Duke Gets ‘Gold’ for Sustainable Commute Options

‘Employer Commute Champion’ award recognizes commuter benefits, facilities

From left, Parking and Transportation staff Matt Lardie, Alison Carpenter and Carl DePinto accept the “Employer Commute Champion” award at GoSmart’s Golden Modes ceremony. Photo courtesy of Alison Carpenter.
From left, Parking and Transportation staff Matt Lardie, Alison Carpenter and Carl DePinto accept the “Employer Commute Champion” award at GoSmart’s Golden Modes ceremony. Photo courtesy of Alison Carpenter.

Duke’s transportation demand management program has been recognized for the second time with a “Golden Modes” award. 

The accolade, sponsored by GoSmart (formally GoTriangle), honors employees and employer programs dedicated to offering sustainable commute options. During an award ceremony on Nov. 12, Duke received the “Employer Commute Champion” award for offering university employees “top-tier commuter benefits and facilities,” said Michelle Parker, sustainable travel services manager with GoSmart. 

Duke was previously recognized with a Golden Modes award in 2011 in the “Commuter Champion” category. 

“Every day, traffic congestion drains employees of energy while boosting the costs of the commute,” Parker said. “Thanks to the programs we have, individuals across the Triangle decide not to drive alone to work or class.” 

In recent years, Duke Parking and Transportation Services has partnered with GoSmart for several initiatives, like the GoPass, which provides unlimited rides on local and regional bus routes for a one-time annual fee of $25. The pass is free for students. So far in 2015, 4,530 GoPasses are in circulation.

Duke also offers discounted monthly costs for vanpools and carpools as well as preferential parking on campus. Bicyclists can park in one of roughly 2,000 spots spread across 250 racks on Duke’s campuses, as well as rent a bike with the Zagster bike share program.

In 2015, Duke held the Unpark Yourself Challenge, in which nearly 2,000 faculty, staff and graduate students used alternative transportation options to compete for the grand prize of an ELF, a bike-electric vehicle. During the month-long competition, Duke community members logged almost 4,300 alternative commutes via bus, bike, carpooling and more. 

Focusing on commuting behaviors of Duke community members is an important part of Duke’s Sustainability Strategic Plan, which is working to reduce the number of students and employees who drive alone to campus. Almost 2,000 Duke community members are currently registered as a bike, carpool or vanpool commuter.

Alison Carpenter, manager of Dukes’ transportation demand management program, said she’s seen Duke’s efforts impact others in Durham, noting that the Durham VA and North Carolina Central University are also planning GoPass programs to encourage sustainable commuting. 

“It’s an honor to be considered a role model because of our investment in these programs,” Carpenter said. “We definitely face challenges in shifting the drive alone mindset, but it’s nice to know we’re doing things that make a difference and are being recognized.”