Faculty, staff, and student commuting accounts for about 15 percent of the University’s total greenhouse gas emissions. As the University works to achieve carbon neutrality, commuters will face a variety of options to help reduce emissions. Mass transit to and from campus represents one of the greatest opportunities for individuals to reduce fossil fuel consumption and traffic congestion. Over the past six years, ridership on Shuttle UM has more than doubled to 2.6 M riders. As the University’s vehicle fleet continues to grow, the Department of Transportation Services (DOTS) is taking steps to minimize its environmental impact.
DOTS now offers the following programs that encourage green commuting: Guaranteed Ride Home, SmartBenefits Pre-tax Benefit, 50% off Carpool permit, Preferred Carpool Parking, 20% Discount Low Emissions, Electric Vehicles Discount, Bike Gear Discounts, and BikeUMD.
To learn how to ride in sustainable style, click here for more information.
The campus is working to increase access for electric vehicle owners. In February 2011 the campus installed five charging stations (each with capacity to charge two vehicles at a time), with plans for more installations in the near future. All of the stations are free to use for electric vehicle owners. The charging stations are located in public lots across campus, so both the surrounding community and the campus have access to the technology. To learn more about the charging stations, see a map of all the stations and sign up for a ChargePoint card to access the stations, please visit the DOTS charging station website.
Students, faculty and staff who drive an electric vehicle to campus are eligible for a 50% discount on their campus parking permit. To see if you are eligible or to learn more about getting an E.V. discount, please visit the DOTS incentives website.
UMD’s Shuttle Bus operation has undertaken any steps to improve fuel efficiency and support campus sustainability efforts. The focus has been to reduce the use of diesel fuel and bus engine emissions. All buses in the Shuttle-UM fleet run on a mixture of bio diesel fuel. The "bio" component of bio diesel is manufactured from waste cooking oil, which generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based diesel alternatives. Shuttle-UM uses 5% biodiesel in the winter months and 20% biodiesel in the summer months. DOTS also added eight new hybrid busses to the fleet in 2009-2010.
To further reduce emissions, DOTS has installed catalytic converters in all of its buses. This EPA verified device eliminates 25 percent of particulate matter, 70 percent of carbon monoxide, and 70 percent of hydrocarbon gases. Along the same vein, DOTS has installed crankcase ventilation systems on all of the buses, thereby reducing crankcase emissions. With this device, some byproducts of combustion, such as unburnt hydrocarbons, will go back into the engine to be reused instead of being emitted into the air.
This is a service offered by DOTS to connect commuter students who have similar commuting schedules. Not only do participants in carpools reduce vehicle emissions, but they also save money by benefiting from lower parking permit fees. The University carpool program includes an internet-based tool that makes it easier for individuals to find others interested in carpooling.
Many faculty, staff, and students commute to campus by bicycle, but even those who live too far from campus to ride can take their bicycle on Metrobus, Metrorail, and Shuttle-UM. Bike racks have been installed on the front of Shuttle-UM buses to make environmentally-friendly commuting even easier. Additionally, there is a full service bike shop in the Cole Fieldhouse that offers maintenance instruction and bike rentals.
In 2008, DOTS retained a consulting firm specializing in campus bicycle planning to conduct a bicycle study of the College Park campus. The purpose of the study was to evaluate current practices and make recommendations that could lead to the development of facilities and campus infrastructure for optimal bicycle circulation and parking; and to promote policies and programs for bicycle management, safety, and security. DOTS identified a core group of campus stakeholders including the Departments of Public Safety, Facilities Management, Resident Life, and Residential Facilities who agreed to work jointly to implement the consultant’s recommendations.
BikeUMD is a program and information resource that covers everything related to bicycling at the University of Maryland. It is funded by student fees and monies recouped by lower than expected fuel costs for the Shuttle-UM system. BikeUMD has worked to ensure that there is ample bicycle parking across campus (including secure bike locker rentals in several campus garages), developed a bike map showing campus bike parking and shower locations, and relocated the Campus Bike Shop to a more accessible location in Cole Field House. It conducted a bicycle safety campaign in April 2010 to educate both cyclists and drivers about how to co-exist peacefully and safely on campus roads.
UMD DOTS and the bikeUMD program have taken biking to the next level, earning a silver level ranking in the League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Friendly University competition. Click here to read more.
DOTS began to offer “Green Permits” to persons who drive to campus with cars that have been selected by the EPA as “Green Cars”, based not only on highway miles per gallon, but also environmental impact in manufacture, disposal, emissions, and more. (To see a list of all cars that qualify, click here). DOTS provides eligible drivers with a 20 percent discount on the cost of a parking permit in an effort to encourage all commuters to make fuel-efficient vehicle choices and thereby reduce the collective greenhouse gas emissions of the campus.
Faculty, staff, and students can take mass transit to campus and have the flexibility of running errands during the day. The ZipCar program allows any member of the campus community to conveniently borrow a car when needed (reservation required). Gas, insurance, and maintenance are included. This is just one more reason not to sit in Beltway traffic.
The Purple Line is a proposed light rail line that would connect stops inside the beltway from Bethesda to New Carrollton, offering an alternative to congested Beltway travel. The proposed route includes a stop on Route 1 and an on-campus station. Although a number of years away, this transit option will help additional members of the campus community commute to campus in a convenient and low-carbon manner. It may help reduce campus congestion and could enhance the desirability of the College Park community for individual and commercial investment and as a shopping and recreation destination.