Brian Shaw oversees Penn Transit, Parking Services, Penn Mail Services and the Penn Ice Rink. He came to Penn in 2010 from Chicago where he worked as a Senior Planner for Sam Schwartz Engineering, a leading traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm. Previously he served as the Director of Campus Transportation and Parking Services at the University of Chicago and as Director of Alternative Transportation at Emory University in Atlanta. He is a specialist in the area of Sustainable Transportation, having created new programs at the University of Chicago and Emory that fostered car pooling, biking, walking and riding public transit to campus. Brian received his Masters of City Planning from Penn in 1995.
On College Green: The general public often sees transportation as a “bad guy” in terms of emissions and impact on our environment. Can we make it a “good guy?” How do you see this happening?
Brian D. Shaw: When transportation and parking are planned properly, the ability to influence travel behavior by reducing driving and taking advantage of more sustainable modes is greatly improved. For example, the City of Philadelphia has recently moved bike lanes on Walnut Street to the left side to allow better flow for buses, bikes and parked cars.
At Penn, our newer garages are connected to retail to serve the campus community, an example being the lot at 40th & Walnut attached to Fresh Grocer. We also put bike racks in our garages. Penn also has added car sharing vehicles to campus as well as charging stations for electric vehicles. These initiatives make it easier for people to leave their own cars behind and make use of other modes of travel.
Penn is also increasing its use of alternative fuels such as propane in our transit operation. Use of propane in our shuttle fleet reduces emissions and the use of imported oil. It also lowers our fuel costs —a true “win-win.”
OCG:What led you to a career in management of transportation, and by extension, sustainability?
BDS:I grew up in Los Angeles where life was spent trying to avoid traffic jams. Your ability to go places and visit people was determined by how long it would take to get there, which was beyond your control thanks to ever-present traffic. I also developed asthma as a child from the air pollution in Southern California. I got better by moving away from LA to where the air was cleaner. I was determined to live a less car-dependent life and help others avoid being shackled to their cars and polluting the air. As a result, I do not own a car and avoid having to use one as much as possible.
OCG:Tell us what from your experience at the University of Chicago and Emory you have brought to Penn.
BDS:I used my experience from Chicago to develop our new carpool parking and occasional parking programs. I used my experiences from Emory to revamp our vanpool program which is now operated by Vride. I had used Vride at Emory and they did a great job there and have done right by us here at Penn.
OCG:Which existing sustainable transportation program, in your opinion, has been working very well at Penn? Do any programs need any more exposure or attention – meaning which may be a good program that enough people just don’t know about?
BDS:Our transit pass programs are doing very well at Penn for both employees and students. We have moved the employee program online that has made it easier for employees to participate. I’d like to see our vanpool program grow in participation and scope to include vans from all parts of the Delaware Valley. Our vanpools get free parking and subsidized fares that can save users hundreds of dollars a month in commuting costs.
OCG:Which, if any, of the programs in the Sustainable Transportation Initiative originated outside your department but within the Penn community? Good ideas often come from surprising sources.
BDS:We got requests for preferred parking for hybrids and low emission vehicles from a number of our permit holders. That program is also helping us with obtaining LEED credits for the new Singh Nanotechnology Center.
OCG:Most people likely would agree that Penn’s doing a good job offering commuting options, discounts, purchasing eco-friendly vehicles and encouraging biking on campus, but there’s always work to be done. What do you put on this “to do” list? Are there any possible future programs that you can share?
BDS:We’d like to develop a more focused effort around bike commuting, but there are some operational issues that need to be resolved before we can really move forward. We have also discussed a rewards program for those who choose not to drive to campus. We want to expand occasional parking to the Walnut 40 garage, to increase options for commuters who usually take public transit but sometimes opt for a car due to schedule or late-night commitments. For these people, a reliable, discounted “occasional” parking option would encourage their continued transit use while accommodating their schedule and lifestyle.
Each issue, we recognize a member of the Penn community for his or her environmental sustainability efforts on campus. If you know someone at Penn who is "leading the green," let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org .