Support cost effective and environmentally sound modes of transportation at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). Ridesharing, two or more people sharing a vehicle to get to the same destination, is a positive transportation alternative that is cost effect and environmentally sound. Between faculty, staff, and students, UAF has approximately 4,000 commuters driving to campus on a daily basis. Although ridesharing is not currently popular in Fairbanks, the UAF Staff Council should establish a rideshare program because it would decrease campus parking issues, encourage sustainability awareness, and positively impact air quality concerns.
While there are multiple reasons to take advantage of ridesharing opportunities, one of the most attractive at UAF would be minimizing parking issues. A standard parking decal costs approximately $250 on an annual basis. Rideshare parties could agree to split that cost, saving $125 annually immediately. In addition, parking places close to offices and shuttle stops are few and far between. If even 10 percent of current commuters elect to ride share, 400 parking spaces will open up. Due to the perceived shortage of parking on campus, UAF’s future improvement plan calls for a new parking garage at the cost of approximately $20 million. If the shortage of parking becomes less of an issue, that $20 million could be spent on other, more worthwhile projects.
Sustainability is an immense issue. Again, by eliminating 10 percent of the vehicles that come to campus, 400 people will lessen their dependence on oil and gas and wear and tear on their vehicles. In addition, each individual pollution footprint will decrease. Each small savings is a step towards saving the earth. In addition, Fairbanks has severe air quality concerns. Cold winter days cause an inversion that leaves a smog layer hovering over Fairbanks. Decreasing the amount of cars and exhaust on the road and decreasing the number of idling cars will positively impact air quality.
There are many other benefits to ridesharing. If rideshare partners work within the same organization, getting to know fellow employees and increasing social contact can make for a more positive work environment. Next, commuting is a stress related activity, so less time behind the wheel means less stress. Finally, reducing expenses beyond the parking decal issue, such as gas, oil and car maintenance is a major benefit.
These few reasons are enough to suggest that the UAF Staff Council should establish and strongly support a rideshare program. The first step in establishing a successful rideshare program is forming a small committee responsible for the set-up and marketing of the program. Committee duties would include either creating a web-page or joining an online rideshare matching site such as eRideShare.com, in addition to continued marketing of the website and the benefits of ridesharing. If the program takes off, the committee could lobby for incentives from UAF such as parking priority or discounts on campus.
eRideShare.com is a national rideshare website that links potential rideshare matches. The service offers marketing materials that could be posted on every bulletin board on campus. UAF also offers many ways to disseminate information such as the electronic Cornerstone Newsletter and global emails to listservs that include all staff, students, and faculty. A request could be made to Parking Services to incorporate information on their web-page, and a link to the online matching service.
In order to implement this proposal, the first step would be to meet with the Staff Council and provide information on the proposed program and the processes necessary to implementation. Appointment of a small committee responsible for the start up and ongoing tasks necessary to implementation will be the next step.
Dissemination of information on ridesharing programs will also be helpful to answer questions concerning safety, appropriate procedures and rules, and the possible benefits of participation. Safety issues will need to be addressed upfront. While online matching is available, the committee will stress the necessity of meeting the potential rideshare partner prior to that first ride. Procedures and rules could include how much to pay, when payment is due, where rideshare partners meet, and how long to wait if a partner is late. Potential benefits would need the support of UAF’s administration; however the program can run sufficiently without potential benefits. Such incentives and benefits could include decreased pricing on parking decals, priority parking spaces made available to rideshare participants, and recognition of participants as those doing their part to save the environment.
A ridesharing program at UAF will be fairly simple to implement and will have large impacts on the individuals involved and the community at large. Less traffic, less smog, and less driving stress can only make UAF a better place to work, and Fairbanks a better place to live.