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May 10, 2010

Staff members find green, economical ways to commute

students in a jalopy

By Lori Packer and Liesel Schwarz ’11

John Wasnock lives near Medina, 50 miles away from the University. Tom Foster lives about two miles away on Rockingham Street. But the mechanic and the professor share something in common: neither drives his car to work every day and both have reaped the savings—both financial and environmental.

Wasnock, who has worked in Facilities and Services for five years, carpools to work every day with another facilities mechanic. By sharing the driving, he cuts his 500-mile-a-week commute—and his fuel costs—in half. “I’m down to one tank of gas a week, easily, versus two to three tanks if I drove myself every day,” says Wasnock.

If you stop driving alone to work just one day a week, you would save:

1,000 miles on your

27 gallons of gas/year

$81 in fuel costs/year

567 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You would need to plant 31 trees to remove that level of carbon production.

If you stop driving alone to work every day, you would save:

5,000 miles on your car/year

135 gallons of gas /year

$405 in fuel costs / year

2,386 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You would need to plant 153 trees to remove that level of carbon production.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas State Energy Conservation Office

About Carpooling

Carpool permits are available at a discount rate:

2 in a carpool = 50 percent off the normal price

3 in a carpool = 75 percent off

4 in a carpool = free

Those with carpool permits also receive 24 “emergency” passes a year for those days when they do need to drive themselves. Details are available at

Foster, a professor of imaging sciences, began walking to work two years ago and finds the time to himself during his 35-minute “commute” refreshing. “You find new treasures you never realized existed,” says Foster. “Like the nesting blue birds in Mt. Hope Cemetery.” When the weather isn’t walkable, Foster rides the city bus or carpools with his neighbor. He and his wife have become a one-car household, cutting out a large expense and polluter.

With the parking registration and renewal period beginning next month, now is the time to consider options such as carpooling.

“There is a real incentive there from a financial side,” says Mark Miller, business manager for Parking and Transportation Services, “but the logistics can be challenging. Can you live without your car for the day? Most people in our culture drive their personal vehicle to work every day.”

Not everyone can walk or carpool every day like Wasnock and Foster, but even an occasional break from driving has its rewards.

Andrew Berger, a professor of optics, describes himself as a “causal biker.” Living in Brighton at the end of Highland Avenue, Berger bikes about three to four times a week when the weather is nice. Compared to driving, the five-mile bike ride takes just as long, about 25 to 30 minutes. And the bike ride is door-to-door service.

For faculty and staff who may be considering cutting back on their driving, Miller offers encouragement. “There is some flexibility built into the carpool program. Try it—you can always go back.” For Wasnock, Foster, and Berger, the financial, environmental, and social rewards have made the switch worthwhile.


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