August 31, 2009

Northern Ky. U. program saves money, environment

A Northern Kentucky University collaboration with the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) allowing NKU faculty, staff and students to ride all regular TANK bus routes and university shuttles for free, which was launched two years ago, has saved students and employees money and has a positive impact on the environment.

The university is estimating that, since its inception, the program has saved students, faculty and staff as much as $3.75 million and the Northern Kentucky community more than 1,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Officials now hope that the program's popularity will continue to increase, potentially reducing future expenditures on parking lots and garages on the Highland Heights campus.

"Since July 2007 when we started the program, more than 380,000 rides have been taken via the UPASS program," said NKU Planning Coordinator Jane Goode. "While those individual rides vary widely, a broad estimate of that savings, based on 2007-09 federal mileage reimbursement rates, is over $3.75 million."

Goode noted that this doesn't even take into account other savings, such as the elimination of the need to buy parking passes or the positive impact the program has on traffic on and around the university's campus.

The popularity of the program with students, particularly those new to campus, grows each year.

"The interest in using the bus to get to class increases with each incoming freshman class," said Gina Douthat, TANK director of communications. "The program has made a huge difference for students that don't own a car, live in the dorms or near-campus housing, and those that are trying to save money on gas. NKU's commitment to the program has been a great positive for the entire student body."

"And then there is the environmental impact," Goode said. "NKU is very committed to being a regional and national leader in sustainability efforts. From programs such as UPASS and RecycleMania to constructing a LEED-certified informatics center, the university takes this responsibility very seriously."

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