The Genesee Transportation Council has commended the University of Rochester for its innovative approach to reducing the number of cars on the road and the demand for parking.
"The University of Rochester is the first major employer in the Rochester area to put in place such a comprehensive plan for getting employees to try carpooling, public transportation, or bicycles more often as a way to get to work," said Neil Jaschik, director of the Genesee Transportation Council.
"The University of Rochester has shown real leadership in setting a new direction for employers in our region," said Monroe County Executive Robert L. King, who also chairs the transportation council. "Having fewer cars on the road means less traffic congestion, less wear and tear on public roads, fewer parking problems, and less air pollution."
The University's "Commuter Options" plan contains several innovative features, including a "guaranteed ride home," and "occasional parking" privileges.
The "guaranteed ride home" addresses transportation problems that crop up during the workday; an example would be someone who rode to work in a carpool or on the bus, but who must leave work early because his child has become ill at school. A cab takes the employee home, and the University pays for the ride.
"Occasional parking" privileges are given to employees who bike, carpool, or ride the bus most of the time, but who need todrive once in a while. They receive 20 free daily parkingpasses a year, and may purchase additional passes.
The idea of a "guaranteed ride home" and "occasional parking" privileges arose out of focus group discussions with employees. "We needed to know what to do to get more people to try alternatives to driving to work," said Diane Dimitroff, chair of a University transportation alternatives committee. While employees in focus groups thought well of incentives such as lower parking fees for carpoolers and employee discounts on bus tickets, many said that cost savings alone wouldn't make them give up their cars: The convenience of one's own car in emergencies and for occasions such as a scheduled doctor visit were too important.
The "guaranteed ride home" and "occasional parker" elements of the University's plan were crafted to assure employees that they could enjoy the cost savings of alternative transportation most of the time, while having the convenience of personal transportation when it was really important.
The University's Commuter Options plan, which applies to River Campus and Medical Center employees, includes:
1. Discounts on parking permits to encourage ride-sharing. Two- and three-person carpoolers enjoy hefty discounts on fees, and employees belonging to carpools of four or more park free.
2. Free passes for occasional parking.
3. Discounts on bus tickets: Employees buy 10 rides for the price of nine.
4. The addition of 17 new bike racks on River Campus.
5. The "guaranteed ride home."
To qualify for the plan's benefits, employees must register with the parking office, indicating which transportation alternative they rely upon -- carpools, bicycling, public transit, or walking. Since the program began this fall, about 120 employees have registered in the program. In the month of November, 26 bus passes were sold.
The University of Rochester employs more than 11,000 full and part-time employees, and enrolls more than 7,600 full-time students. As of this month, it had issued more than 16,000 parking permits.