University Transportation Alternatives Through UR Connections
According to a recent report from the EPA, transportation composed 28% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2012. Passenger cars specifically are one of the biggest contributors to this pollution. On October 21, 2014, University Parking and Transportation Services launched a program named UR Connections to help address this issue. The marketing initiative is designed to inform people about transportation alternatives available at the University. UR Connections divides these alternatives in three different categories: “Get a Ride”, “Share a Ride”, and “Skip a Ride.”
Get a Ride
Within the “Get a Ride” category falls the University’s Shuttle System. Buses flexibly offer connections from River Campus to College Town, the Medical Center, 19th Ward, and Whipple Park every 20 to 30 minutes. New tracking technologies such as the TransLoc Rider App and SMS Text Messaging deliver transportation updates and arrival times, which have increased bus reliability and ridership.
Another option in the “Get a Ride” category is renting a Zipcar. Zipcars allow people to rent a car by hour or day, and use it on an as needed basis. Stations to pick up and drop off cars can be found on the Medical Center, Eastman School of Music, and River Campus.
Lastly, the program promotes the Market Place Taxi system, which offers flat rate prices and discounted metered trips for University students, faculty and staff.
Share a Ride
In the “Share a Ride” category, UR Connections promotes the RTS bus system. Offering fares of just $1, the buses have routes at a variety of times to many destinations, making it a great alternative to passenger cars. The Parking offices also offer economical unlimited passes to purchase for more frequent RTS bus users.
Carpooling is another way to share rides to and from the University, and has both fiscal and environmental benefits. Vanpooling is an option for larger groups of travelers journeying to farther distances. While simultaneously reducing their own fuel expenses and carbon footprint, registered carpoolers can receive substantially reduced parking rates. The discount depends on the number of people carpooling – two people pay 50% of the rate, three people pay 25% of the rate, and four people can park free of charge! Zimride, an online carpool matching service, offers a convenient way for people interested in carpooling to connect with. Worried about the loss of flexibility? To further encourage carpooling, each rider received 26 occasional parking permits for those days when it is necessary to drive your own vehicle and is also guaranteed a back-up ride in the event of an emergency. Since the UR Connections promotional program came to fruition in October, 411 rides have been posted on Zimride. Based on a modest 20% utilization rate, $44,359 user dollars have been saved and 3,162 gallons of gas have been saved as a result of these rides. That equates to preventing 61,360 pounds of CO2 from being released into the air, a fantastic statistic as CO2 composes “the majority of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation."
Skip the Ride
Finally, in the “Skip the Ride” category, Well U teams up with Parking and Transportation to promote biking and walking as healthy alternative means of commuting. Both biking and walking can decrease blood pressure, lower the risk of diabetes, reduce high cholesterol, and decrease CO2 levels. Bike cages, bike racks, and lockers are available for the secure storage of bicycles during the workday. Many of these options require swipe-in access ensuring bike security. To further support biking to work, University Parking and Transportation Services will be hosting a Bike Training Workshop in April sponsored by the NY State Bike Coalition, to train and acclimate people to city cycling.
An initiative named Park n’ Stride specifically encourages people to walk, by designating parking spaces in far ends of parking lots. Periodically, the Well U program will select random cars parked in the spots and award that car’s owner with a small gift like an umbrella or backpack, gifts that further inspire walking to campus. This specific initiative has been especially successful. Director of University Parking and Transportation Services Hugh E. Kierig states that those spaces are full and are full because as a result of the health benefits the program offers. “Maybe someone can lose a pound a week walking.”
Each of the three transportation categories offers positive, sustainable alternatives to driving individual passenger cars. As a part of its promotion, UR Connections features a different mode of travel each month, offering activities and information about each. March is the month of Zipcars, while April is the month of walking. May is the month of bicycling, as National Bike to Work Day is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Kierig states, “The University has a strong commitment to sustainability. If we can get people walking or carpooling, we can help reduce the carbon footprint.”
UR Connections delivers the message of transportation alternatives at the University of Rochester to students, employees, and staff. By purchasing a carpool, vanpool, or public transit bundle you will join the UR Connections Club and obtain discounted alternative transportation packages, receive 26 free one-day parking passes, be eligible for prize drawings, and can suggest input into commuter developments. By reducing the use of single occupant vehicles as methods of transportation, we can help improve air quality and decrease pollution both on campus and worldwide.
Written by Julie Elliot, Class of 2015