Tuesday, November 18, 2008

California Colleges Pay Students to Bike

by Kristin Underwood, San Diego, CA on 11.17.08
Cars & Transportation

Cars on Freeway Photo

Image source: Getty Images

Universities in southern California are implementing several green commuting programs and incentives to encourage carpooling and biking to campus, reports the San Diego Union Tribune. While southern California is known for loving its autos, its also known for year round near-perfect weather. If there is any place in the US to encourage biking and hiking, this is it, but unfortunately public transit is not "mass" transit, yet. If there was just a way to flip the trend away from single-person auto use, it would change the entire culture and environment of southern California and several universities are working to do just that.

Mesa College is designating 33 prime parking spaces to hybrids and other high-fuel efficiency autos. San Diego State University also allocated 52 spots for car-pools in the faculty parking lot and subsidizes bus and trolley passes for faculty and students. With the new trolley line now running out to SDSU, students can get to other neighborhoods and even downtown with no traffic. Cal State San Marcos designated 80 spots for car pools, and permits have sold out in recent semesters. This year these passes sold out before the semester started.

UC San Diego

UC San Diego now uses a biodiesel bus and even improved its current bus service to transport 1,000 more students with 10 fewer buses. They also give 10 free days of parking to students that agree to bike the majority of their trips to campus. The programs appear to be working, at least at UCSD, as officials have noticed a drop in single-person car trips from 66% in 2001 to 49% in 2008. To further promote car-sharing, the university also now has 2 Zipcars on campus to give students the option of a car just for the longer trips, say to Target to get hair dye and decorations for their dorm room.

Other College Commuter Incentive Programs

Other campuses, as reported by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), are offering financial give-aways to keep cars off of the road. Stanford University, for example, will pay up to $282 a year to students that dont drive at all to campus. Ripon College in Wisconsin gives non-driving students a Trek mountain bike, helmet and lock.

With gas prices soaring this summer, Coastal Bend College in Beeville, TX switched to essentially a four-day work week for classes. The program was so popular among students and staff that its been expanded to the other 3 campuses. Similarly J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA developed Fuel $mart Fridays wheres students can elect to take all of their classes on Friday. Since community colleges typically tend to be commuter campuses, this saves students the daily commute and gets cars off campus with some students only attending one day a week.

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