GW ranks third among peers in access to transportation

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor

GW tallies a 76 in Walk Score’s “bikeability” rating and a score of 98 in “walkability,” which assesses an area’s walking routes and residents’ ability to run errands on foot.

GW boasts the third-highest mobility ranking compared to its 12 peer schools, according to data compiled by a company that evaluates access to transportation.

Walk Score, which ranks locations in the United States, Canada and Australia on a scale of zero to 100 based on public transportation availability, measured GW’s transit score at 93 – seven points lower than New York and Northeastern universities. Transportation experts said the variety of transportation options, like bike shares and subway stations, located near universities allow students to navigate the city without relying on a car.

Walk Score evaluates the distance and efficiency of public transportation routes, based on data from public transit agencies, to formulate each city’s transit score. Walk Score also issues walk and bike scores, which take into account cities’ biking infrastructure and the accessibility of walking and biking routes.

GW scores a 76 in Walk Score’s “bikeability” rating and a score of 98 in “walkability,” which assesses an area’s safe walking routes and residents’ ability to run errands on foot.

NYU ranks higher than GW in both bikeability and walkability, earning a 92 and 99, respectively. Northeastern falls in second with a bike score of 91 and a walk score of 94.

The Foggy Bottom Campus is located near the Metro station at 23rd and I streets, 10 Metrobus stops and two Capital Bikeshare stations. Students can also ride the DC Circulator bus, which has been free to ride since February, to places like the National Mall and Georgetown.

Northeastern University students have access to discounted subway rides, four on-campus bike share stations and city buses. NYU students can utilize New York’s subway system and buses and a university-run bike-share program.

Transportation experts said GW’s high transit score reflects the high speed and functionality of D.C. public transportation.

Ruth Steiner, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Florida, said transit scores often reflect the frequency of mass transit systems, like subways and buses. The Metro’s orange, silver and blue lines typically stop at the Foggy Bottom station every three to four minutes, and buses around campus run about every 10 minutes.

“When you ask people why they choose the mode of transportation they use, whether it’s transit or driving alone or bicycling or Uber and Lyft, they always say, ‘I look at the convenience,’” Steiner said.

Kara Kockelman, a professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, said GW’s high walk score could contribute to its high transit score because students are more likely to take public transportation if they can easily walk from a bus or Metro station to their final destination.

“Walking is always going to be important regardless of transit access,” Kockelman said. “Of course, everybody is going to get off that bus and have to walk to their final destination, so it’s going to be really important.”

She said students on urban campuses like GW are likely to use public transportation because city traffic discourages them from bringing a car to campus. The District is the second-most congested city in the United States, according to a global traffic scorecard.

Christopher Hrones, the director of strategic transit initiatives at the New York City Department of Transportation, said high transit scores allow universities to limit the amount of money they allocate to building parking infrastructure and discourage students and faculty from taking cars to campus.

GW owns 23 total parking areas in Foggy Bottom, 14 of which are parking garages.

“For a lot of universities, building parking garages is expensive and they would much rather build new academic buildings and student housing and things like that rather than investing in a place for parking vehicles,” Hrones said.

He added that students’ access to public transportation options like the Metrorail and Metrobuses helps students save money they would otherwise spend on a car.

“Anywhere a student can reduce cost, including the cost of owning a car, that’s something that I think is pretty meaningful and that’s something transit can help with,” Hrones said.

In interviews, more than 10 students said having several transportation options keeps them connected with the city because they can easily travel off campus using the Metro or bus.

Natalie Geisel, a junior majoring in women’s studies, said riding off campus in an Uber is more convenient than taking the Metro, but she would use public transportation more often if the University offered student discounts.

“If they paid for transportation for us I would use it more often, like public transportation, because I know some other schools do that,” she said. “I would definitely use it so much more if it was actually part of tuition.”

Brian Toscano, a junior studying civil engineering, said having efficient transportation options like the Metro has helped him to explore the city.

“One of the reasons why I decided to come to GW was because it’s in the heart of the city, so you can see something new every day if you wanted to, so I think that’s one of the big benefits,” he said.

Fabian Narach, a junior also studying civil engineering, said the District’s public transit options are affordable and make traveling throughout the city easy for him.

“It’s pretty convenient,” he said. “Wherever you want to go, the area’s pretty connected and it’s cheap as well.”

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