As Red Raiders return to Texas Tech University amid the ongoing pandemic, efforts are being made to ensure student and employee health and safety as they travel to, from and on campus.
In August, thousands of people will return to Texas Tech University once again to live, work and study. For many, it will be the first time they have been on campus since its closure in March in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
More people means more traffic, on foot and bicycles and in vehicles. As the campus began a phased reopening to prepare for a fall semester like no other, Transportation & Parking Services put into action an updated plan to manage that increase in traffic. The efforts are part of the Texas Tech Commitment, the university's pledge to create a safe campus environment for students, faculty and staff during the pandemic.
Special attention has been given to the on- and off-campus busing system, managing the different types of traffic on campus, limiting the number of vehicles allowed within the academic core of campus – the area that exists past the campus entry booths – and ensuring the health and safety of all those who walk, ride and drive on campus.
"As with other areas of campus, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with a unique set of challenges when it comes to transportation," said Brandon Richard, media relations coordinator for Transportation & Parking Services. "Our staff and community partners are working diligently to focus our resources on transportation from remote locations to the campus as safely and efficiently as possible."
Getting around campus
Citibus will continue to provide busing services to, from and on campus. Face masks or appropriate face coverings are required at all times on buses, including on routes to and from campus and at bus stops where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Hand sanitizer is now also available on the buses, which have all been updated with air filters that provide a higher level of filtration. Crews will disinfect vehicles, with a focus on high-touch areas, throughout the day and overnight, and a professional cleaning company will provide hygienic cleaning and disease-preventing electrostatic treatments on each vehicle on a weekly basis.
Practicing social distancing has been shown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and one way to help pedestrians maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and others is to reduce the amount and types of traffic in a given space. On campus, that means limiting the number of vehicles allowed in certain areas, like the inner academic core that can only be accessed by vehicle via several entry stations.
"Usually, only buses, employees with a reserved permit, service vehicles and visitors are permitted past the entry stations," Richard said. "This fall, buses serving the on-campus routes will focus on bringing students to the edge of the academic core from the Commuter West and Commuter Satellite parking lots and from off-campus apartment locations."
Richard said apartment routes will continue to operate on normal routing and stops, but on-campus busing will focus on two dedicated routes. Buses will run on extended operating hours and at an increased frequency to accommodate modified class schedules and help reduce the number of passengers on each bus.
"Our bus system is a highly used service that many of our students depend on," Richard said. "In a typical year, more than 3 million rides are taken on our bus routes. The focus on moving students from remote locations to the academic core while accommodating extended operating hours and reducing the number of riders on a bus will require all our available transportation resources."
One on-campus route will begin in the Commuter West parking lot, then travel down 18th Street to Flint Avenue, making stops at the College of Media & Communication and at the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business. The other route will begin in the Commuter Satellite parking lot, travel south on Texas Tech Parkway, making stops at West Village, Media & Communication and Rawls College.
"By keeping bus traffic to the edges of the academic core during this time, we can further reduce vehicle traffic in this area," Richard said. "This provides pedestrians with more room to socially distance themselves and improves the overall safety of pedestrians walking alongside and crossing streets."
Pedestrian and cyclist safety have long been a focus on the Texas Tech campus, Richard said, with many improvements and modifications to the campus roadway and walkway network over the years. Because of the pandemic, there is a new emphasis on things like observing social distancing as pedestrians and cyclists navigate Raiderland.
"We encourage everybody to walk and bike as much as possible while on campus," Richard said. "Where possible, bike racks will be spaced out on campus to create more open space for riders to maintain social distancing when securing and retrieving their bicycles."
Richard said in order to provide additional space for pedestrians, bicycles and personal scooters will not be permitted on campus sidewalks.
"If you are riding a bicycle or scooter on campus," he added, "We ask that you be considerate of those who are walking and use the campus roadways."
Other transportation services
An increased allocation of resources in one area means other transportation services will be temporarily suspended, including Lime scooter and bicycle access, the Tech Employee Courtesy Shuttle and Raider Ride, the after-hours student shuttle service provided in past semesters.
Richard said that while the extended bus-service hours should accommodate most needs, he knows the occasional need for service outside of that schedule may arise. Students are encouraged to explore the variety of affordable and convenient options available in Lubbock, including Uber, Lyft and the new Citibus On-Demand service.
The latter service was launched this summer to fill the gaps between the hourly, fixed-route city busing services during the pandemic. The service can be accessed via the Citibus On-Demand iOS app or the Google Play Store app and is free through the end of July. After July, rides will be available for a nominal fee.
This summer, adjustments also were made to parking permissions, permits and renewals to account for the limited number of employees and students on campus. Once the fall semester begins, parking services on campus will be back to normal, and, as always, those parking on campus should observe and obey signage designating fire lanes, Americans with Disabilities Act parking, reserved spaces, visitor parking and no-parking zones.
Employee parking permits paid through payroll deduction have been renewed for the 2020-21 permit year. Students and employees may now purchase new permits for commuter, residence hall and employee R-lots by accessing their parking account on the Transportation & Parking website or in person at 407 Flint Ave., Room 145.
Campus maps, including for new bus schedules and routes and parking, will be finalized and available online soon, Richard said. While life during a pandemic can change quickly, he said those within Transportation & Parking Services are working hard to provide as much information as possible to employees and students as they make their way back to the university.
"We know getting to and from campus is a vital part of being involved in the Texas Tech community," Richard said. "We are excited to welcome our new and returning students and employees to campus this fall."
For the latest updates, visit the Transportation & Parking Services website.
For more information about Texas Tech's efforts to ensure the health and safety of those on campus, visit the Texas Tech Commitment website.