Cal Poly was recognized with a gold medal as last year’s Best Workplace for Commuters.
The 2009 Race to Excellence Award credits an entity’s support for commuter benefits in addition to reducing air pollution, traffic congestion and fuel usage, and offering alternatives to employees driving alone. It was one of 27 companies, institutions and individuals recognized nationwide in November.
Cal Poly was the only CSU selected for this year’s gold award presented by the University of South Florida’s National Center for Transit Research (NCTR). It was recognized along with eight other institutions, including Stanford University and Virginia Tech. Cal Poly also received the award in 2006.
Commuter and Access Services Coordinator Susan Rains submitted Cal Poly into the running both years.
“Because the Cal Poly campus is so supportive of the (commuter services) program compared to other campuses, we can make more improvements to alternate modes of transportation,” she said
Cal Poly was recognized for several initiatives. The university has 11 vans for van pooling and coordinates with the regional Rideshare office in San Luis Obispo to match up employees with similar schedules and destinations. Cal Poly was rewarded for including an increased number of bicycle racks, showers, lockers, employee commuting awards, incentives and on-site amenities.
Cal Poly strives for long-term changes in on-campus transportation, including fewer parking spaces, increased parking fees and greater car sharing and bus use. Starting with the University Union Plaza renovation, this eventually includes closing Perimeter Road entirely with the exception of campus and emergency response vehicles.
Cindy Campbell, Cal Poly’s associate director of University Police, is committed to offering programs for sustainable transportation.
“We are definitely marketing to students on a regular basis,” she said. “We try to send the message that before you decide on a single car as your only option, there are countless other options.”
These range from biking, bussing, rideshare matching, van pools, shuttles or the latest addition to Cal Poly’s transportation force, the Zip Car. The car service first appeared in October and is a Web-based membership program for an hourly car rental.
“It’s great for first year residents without cars,” Rains said. “You can drive to Costco with some friends and simply split the cost or go to a late night movie when the bus is no longer running.”
With 450 members, the Bicycle Coalition of San Luis Obispo County is a sustainable form of transportation on the Cal Poly campus. The coalition works with local governments to create more bike lanes and bike racks and greater access for bikes. It also offers education classes, maintenance and free parking as a way of encouraging people to bike. Dan Rivoire, executive director of the coalition, said the new bike paths and move for greater access in parts of campus like the UU promotes bike safety.
“We think (the improvements are) really good and should continue throughout campus,” Rivoire said.
Civil Engineering senior Todd Wilkinson said Cal Poly is definitely deserving of such an award.
“I think (the award) shows that we’re moving in the right direction by getting closer to the ultimate goal.”
Many Cal Poly students’ and employees’ first choice for transportation is biking, but Wilkinson considers the buses a great option for rainy days or the unexpected flat tire.
“I love the buses; it’s rare to be able to ride for free,” he said.
The funding behind the bus system comes from the parking fees on campus including citations, passes or metered parking. Cal Poly employees and students make up roughly 70 percent of SLO Transit’s ridership. A double-decker bus will be added to the fleet next fall and will follow a Cal Poly specific route allowing for more passenger space to and from campus.
The steps Cal Poly has taken steps to provide a commuter-friendly environment work to solve parking challenges and costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and gas demands, attract and retain employees or students and distinguish the university as a competitive benefits leader. The award winners are “recognized as leaders nationally for providing the best commuter programs that the community can benefit from,” said Julie Bond, program manager of the NCTR.