Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Va., has several transportation options available to students and faculty that minimize the number of single-occupancy vehicles brought to campus. These options supplement the 11 public Blacksburg Transit routes that serve the school.
Alternative Transportation Manager Deborah Freed says the university began looking at alternative transportation options in 1999. “With parking, if you build it, they will come — and that’s not always a good thing, since it leads to more congestion on campus and the need for more and more parking to be built,” Freed says. “We felt the need to give commuters an alternative to driving alone.”
Students can take advantage of the university’s Bike, Bus and Walk program, which allows students without a single-occupancy vehicle parking permit to apply for 15 free daily hang tags per semester. Also available is an emergency ride back program, so students who have chosen alternative transportation can get a ride back home in case of an emergency. “That’s been used very lightly, but it’s the kind of fallback measure that makes people feel safe joining the program,” Freed says.
Virginia Tech also offers a vanpool and carpool program. The cost of a carpool parking permit is 30-percent less than for a single-occupancy vehicle permit, plus the cost can be split between the people in the carpool. There are reserved parking spots on campus, and carpool permit holders also receive five free daily hang tags per semester for days when they need to have a vehicle on campus but are not carpooling.
Starting this coming school year, the university will have U Car Share vehicles on campus for student and faculty use. People who sign up as members can reserve cars online, and the hourly rate covers gas and insurance. The program comes at no cost to the university, which only has to provide signage and parking spaces for the six vehicles.
“These are relatively inexpensive programs to put in place, and I would say that the cost that we have reduced in building new parking probably has covered the cost of the program itself,” Freed says.
She says that people in the Virginia Tech community have been turning to alternative transportation options for a variety of reasons, including high gas prices, tough financial times making it more difficult to own and operate a car, and environmental reasons. “The environmental movement has been very strong on our campus, so we have a lot of folks who are opting for what they see as greener transportation options to cut down on their personal carbon footprints,” Freed explains.