This is the second and final installment of “Commuting that makes cents,” which explains alternative transportation options available to faculty, staff and students.
May was bike month, and though it is coming to a close, there is one group on campus who will continue to encourage biking and other sustainable means of transportation year round — Commuter and Access Services (CAS).
Most recently, from May 14 to 18, CAS hosted “Ride Your Bike to School and Work Week.” The main event was on May 17 and featured a bike festival with raffle prizes and giveaways on Via Carta, near Campus Market. The festival offered free bike repairs and gave students the opportunity to register their bikes.
To register a bike, specific information must be given. A sticker is then issued that has a number attached to it. There’s a database of registered bikes, and if there’s an abandoned or stolen bike, it is easier for it to be returned to the owner if it is found. Another way Commuter Services tried to encourage students to ride their bikes to school was by installing more bike racks and lockers around campus.
But for some students, biking is all about the convenience.
Todd Landsman, a biomedical graduate student, said he likes riding his bike to school so he doesn’t have to buy a parking permit and can save money on gas. This is easy for him though, he said, because he lives close to school.
For other bike-commuters, such as political science junior Riley Daly, it’s more about the experience.
“I like riding my bike to school because it’s a good way to wake up in the morning,” Daly said.
If students, faculty and staff don’t want to ride their bikes, an alternative option is to ride a San Luis Obispo City Transit bus for free.
“I’m very glad that it’s free,” wine and viticulture sophomore Stephanie Vidales said. “It’s a lot easier to take the bus than drive my car. I can save money on gas. And yeah, I love that it’s free.”
In addition to free transit around the City of San Luis Obispo, students, faculty and staff get discounted rates on regional transit bus passes.
Parking fines pay for city transit services for the Cal Poly community, but at some point, they may have to augment the parking fines to pay for it, CAS coordinator Susan Rains said.
“Hopefully it will always remain free, but we may have to get creative to figure out how to keep it free in the future because budgets are not what they used to be,” she said.
Cal Poly comprises 65 percent of San Luis Obispo’s transit usage and most of that is students, Rains said.
“That’s kind of like an average throughout the year because during summer, usage goes way down.” Rains said.
For students, faculty and staff that live on or near campus, there are alternative ways throughout the week to get home in the evenings without biking, walking or using the bus. The University Police Department escort van picks people up from various locations on campus Sunday through Thursday at times scheduled between 7 p.m. and midnight.
“We just didn’t see a big need for Friday and Saturday, so we just do it for Sunday through Thursday,” Rains said.
The escort van picks up from the Robert E. Kennedy Library at 10 and 40 minutes past the hour. It also picks up from the University Union at 10 minutes past the hour, in addition to picking up from the Business Building at 40 minutes past the hour.
“They’ll take students home up to a half-mile off campus or up to residence halls,” Rains said. “If you don’t have a car, that’s kind of a nice, safe way to get home at night.”
If students, faculty and staff don’t want to commute in a vehicle with other people in it, don’t have a car or don’t want to use their own car, they can rent one of two cars located on campus through Zipcar. Zipcar is a service offered on campus that provides an inexpensive and fast way to rent a car. There’s a Toyota Prius in parking lot A1 and a Ford Focus by the Robert E. Kennedy Library.
“It’s been very popular, especially for the students that live on campus because it’s a good way for them to go shopping or do errands,” Rains said. “People that are doing errands for their department can take that instead of their own vehicle (too).”
Renting a Zipcar costs $7 to $8 an hour and includes gas and insurance, Rains said.
“If you wanted to go to a doctor appointment or something and you don’t have a car or other option, you can do it for like seven bucks,” Rains said.
There’s also a local version of the Zipcar program called Funride. At the time when CAS contracted with Zipcar, Funride wouldn’t allow 18 year olds to use the program and it wouldn’t negotiate for as good of a deal, Rains said.
For students that are looking to commute to farther places than a Zipcar could permit, Rains suggests using Amtrak because Cal Poly students can get a 20 percent discount.
“The Amtrak service is really popular with students,” Rains said. “They come right onto campus to pick them up (in a bus) and take them to the train station.”
Amtrak doesn’t put a lot of money out for brochures to inform students about deals, so Rains tries to inform parents and students about it.
“I usually help parents figure out the best way to help students get here if they’re from out of state,” Rains said. “It can be really concerning for parents, like, ‘OK, I’m in Colorado, how am I going to get my daughter home for Christmas?’ If a student comes here without a car, they tend to get used to not having a car, and they like it like that.”
And this is a common theme for students at Cal Poly who’ve never needed nor wanted a car, Rains said.
“I think we as a campus do a great job of using all of the alternatives that are available to us here,” Rains said. “Most people on campus are very aware of sustainability and all different aspects of that, from lighting to alternative transportation and all other alternatives.”