The University has placed emphasis on the sustainability of its on-campus fleet, focusing on TigerTransit. In doing this, the University has missed potential improvements that could be more effective.
In order to reduce the University’s carbon footprint, Princeton should focus on the activity of commuters to and from Princeton’s campus. Eighty-four percent of the University’s faculty and staff drive to and from campus as the sole passenger of a vehicle. Princeton recognizes this issue and has responded, as represented by its goal to reduce this type of traffic to and from campus by 10 percent by 2020. The University ought to have the buses take faculty and staff directly from a set of pickup points to the University. Potential pickup locations include New York, N.Y.; Bergen County, N.J.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Morrisville, Pa.; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Levittown, Pa.; and Bucks County, Pa.
From 2010 to 2011, there was a seemingly dramatic 98 percent increase in the number of campus community members participating in Transportation Demand Management programs: In 2010, there were a total of 353 participants in TDM programs, and in 2011 there were over 700. These initiatives included a Car Pool incentive of $50 every third month, a mass transit subsidy, a WeCar Car Sharing Program and a Vanpool program. In the current plan, the University spends $10,500 every three months on these gas cards for a total of 140 people. Another incentive is the mass transit subsidy in which the University reimburses TDM participants 50 percent of the cost of their monthly New Jersey Transit passes. The University spends $53,196 a month on these subsidies for the 186 participants in the mass transit program. One of the basic limitations of this program is the dearth of effective public transportation within the greater Princeton Borough from the variety of locations faculty and staff commute from. This subsidy is limited by infrastructure not under the control of the University. The most enrolled-in TDM program is the WeCar Car Sharing Program that provides discounted rates on renting hybrids. Though car sharing in theory reduces the University’s carbon footprint, in practice, it does not address the core source of University carbon emissions. WeCars — which still has the community using cars — is built on the premise that individuals will use the cars for a set amount of time and then return them to their given locations around campus. While effective for shorter trips throughout the day on campus, it does not represent a substantial reduction in commuter traffic to and from campus. Given this information, one can reasonably question the claim that those few cars adequately service 350 participants in the program.
With an increase in participants in these programs, there will be a concurrent linear increase in costs to the University. This fact exists in contrast to the fundamental principal of sustainability.
TigerTransit can be used to take the best elements of carpools and mass transportation to form a highly effective mass-transit pool. The TigerTransit bus system represents a huge untapped resource that the University has spent a great deal of time developing and has thus far misused. Still, the TigerTransit bus system is remarkably efficient at what it does. While the buses are well run, environmentally friendly and efficient, they do not represent meaningful rides. In other words, they replace walking and biking on the campus and not car usage. By going up and down campus shuttling a few students and faculty from locations like the Frist Campus Center, the Graduate College and Nassau Street, they are replacing a walk or bike ride most people undertake without hesitation. However, if utilized to their greatest potential, these buses can be used to shuttle people on and off campus when those people would otherwise use cars.
The University already has all of the tools necessary to make this initiative work. TigerTransit buses are green and underutilized. The free Communiversity bus was already shown to be effective and usable. By appropriating existing resources the University solves the issue of interschool/intraschool transport for all members of the Princeton community.
Aaron Applbaum is a Wilson School major from Oakland, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/08/31409/