University College USA

Five Ways Colleges Are Coaxing Students Out of

The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides bike valet at its football games. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supports free transit for everyone in the region. The University of California, Irvine launched a bike-share system in 2009, long before any major city in California had done so.

American colleges and universities are leaders in reducing driving and promoting sustainable transportation. It allows colleges to make good on their commitments to protecting the environment. It makes life easier for students and staff. And, perhaps most critically, it’s saving schools big money on parking. Stanford University estimates its efforts to reduce solo car commuting have saved the school from sinking $100 million into the construction and maintenance of parking facilities.

1. Discounted or free transit passes

Among the most common and effective strategies colleges employ to reduce driving to campus is providing free or reduced transit fares. PIRG reports 104 universities around the country offer this perk, often called “U-Pass, ” to students and/or staff. Universities typically fund the program with fees collected from students or with revenue from parking permit sales.

After the University of Missouri at Kansas City adopted a U-Pass program in 2011, transit use by students climbed 9 percent. Now other universities in the Kansas City region are looking to replicate that success, PIRG reports.

Chapel Hill took it one step further and made transit free for everyone. As a result, transit use by students more than doubled between 1997 and 2011, from 21 to 53 percent.

U-Pass programs don’t just help universities reduce spending on parking. They have spillover effects that also help promote transit beyond campus boundaries, by providing a steady source of revenue to transit operators and getting young people in the habit of taking the bus.

2. Ride-share and Car-share Services

Car-share services have also become an indispensable amenity for students and staff at universities across the country. Zipcar operates on 300 U.S. college campuses. Enterprise has a campus-based car-share service as well, which operates at 82 schools nationwide. At MIT, an early leader in campus car-share, 5, 500 students and 300 staff members have Zipcar memberships.

Ride-share services are another important tool. PIRG reports that about 130 colleges and universities around the country use the ride-share platform Zimride to match students for carpooling. One of those schools, Cornell, found that during a six-month period the service had facilitated 4, 000 one-time rides, taking an estimated 2, 000 cars off the road.

3. Promoting Bicycling

From providing free bike maintenance, to providing free bikes altogether, colleges are getting creative about promoting cycling. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a leader in this respect. In good weather, nearly a quarter of students bike to campus — an increase of more than 50 percent since 2006.

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