Making a Sustainable Commuting Choice

Employees attend workshop about Duke’s alternative transportation options

On left, Mary Sell, an outreach coordinator for Duke Parking and Transportation, discusses alternative commuting options with Duke University Press logistics coordinator Bonnie Conner. Photo by April Dudash
On left, Mary Sell, an outreach coordinator for Duke Parking and Transportation, discusses alternative commuting options with Duke University Press logistics coordinator Bonnie Conner. Photo by April Dudash

To Jason Elliott, the small-town feel of Goshen, Indiana, where he grew up, meant riding bikes with friends to the local corner store and park. Nowadays, he lives about 2.5 miles from his campus office, where he serves as program coordinator for Duke’s Carbon Offsets Initiative. The proximity complements his alternative commuter lifestyle, in which he walks, takes the bus or rides his bike daily.“We live downtown, my partner and I, so we can be closer to Duke,” Elliott said. “The time that it takes me to travel allows me to slow down, think about other things, transition.”Elliott and other Duke employees took part this week in a Duke workshop, “Making Alternative Transportation Work for You,” when Duke Parking and Transportation and Sustainable Duke shared ways employees can give up driving solo to work. Transportation accounts for 32 percent of Duke’s carbon emissions, a number that continues to rise as more people are added to Duke’s workforce and more employees on average live further from campus. As part of its Climate Action Plan to become carbon neutral by 2024, Duke is targeting reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips by all Duke employees. “There’s the savings on parking, the savings on gas, and the reduction of wear and tear on your personal vehicle,” said Alison Carpenter, manager of Duke’s transportation demand management program. “Those are some of the obvious benefits.” Here are some ways to get started with a new commute:Take the busBecoming a bus rider is as easy as finding your route. Use the TransLoc transit visualization map to see where Duke buses are traveling in real time. The Bull City Connector, which connects Duke to downtown Durham, is also a fare-free service.For bus service beyond Duke and the downtown area, eligible Duke staff and faculty can buy a GoPass, which costs $25 a year, for unlimited rides on Triangle Transit, Capital Area Transit and Durham Area Transit. GoPass is free for all students.Carpool with colleaguesIf a four-person carpool registers with Duke Parking and Transportation, the group gets free parking in a preferred Duke lot and each member receives two free daily parking passes a month in case he or she needs to drive solo to work. Carpools with less than four people receive the two daily parking passes and save on campus parking. Find a carpool partner on the Duke RidePost website.Join a vanpool, and riders pay a low, monthly fare to use the service as well as park the van on campus for free. Duke will provide a $10-per-month discount to each participating Duke employee’s monthly fare when they’re riding to work in a Triangle Transit or Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) van. Each vanpool participant also receives two free daily parking passes per month for times they need to drive separately.  Bike to work Three to five miles is considered a good biking distance to work, and about 32 percent of University employees live within biking distance to campus.Employees and graduate students who sign up as bike commuters through Duke can receive two free daily parking passes per month in case they need to drive to campus, discounts to local restaurants and bicycle businesses, and free access to the Wilson and Brodie recreation center showers.Alternative commuters have a lifelineDuke staff and faculty who have shared a ride, taken the bus, walked or biked to work aren’t stranded if they need to respond to a family crisis or work unscheduled overtime. Duke’s alternative commuters who live in Durham, Orange or Wake counties can register for “Emergency Ride Home,” which provides a voucher good for a rental car or taxi ride home. The service is available when the employee or immediate family gets sick or has a crisis, when a carpool driver has to unexpectedly stay late or leave early, or the employee works unscheduled overtime.