coordinate) along College Road, measured between Dorm Lane and Fifth Avenue. EB indicates eastbound, WB indicates westbound, and the light line is the total. The median speed was 29 mph, the average speed was 32 mph, while 15% of the vehicles were traveling at speeds greater than 34 mph.
Library Road is a one-way road that runs westerly along the northern border of the academic buildings. Parallel and perpendicular parking is permitted along Library Road creating potential safety hazards for both vehicles and pedestrians, since the roadway does not provide a clear crossing location for pedestrians to access their vehicles. Library Road varies in width (18' to 23') and has a poor horizontal geometry (a series of sharp right angle turns) that require awkward and unexpected maneuvers to motorists unfamiliar with the College.
Traffic flow through the campus is dependent upon the class and function schedule. Vehicles arrive and depart in large numbers at class changes. Largely because of the one-way traffic flow on Library Road, this results in undesirable queue lengths at several intersections along its length.
There are approximately 3200 parking spaces currently available along internal roads and 22 parking lots throughout the campus (including East Campus). Refer to Existing Parking Conditions and Restrictions Diagram for a complete breakdown of current parking conditions. Based upon site evaluations during peak periods there appears to be adequate parking for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Utilization: Utilization rates for the main parking areas on campus are shown on the Existing Parking Conditions and Restrictions Diagram. As the figure depicts, parking areas close to the academic core are at capacity or approaching capacity. As with most colleges and universities, students and faculty attempt to park as close to their destination as possible. This desire, along with the one-way loop on Library Road, means that drivers often circuit the campus repeatedly in their search for a space, increasing traffic congestion on Library Road and College Road.
Parking areas that are underutilized are those on the perimeter of the campus, such as Lots A, L and parts of B. Since these lots are furthest from the academic core, they are perceived as inadequate parking spaces. The utilization rate for Lot A is approximately 10%. This lot is close to academic buildings but is overlooked by students because it appears to be further away due to its lower elevation than Parking Lot B.
Parking Lot B is full in the area closest to the academic buildings, however the area further north, adjacent to the track is underutilized (50%). Parking Lot L located behind the student dorms and is mostly used by students living in the dorms. However, students living in Sweet and Thorp Hall are currently permitted to park in Lot J. (Students petitioned the College for this right, claiming the rear of Lot L was unsafe and required additional security measures.) As a result, approximately 120 spaces in Lot J are depleted from the allotment originally provided in this lot for commuters. The parking spaces in Lot L closest to the dorms are always in use, while the spaces in the back of the lot are not utilized.
Parking restrictions and enforcement:
Some of the parking issues that have been observed on campus include the following:
Vehicular Circulation: Changes to the traffic pattern on the campus can achieve two important goals of the plan: unifying the campus by bringing the East Campus into the loop road system, and reducing traffic congestion by increasing flexibility in the vehicular circulation system. To address the first, we recommend altering the loop road system. The plan proposes making Cole Road the entrance to the loop road at the east end of the campus. By routing traffic along Cole Road, onto the re-graded and improved alignment of the service road south of the service buildings near Lot A, across Lot B, and into Library Road north of the new Performing Arts Center, the revised loop road unifies the Campus. (See Proposed Vehicular Circulation Diagram.) Visitors and the regular users of the campus move through the East Campus, physically connecting it to the main campus. It also focuses visitors on two of the Colleges most attractive facilities--the Foreman Center setting on the hill as you turn into Cole Road, then, following the proposed alignment, to the tower and front door of the new Performing Arts Center.
To address the second goal, reducing traffic congestion, the plan proposes restoring two-way travel to Library Road, and to the entire length of College Road. Two-way traffic on Library Road will improve traffic flow by making the circulation system more flexible. It will provide more choices for drivers. It will reduce congestion that occurs in Parking Lots H, I, and J during peak periods. All vehicles must now egress from these lots to College Road; two-way traffic on Library Road will provide an alternate route for vehicles exiting the area, in particular those going to Mount Pleasant Avenue. This two-way traffic pattern will provide drivers traversing the campus a better opportunity to locate parking in the vicinity of the academic core.
This change will require minimal changes to the current road alignment. It will require removing the on-street/perpendicular parking that is provided on Library Road in order to create an adequate roadway cross-section for two-way traffic. In addition, improvements to the horizontal curves located between Fogarty Hall and Alger Hall should be made. The modifications to these curves should be kept to a minimum in an effort to maintain safe pedestrian crossings and minimize impacts to the surrounding green space located adjacent to the tennis courts and Whipple Hall. The horizontal curves also serve as a traffic calming device by discouraging high vehicular speeds.
Although on-street parking will be removed from Library Road, new lots have been incorporated into the overall Master Plan to improve parking conditions and re-coup the spaces that have been removed. (see Proposed Parking diagram).
Making College Road two-way along its entire length would remove two dangerous conditions on its current route. Currently vehicles traveling westerly are forced to pass in front of Roberts Hall, resulting in unnecessary pedestrian conflicts there, and dangerously high travel speeds in the vicinity of the Henry Barnard School. Traffic calming devices along College Road could slow travel speeds along the two-way College Road, and make its use as a shortcut from Mt. Pleasant Ave. to Fruit Hill Ave. less desirable.
The following is a summary of recommended intersection improvements:
Sixth Avenue/ College Road
Fifth Avenue/College Road
Other Potential areas for improvement are: