Interview With UNT Transportation Director, Joe Richmond

photo credit: UNT Inhouse Magazine

Thanks so much for talking with us. What is your background leading to your position as Transportation Director at UNT?

I initially worked as a shuttle bus driver for UT Austin, before I went to work for Capital Metro in Austin, just as they were born. I worked at Capital Metro for 18 years. I actually had an office on the UT campus while I worked for Capital Metro.

We see more cyclists riding on campus every year. Is cycling ridership increasing at UNT, and do you know if it’s been recently measured?

I don’t have a scientific method for measuring, but the bike racks appear to be at capacity. We have around 2500 bikes parked on campus. We purchased 100 racks and placed them strategic locations on campus.

Cycling was recently decriminalized on campus, and many bike racks have been installed.  What drove these changes?

We had a  bike consultant come in and provide us with a Campus Bicycle Master Plan which was adopted by the UNT  board of Regents in 2006. One of their recommendations was to install racks near entrances to the buildings. This came from a series of  focus groups. I was intimately involved with the study

Is demand still increasing, and do you think more racks will be installed?

Yes!

Dallas just hired a bike coordinator, and Fort Worth and Austin have published ambitious master bicycle plans. For their efforts, all three cities are attracting national attention. Would you like to see comprehensive bike and pedestrian plans in Denton, especially given the advantage of Denton’s smaller city size?

Yes, I think the time is right. Based on the growth and the alternative transportation initiatives, the stars are lining up right for Denton. All we’re missing is infrastructure and policies. The demand, energy, need, and social acceptance are already here.  In my opinion, Denton is perfect for this. I can close my eyes and see corridors with bikes, buses, and pedestrians.   No single occupancy vehicles.

If your department advocates cycling and walking, does that conflict with UNT Parking services which collect income from drivers?

UNT Parking and Transportation work as a TDM model, “Travel Demand Management”, and we want people to come to this university and have a pleasant experience. Fewer cars on campus equal less congestion, pollution, and aggravation.

UNT Transportation services have recently undergone huge increases in bus capacity, routes, handicap access, and bicycle accommodation during the last few years. Did you oversee this transition, and do you consider it a success?

I absolutely consider this a success. The student fee was voted and accepted by the UNT Board of Regents in 2002, and the service was first operated by a private contractor, Noble Coaches. I think the ridership back then was about one thousand per day with the city operating one route for UNT and their LINK system. Then, we agreed to operate 10 buses, purchased by UNT, in conjuction with Denton. The service continued to grow, so we bought used buses from Dallas. We transferred ownership of 15 buses from DART to the City of Denton. We had 27 buses total, and then DCTA received their funding to come into existence from area cities. The city was amiable to transferring the assets from DCTA, so DCTA took over the service. This is directly patterned after the UT/Capital Metro relationship.

(Joe provided data with which I created the following graph)

How many buses does UNT currently use?

UNT owns 12 buses, DCTA provides the rest for a total of 27.
UNT bus service accounts for about 85% of DCTA’s total ridership.

The City of Denton has shown renewed interest in multi-modal transit, especially with the DCTA A-train coming soon. Do you anticipate many students will commute to UNT via the train?

Yes, 200 students ride the Commuter Express every day from Lewisville and Dallas, and we expect this number to continue to increase.

Are there any related transit plans to ease passage between the train station and the UNT campus?

Absolutely. DCTA is looking to provide efficient links to the universities from the rail stations.

In what ways do you anticipate transit services to evolve at UNT in the future?

A totally walk and roll campus

I’d like to see enhanced and improved connections to major off-campus Denton destinations. I think we serve the students quite well, getting them from off campus housing to campus. I’d like to see more cycling and walking. We have a web-based rideshare program, customized to the UNT community. We also have a late-night E-ride service from 9PM-2AM on-campus only.

This fall, we’re starting a car-sharing program so students/employees can rent cars by the hours. It’s becoming very popular on dense urban environments and campuses. We’ll have 2 Priuses, 1 Camry, and a Ford Escape. The hourly rates will start as low as $8/hour. Reservations can be made online, and users receive an access card so they’ll never have to go to a counter or deal with a person.

The one bike lane on campus runs along Avenue C. It has a huge pothole alongside the music building, and cars park in it constantly. Can this bike lane be improved?

We don’t consider it an official bike lane.

A few years ago, at a President Pohl sack lunch, UNT administrative staff expressed plans to develop separated pedestrian and cycling paths. Does UNT intend to further expand bicycle routes or implement separated cycling/walking paths?

I don’t think we’re going to implement separated paths, this is working pretty well. We periodically check with Risk Management to see if there are any pedestrian/cyclist accidents, and there are no reported injury accidents to date.

Do you ever walk or cycle on campus?

I prefer walking; I can get across campus in 10 minutes and see users of campus transportation, see full bike racks, hear the music, and I feel like part of the campus community. You get the campus experience. Nothing will give you the campus experience like taking a 10 minute walk through UNT. You’ll see loneliest people in town in their cars.

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One thought on “Interview With UNT Transportation Director, Joe Richmond

  1. Jarod Varner says:

    Joe is a huge asset and has assisted UNT in developing a service that is the envy of many in our industry.

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