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Penn's Sustainable Transportation Initiative

October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09
Above: One of the eight new low-emission vehicles that Penn has purchased over the past two years. To celebrate their reduced environmental footprint, the vehicles are being encased in green-themed wraps designed by Business Services in collaboration with Penn’s Sustainability Office.

As we begin the second year of Penn’s Climate Action Plan, I want to take this opportunity to share with you the work that is being done to help reduce vehicle emissions across campus – an important area of focus for the overall plan. This fall, Business Services launched a Sustainable Transportation Initiative, with the goal of decreasing the number of cars driven to campus by providing information about alternative forms of transportation and facilitating access to a variety of more sustainable commuting options including public transit, ride-sharing, biking and walking. 

In the past few weeks, a number of activities incorporated into this initiative have been rolled out. These include the following:

• Four new vans were added to the Penn Transit fleet, which not only improve access and comfort for Penn Transit riders, but are also equipped to run on liquid propane, creating 50% less tailpipe emissions. The new shuttles, along with four buses purchased in 2008 which can use either ultra-low sulfur diesel or biodiesel, will be easily recognizable by their green-themed graphics which proclaim that our vehicles now provide “a cleaner, greener set of wheels.”

• Penn Transit also has a new website which presents information not only on its services, but also on an array of alternative commuting options to campus. You can visit the new site at: www.upenn.edu/transportation to learn about discounts on public transit, bike parking on campus, ride sharing opportunities and much more.

• This month, Penn expanded its car-sharing capabilities by contracting with a second local car-sharing program, Zipcar, which added an additional 44 car shares on campus. Together with PhillyCarShare, which has had a contract with Penn since 2008, the total number of car-shares  available on or near campus has increased to 82. Both organizations also offer special discounts to Penn faculty, staff and students who open personal car-sharing accounts.

• Penn has joined with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to promote the Guaranteed Ride Home Program, which provides a free ride for commuters who carpool, vanpool or use public transportation in the event of an unexpected emergency.

In the coming months we will be installing electric charging stations in three Penn garages, and offering benefits to parkers who drive low- emission vehicles. In addition, Business Services will also be working with Facilities and Real Estate Services and the Division of Public Safety to make our campus friendlier and safer for bikers and pedestrians. Importantly, these efforts are only the beginning; you can expect more programs to support Penn’s new Sustainable Transportation Initiative.

I am also pleased to announce that we have hired a new Director of Business Services, Brian Shaw, who will oversee the departments of parking and transportation and spearhead this initiative. As a specialist in the area of sustainable transportation and a Penn alumnus, Brian is uniquely qualified to lead this effort. He has been charged with ensuring that Penn meets its Climate Action Plan goals of developing a quality campus environment for pedestrians and bikers, encouraging the use of public transportation or commuting, and providing safe, efficient local transportation services for the University community.

Finally, a critical factor in the success of this initiative is the support of the Penn community. Last year we launched our first-ever Commuter and Parking Survey, which helps us determine the commuting patterns and needs of our campus community. I would encourage everyone to participate in the online survey at www.upenn.edu/survey/commuterparking. It is a convenient and easy way to add your voice to the initiative and to make a difference in Penn’s sustainable transportation efforts.

To learn more about the Climate Action Plan, what is happening at Penn and how you can support our efforts to lower the University’s carbon footprint, visit the Green Campus Partnership website at  www.upenn.edu/sustainability/.

—Marie Witt, Vice President,
Division of Business Services

Related: A Green Fleet at DPS


Almanac - October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09