University drives down emissions with TDM
by Ruth Stevens
When Beth Zawodniak joined the Princeton staff last year, she enjoyed her job but not the commute. The 46-mile round trip from Holland, Pa., was taking its toll on her wallet and her well-being.
Then she heard about Transportation and Parking Services’ new car pool matching program and immediately signed up. The free secure online database provides applicants with a list of other University community members who live and work near them and want to car pool.
Sharon Kulik, assistant to the director of the Council for International Teaching and Research, found Zawodniak, executive assistant for University Services, through the program, and they began car pooling from Newtown, Pa., in September.
When Sonya Aronowitz, marketing manager for gift planning in the Office of Development, broke her wrist this past winter, a friend put her in touch with Kulik. Aronowitz joined the car pool in February for what she initially thought might just be the period of time while she couldn’t drive. She assumed her busy schedule would prevent her continued participation.
“But it’s been too much fun,” she laughed. “Now I base my life around the car pool!”
The Rideshare Car Pool Service is one of several incentives offered through Transportation and Parking Services to encourage faculty, staff and students to use alternative modes of transportation. The incentives, under an umbrella called “Transportation Demand Management” (TDM), are intended to help the University meet a goal of its Sustainability Plan — to decrease by 10 percent or 500 the number of cars commuting to campus on a daily basis by the year 2020. Transportation accounts for the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on Princeton’s campus, after utility emissions from the central plant and purchased power.
“Employees are excited that there are incentives to take alternative modes of transportation,” said Andrea DeRose, TDM manager in Transportation and Parking Services.
Kulik, who has been car pooling since she joined the Princeton staff in 1991, thinks it’s a “no-brainer.”
“It just makes so much sense. It’s a win-win situation,” Kulik said. “We save the wear and tear on our cars, wear and tear on our bodies, we’re helping the environment, and we’ve created great friendships and have wonderful conversations.”
Aronowitz said, “Coming from different sides of the University, we get bits of insight into the various departments.”
Each person who participates in a car pool at least two weeks out of the working month receives a $25 gas card every three months. Since the program was launched last fall, nearly 120 people have registered, and 62 people are receiving gas cards.
The trio car pools several days a week around work schedules, errands and children. Transportation and Parking Services provides a free “guaranteed ride home” service for situations such as emergencies and sick children, but this group hasn’t had to use it.
They said car pooling requires them to be a little more organized and may delay their trip by about 10 minutes with the dropoffs and pickups. But they also don’t have to search for a parking place, and they have a good reason to leave the office on time.
Another incentive offered through TDM is the mass transit subsidy program. Employees commuting to campus via mass transit are eligible to receive a 50 percent subsidy on their monthly transit passes.
TaWanda Jones, assistant director of publications in the Office of Communications, is one of 91 employees who are taking advantage of the subsidy. She joined the staff in December and said the program has been “a really good experience.”
She takes trains from outside Philadelphia to Princeton and back Monday through Friday.
“It averages out to be a better deal for me because it’s less wear and tear on my vehicle and less stress on me,” she said. “It’s an hour and a half each way with no traffic. I think it would take me longer than two hours one way with traffic on the way home. After a long day, that’s the last thing I want to deal with.”
The guaranteed ride home service also is available to commuters.
Other offerings include a 25 percent discount for students on New Jersey Transit; an improved TigerTransit campus shuttle; an online bike map; and a van pool service that will start in July.
DeRose said the programs are just beginning to make a dent in reducing the number of cars on campus. She estimates there are perhaps 30 fewer vehicles at the University because of them. But she’s hoping that the number of cars will decrease as word spreads about the incentives. Earlier this spring Princeton received its first New Jersey Smart Workplaces Award from the state Department of Transportation for its efforts to provide alternative transportation programs for employees who commute.