Our Commitment to Sustainability
October 11, 2011,
Volume 58, No. 07
Last year, the Sustainable Transportation Initiative (Almanac October 26, 2010) was launched in support of the University’s Climate Action Plan’s goal of lowering Penn’s carbon footprint. Although the focus of the Initiative is developing and expanding sustainable commuting options, the effort strives to support the needs of all members of the Penn Community—no matter how they get to campus.
We have made much progress this past year. Our Division’s Department of Transportation and Parking has implemented over a dozen new programs or service enhancements designed to provide faculty, staff and students with more choice, and greater flexibility in their commuting options. These efforts are outlined in detail below.
This work has not gone unrecognized. Penn has been named as one of the Best Workplaces for Commuters by the National Center for Transit Research and this year U.S. News and World Report ranked Penn #5 in its list of schools with the fewest cars on campus. Yet despite our success we recognize that there is still more work to be done and this coming academic year we will be announcing additional service enhancements.
As we move forward, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. Indeed, many of these new efforts resulted from the continuing dialogue we have had with our patrons. In October, we will be launching our annual Parking and Commuter survey and on October 11 the Annual Commuter Fair will be held in conjunction with the Employee Resource Fair. I urge you to participate in these events and take the opportunity to learn about all the commuting programs available to you as well as other sustainable efforts being undertaken at Penn. And, we look forward to your continued support as we work to improve, expand and refine our Sustainable Transportation efforts on campus.
—Marie D. Witt, Vice President, Division of Business Services
Sustainable Transportation Initiative
Penn has joined with ADP Commuter Services, which currently manages Penn’s health benefits, to allow faculty and staff to manage their commuter benefits online. This includes SEPTA TransPasses and TrailPasses, PATCO Freedom Passes, TransitCheks or NJ Transit. For employees using these public transportation options, benefits will be sent directly to their homes eliminating the need to come to the Transportation and Parking office each month to pick up their passes.
In addition, Penn Commuters now have these new advantages:
• Expansion of Commuter Discount: The five percent discount that Penn has offered to SEPTA riders is being expanded to include the same discount for PATCO and NJ Transit users. For the first time these commuters will receive a five percent Penn discount (pre-tax up to $230 per month) on their monthly commuter pass purchases.
• Savings on parking in SEPTA Lots: Faculty and staff can add their eligible parking expenses (at SEPTA lots) to their Commuter Benefits and receive a pre-tax reimbursement.
• More Commuting Options: In addition to the existing travel options, SEPTA commuters can now purchase 10 trip tickets and receive their discount and pre-tax benefits providing savings and flexibility to individuals who don’t need to come to campus every day.
New Vanpool Program
Penn Transportation and Parking has joined with VPSI, a national leader in vanpooling and sustainable transportation, to expand vanpooling options to Penn faculty and staff. Penn currently has three vanpools in operation throughout the region, including New Jersey and Delaware.
Depending on the location and the number of riders, the average cost of participating in a Vanpool is between $100 and $150 which employees can pay for through a pre-tax deduction from their paychecks using Penn’s new online benefit system. Penn Parking also provides free parking for the participating vans.
At the start of the 2011-2012 Academic Year, the following programs are being launched making travel on and around campus safer, more sustainable and convenient.
Campus Loop Bus
Penn Transit is supporting the opening of Penn Park by launching the Campus Loop Bus. The Bus will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from Levy Tennis Pavilion to all transit stops on campus. Not only will it support activities at the new Park, but for the first time, Penn Transit will be providing service throughout campus during the daytime hours.
Additional Shuttle Service
An additional shuttle van has been added to the Penn Transit route in response to an anticipated increase in ridership due to the opening of Weiss Pavilion and the new Information Commons study center at Franklin Field. The additional shuttle will decrease wait times for riders.
New Fuel Efficient Vehicles
Penn Transit has added four new low emission vans to its shuttle fleet. These vehicles join the four shuttles and four buses that were purchased last year, bringing the total of lower emission vehicles in the Penn Transit fleet to one dozen.
Introduction of Hanging Tags
Starting in August 2011, Penn Parking began replacing its permit stickers with new hanging tags. The hanging tags are being issued on a rolling basis throughout the fall starting with the surface lots. These tags benefit our permit parkers in the following ways:
• Flexibility: The transition to hanging tags will enable patrons to easily park regardless of the car they are driving by simply moving the hanging tag and entering the replacement car information in the online parking system accessible from www.upenn.edu/parking, eliminating the need to call or visit the Parking Office to register a new or temporary replacement vehicle. Patrons may register multiple vehicles, but only one car may use the hanging tag at a time.
• Convenience: Hanging tags will not become damaged by the weather requiring replacement. Additionally, permit holders do not need to attempt to remove the permit stickers and bring the pieces to the parking office for replacement.
• Easier for Carpoolers: Hanging tags are more convenient for those who carpool. Participants can register all their vehicles and simply share the tag depending on who is driving that particular day.
• Eliminates permit abuse & frees up parking spaces: Because hanging tags can be easily moved between vehicles the need for duplicate stickers is eliminated. Abuse of duplicate stickers has been a problem for Parking Services and has resulted in multiple individuals parking on a single permit. By addressing this and other sticker abuse issues with hanging tags, additional spaces will be created in the more congested lots allowing Penn Parking to move people off transfer lists and offer more permit parking.
Low Emission Vehicle Parking
In January 2011, Penn Parking established preferred parking spaces for hybrid/electric vehicles later expanding the program to include all vehicles designated as low emission (LEV) by Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The program was designed to support the University’s Climate Action Plan goal of lowering Penn’s carbon footprint, and to help current and future University buildings achieve LEED certification.
Currently, five percent of parking spaces in our garages are reserved for LEV vehicles. The spaces are located near the entrance, exit or elevators as required by the LEED designation program and are delineated by signage. They are available to qualifying low emission and/or fuel-efficient vehicles until 10 a.m. each day. After 10 a.m., other permit holders or paying visitors can make use of these spaces. A list of qualifying vehicles is available on the Parking website.
The program is modeled after similar ones across our peer institutions, some of which also offer discounts as well as preferred parking. We chose to only implement preferred parking in order to avoid financially penalizing individuals who do not drive qualified LEV vehicles. And, by limiting use of the spots for the morning hours rather than restricting them entirely, we lessened the impact on non-LEV owners who use our facilities.
Over the years, Parking Services has received feedback that encouraged the exploration of mechanisms other than towing to serve as a means of enforcing Penn’s parking policies. In response, we are planning to begin issuing tickets to vehicles as an intermediate means of addressing instances of policy non-compliance. A pilot program in which warning tickets were issued (which do not require the recipient to make a payment) was begun this summer in order to solicit feedback and prepare for launching the full policy later this year. The warning ticket will indicate which parking rule was violated to allow our patrons to modify their parking decisions in the future to avoid getting a ticket or potentially being towed.
Examples of parking violations that would result in the issuance of a ticket include:
• Not having a valid permit for the location in which you parked
• Parking in a handicapped space without a handicapped tag
• Parking in a low emission vehicle space before 10 a.m. with an unqualified vehicle
• Taking up two parking spaces
• Parking in an unauthorized parking spot
• Not having a proper sticker or hanging tag
The ticketing program provides the campus community with an effective alternative to the current towing practices. Historically, the only option we exercised was to tow the offending car from the facility which, given the cost in time and fees, is not the optimum response for some infractions. The ticket fee will be $35 and recipients will be able to pay their tickets by credit card online. After three tickets for the same offense, a vehicle will be subject to towing.