By Melanie Stewart
When the Sustainability Master Plan (SMP) was released, 12% of people on the 42nd Street campus used active transportation to commute. The SMP ambitiously set a goal to increase trips made to and from campus using active transportation to 20% by the year 2023.
Campus growth expedited the need as new buildings took the place of some parking spaces, and those buildings now bring even more colleagues to campus. Parking structures and lots are exceedingly expensive to build (did you know that it costs more than $25,000 per stall when building a parking garage?!?) and even more dollars to maintain, light, and snowplow. Building more parking was not proactive, cost-efficient, or in-line with the SMP goals, so the innovative TravelSmart program was born.
Since June of 2015 thousands of colleagues and students have registered to participate. They have ridden the bus, walked, biked, and carpooled to receive free parking, reduce emissions, be healthier, reduce stress, and save money.
I am excited to tell you that we have hit our 20% goal! Six years ahead of schedule 22% of trips to campus are being made by active transportation!
While those participating see immediate benefits, everyone else benefits too! By using active transportation, hundreds of cars don’t come to campus each day. That means less congestion on campus and on city streets, less road repair or need for expansion, and a lot less pollution. Decreasing pollution improves air quality in Omaha and benefits all of us, but especially those with asthma, COPD, and other lung ailments. Creating a healthy future for all individuals and communities is our mission.
Using only the data you provided in our sustainability survey last fall, we know that we have reduced single-occupant vehicle miles by more than 29,000 miles per week! That’s a lot…1.2 trips around the equator each week and 6.3 round trips to the moon each year; and all of the emissions associated with those miles.
That’s fantastic! Others might call it good and bask in this glory…but that’s not how we roll here. Improving health is our mission and we know that our campus will continue to grow. I’m excited to tell you that we have updated our goal and our timeline: 35% of trips to campus using active transportation by the year 2030. This goal is ambitious too, but worth it, and aligns with our other 2030 goals.
Considering TravelSmart? You don’t have to use active transportation every day or give up your parking permit (but you can to save money!). If you have any questions or need help with a bus route or finding a carpool partner, let us know.