OSU has hired a private consulting firm for $290,000 to assess university transportation needs and plan for the future.
Credit: Kayla Zamary / For The Lantern

Ohio State is paying a private consulting firm $290,000 to assess university transportation needs and plan for the future.

OSU has hired Massachusetts-based Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., to carry out a study over the next several months, with the information gathering and planning phase kicking off in January and running through May. The study is expected to compile traffic data, such as what entry points students, staff and visitors are using to get to campus.

VHB is set to evaluate the university’s short- and long-term goals to align with the One OSU Framework Plan, a initiative that identifies OSU’s long-term goals and how to achieve them.

“Within the first couple of weeks in January, they’ll actually be facilitating input from the university community … we feel, and our consultant feels, it is important to get feedback from people using it everyday,” said Administration and Planning spokeswoman Lindsay Komlanc.

The $290,000 is coming from “general funds,” Komlanc said.

The move was approved by the Board of Trustees in November, and representatives from VHB did not return multiple requests for comment.

During the purchasing process, 21 firms expressed interest in the project and received requests for proposals, and four firms responded and were interviewed before VHB was selected. VHB has formed a team including three other entities: Trans Associates, MKSK and Kolar, but OSU is contracted with VHB specifically, Komlanc said in an email.

While OSU retains the ownership of its parking assets, it agreed to a 50-year, $483 million lease to a private company in 2012. QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australian investment firm, placed the bid and created CampusParc to operate the parking facilities. The deal was finalized and approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2012.

Komlanc called CampusParc a “major stakeholder” on campus transportation decisions.

“Certainly parking is absolutely interrelated with transportation and traffic management. As those cars are coming to campus to park, we need to know what their needs are,” she said on the phone.

With the parking lease, OSU still has control over the parking policies on campus, while CampusParc handles the day-to-day operations. President of CampusParc Sarah Blouch said the company will play a role in the university study.

“Our role is to provide parking information and data to inform assumptions or answer questions and assist with the development of solutions,” Blouch said. “It is important to everyone (CampusParc and OSU) that the parking, transportation and roadways all work together as a system since it takes all three components to work.”

The study is intended to fit in with the framework plan principle “park once,” and the overall goal of making the Columbus campus more pedestrian friendly, Komlanc said.

“In the framework plan it talks about … pedestrianizing the core of campus. What that would essentially mean is the university has a long-term goal of ‘park once’ … wherever it is you are parking on campus … you don’t feel like you have to get in your car to go from the north side of campus to the south side of campus,” she said.

This could be achieved by implementing other forms of transportation on campus, Komlanc said.

According to notes from the November Board of Trustees meeting, projects such as the Cannon Drive relocation, expansion projects in the Wexner Medical Center area and the North Residential District construction are expected to impact campus traffic patterns, and the university is attempting to “begin now to prepare strategies that address these changing needs.”

Goals of this study include identifying priorities and estimating planning level costs.

The Traffic Safety Task Force suggested a “comprehensive study” on campus transportation patterns in fall 2012 after incidents involving bicycles, cars and pedestrians left students with injuries.