Sustainable transportation available to students

UAA is on the road to reducing its carbon footprint by promoting alternative transportation services.

Due to the nature of being a commuter campus, most students drive to school. Over 30 percent of the university’s carbon footprint, the measured amount of greenhouse gases emitted over a period of time, is from commuting students, with about 3 percent being from staff and faculty.

To combat this, the university is adopting and promoting sustainable transportation, meaning a mode of travel that that does not deplete resources.

Parking services in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability is looking at beginning a carshare program. This program will begin a long-term contract with a car rental company, which will allow UAA to host vehicles that students may use.

Photos by Daniel Jackson

“When we did the transportation survey last semester, one of the reasons students gave for driving to campus is ‘I need to be able to leave campus at any time to be able to pick my kids up from school if there is an emergency,’” Paula Williams, Office of Sustainability director, said.

Students will have to sign up for the program, which will cost a fee, and then will be able to reserve time to use the vehicles available. This allows students the freedom to leave campus on short notice, but the eco-friendly alternative to driving back and forth from campus.

“We won’t start or sign a contract before next summer, more than likely. But it is something that we’re working on getting a contract in place,” Glenna Schoening, Parking Services director, said. “We need to make sure it’s something the students want and will use.”

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Currently they are looking into “Connect” with Hertz or “WeCare” with Enterprise. Hertz will serve almost the entire student body by allowing 18-year-olds to drive the vehicles, whereas Enterprise is more suitable for faculty, having a 21-year age requirement.

Another project that is being considered is for carpooling. Students will be able to register with a computer program to be matched with another student to carpool with. This should be in place before Summer 2011, according to Schoening.

Another alternative motor vehicle option is the People Mover. UAA students with a valid WOLFCard can ride the People Mover for free.

“A lot of students don’t realize that their WOLFCard gets them a free pass on the bus anytime they want to go, anywhere they want to go,” Williams said. “They don’t have to go back and forth to school to use it.”

The university also offers a similar service. The Seawolf Shuttle is available for all students to use. It travels on routes around campus, to the residence halls and to the University Center.

Alternative fuels for facility vehicles are also being pursued. Administration services use gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles and the recycling truck also uses sustainable fuel.

“The recycling truck has been converted so it can run on diesel and vegetable oil,” Paula Williams, Office of Sustainability director, said.

Unfortunately, the vegetable oil becomes too thick in the winter and clogs fuel lines. Therefore, it is only useable in warm temperatures.

Transportation around campus and town is not dependent on an engine and four wheels. Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation.

“I’ve been biking my whole time in Anchorage. I originally biked before I got my license. I wanted to go places but didn’t want to rely on other people. That’s still the primary reason,” Spencer Douthit said, longtime member and last year’s president of UAA’s Bike Club. “There’s a whole group of reasons that have developed since then. I’ve noticed how it’s changed how I do things socially. I take more time on things. I try and spread out my day because I’m not able to drive quickly in between places.”

The Bike Club encourages students to pedal to campus by hosting informative sessions, clinics and a bike shop located in the old Matanuska Maid building on Northern Lights blvd, which is available to the entire community.

“It started as a student-based workshop, but there were a lot of community members who saw value in it,” Douthit said. “So, it’s grown into a community bike shop that works well for students because of its price and availability.”

Critical Mass, a bike ride around for anyone who is interested, is held on the last Friday of every month by Bike Club. This event encourages bicycle awareness in the community, introduces bicyclists to each other and also teaches biking etiquette.

If you are still looking to do your part in reducing your impact, look no further than making your transportation more sustainable. You may find that a new way of commuting can not only help the environment, but also can make a difference in your life.

“Bicycling becomes a primary part of your culture. It changes the way that you experience life in Anchorage,” Douthit said. “It’s mostly independence, and partly economy. It’s cheaper, but a richer life in some ways.”