Student Endowment Fund Spotlight: Nov/Dec

The Nov-Dec Spotlight was written by Karen Aspelin, former Technical Chair and current Western District Secretary-Treasurer.  The following is her article about the Student Data Collection Program which she administered as the District’s Technical Chair:

Karen Aspelin

It probably won’t come to a surprise to anyone that this morning I witnessed 13 cars waiting in line at my local Starbucks drive through.  That number must have seemed unlikely to the coffee shop’s developer though, because only five in the queue of cars were actually accommodated in the drive-through line.  Another seven vehicles snaked through the adjacent strip mall parking lot, while one straggler was content to wait for her triple non-fat chai caramel macchiato in the mall’s driveway, oblivious to the fact that she was hanging out into the arterial through lane.

Now, would you be surprised if I told you that the students of the Western District are playing an important part in preventing these types of situations? Annually for the last seven years, the Student Data Collection program, one of several programs that will now be paid for by the earnings of the Endowment Fund, has been providing $1000 grants to five student chapters in return for 80 person-hours of data collection on trip generation, parking generation, and queue lengths.  While ITE’s Trip Generation manual has ample data for some land uses, over time these rates change.  For example, how much banking is now done on-line rather than in a branch? Additionally, new land uses emerge for which there really is no data.  The RFP for the student grants specifically requests data on these new types of land uses – for example, IKEA stores, Bass Pro Shops, transit-oriented developments, and discount gas stations associated with grocery stores.  Students can propose to collect other types of data as well.  Several years ago one student chapter collected pedestrian walking speeds, and just last year I received a request for this data from someone who had found it during a Google search – in Norway!

In addition to being a great way for the Institute to gather data – the student submittals are passed along to Headquarters for use in upcoming manuals – the data collection program is often the first experience for students of going through an RFP process.  Grant seekers must adhere to strict directions in the RFP and can be disqualified for a late submittal or too many pages– just like in the real world.  The grant funds are not paid as wages to the data collectors but instead are generally used by the chapters to help fund travel to the District’s annual meeting.

So later this year when you’re trying to find parking at your nearby 30-theater multiplex on the day after Christmas,  take comfort in the fact that student grants have been used to collect data on this land use for several years.  But on your way, you might want to pick up a coffee to sip while waiting for a space.