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Shuttle System Improvements Planned

Starting in late November, NIH'ers riding the shuttle buses will notice some changes that should improve the way they get around campus. For one thing, the bus routes will be more easily identified through color coding. Two major hubs at Bldg. 31 and the new Bldg. 10 South Entry will serve not only the campus route but also all off-campus shuttles. A new stop on Center Drive will serve as a minor hub providing additional service to the Natcher Bldg. and the Library of Medicine. The Medical Center Metro stop will be the second minor hub with direct routes to Bldgs. 10 and 31 in addition to the regular campus shuttle. All shuttles will run in one direction throughout the day eliminating much of the current confusion. Finally, new signs at all bus stops will have clearly posted route maps and stop schedules.

While the changes are prompted by the upcoming opening of the new South Entry to Bldg. 10, revising the NIH shuttle system has been a high priority for the Office of Research Services for some time. "We always felt that the shuttle buses are an integral part of the NIH transportation management plan," says Stella Serras Fiotes, master planner with ORS's Facilities Planning and Programming Branch. She has been collecting information and considering improvements since the parking and transportation survey late last year. With the recent formal transfer of the shuttle buses to ORS, changes are being coordinated directly with other ongoing parking and transportation initiatives. Further reductions in the campus parking supply will increase employee reliance on the NIH shuttle buses to access outlying campus lots, off-campus satellite lots and the Metro station. The closing of the current north entry to Bldg. 10 and the opening of the South Entry will result in a total reorientation of pedestrian, vehicular and bus circulation to the Clinical Center. With over 6,000 employees and numerous visitors coming to this building, it became apparent that the shuttle buses would not only need to service the new South Entry but also provide more options for accessing the rest of the campus.

The concept underlying the proposals is simple. The entire NIH shuttle system is viewed as one integrated network of routes. Off-campus routes are linked at the hubs to the campus shuttle, which will continue to provide "loop" service around the entire campus. Riders waiting at the shuttle hubs will have more than one option to travel to any of the other hubs. By coordinating routes and stops, Fiotes hopes to take better advantage of the fleet of over 20 shuttle buses serving NIH. Information is key to increasing awareness and, with luck, ridership. ORS plans to print brochures, publish articles and create a new Web page. The new signs at the stops should also go a long way in explaining and promoting the shuttle bus system. "And if it sort of reminds you of the Metro maps and signs," says Fiotes, "that's not a coincidence. Washington area commuters are accustomed to finding their way around the Metro system. Why not build on a good thing?"

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