The University has excellent access to both the Baltimore Beltway, I-695 (via Wilkens Avenue), and I-95 via I-195 and UMBC Boulevard. The main campus road, Hilltop Circle, is a two-lane facility that doubles as a parking lot. Hilltop Circle rings the center of the campus and affords access to all campus roads including Walker, Poplar and Hilltop Avenues. Campus roads provide adequate capacity, except during peak hours at the intersection of Hilltop Circle and UMBC Boulevard. Additionally, the existing configuration of this critical intersection at the main portal to campus creates an unsafe situation for drivers and pedestrians.
The University has four vehicular and pedestrian approaches - two from Wilkens Avenue, one from Shelbourne Avenue to the east and the main approach from I-95 via UMBC Boulevard. These vehicular approaches lack a delineated formal gateway or a symbolic gesture to mark the campus entrance commensurate with the status of the University. The University has a plan to improve the campus gateways, making them safer and more attractive while modifying the wayfinding signage to enhance visitor experience and improve user orientation.
There are a number of regional bus lines that stop on campus and UMBC Transit operates six shuttle bus routes serving surrounding communities and a satellite parking lot for residential freshmen. Bus use on campus is consistent, but light. Consistent with its commitment to minimize its carbon footprint, the University is developing plans to increase transit ridership by improving the location and shelters at bus stops, providing more alternative routes and schedules to match demands, and creating an awareness of transit options available to students, staff and faculty.
In addition, the University is encouraging alternatives to bringing a car to campus. Ride-sharing programs and car-share services are being supported and encouraged. To increase the number of students biking to and between their classes, the University has begun a program installing bike racks at key locations; and the University is developing plans for on-campus bike paths and better regional coordination.
The main academic core is traversed by a strong, north-south pedestrian promenade that links the main campus entry to the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery. This promenade is extremely well defined by trees and buildings and is crossed by steps leading both east and west to other levels. The clear orientation of this boulevard is not found in other areas of the campus. Most other areas are less dense and complicated by changing geometries and sloping topography.
UMBC’s constantly sloping topography makes the campus hard to comprehend as a “whole.” The Hilltop Road and Walker Avenue entrances to campus sit on higher ground; the academic core sits on a “shelf” in the middle ground; and the athletic fields, Facilities Management and Warehouse complex, and Technology Resource Center are on the lowest level. While the academic core and central green already exhibit a fine network of pedestrian paths, creating a sense of connectedness throughout the campus’ length is one of the challenges that this Master Plan Update addresses.
The hilly site for the campus affords challenges for the disabled. Many areas of campus have sidewalks with a 4 to 8% grade, making navigation and circulation at times difficult. The University is committed to improving circulation routes and ensuring that students, staff and faculty with disabilities have equitable access to campus facilities. All academic buildings on campus above one story have elevator access to all floors, but many of the pre-1980 residential buildings as well as the UMBC Stadium and the Technology Research Center (TRC), were not designed with elevators or ramps to give access to all levels. The University is currently designing improvements to the older residential communities to provide elevator access.