Increasing gasoline costs and a decreasing number of parking spaces at Westminster College are causing students to rethink transportation.
Free UTA transit passes, free bike rentals and other modes of transportation, including zero-emission vehicles and scooters, are becoming more popular means of getting to and from school and were encouraged Wednesday at the college's Alternative Transportation Day.
"I want the people to know they can make the campus commute in a more environmentally friendly way," said Kerry Case, director of Westminster's Environmental Center. She said more than 850 of the school's 2,500 students, faculty and staff have already taken advantage of UTA's premium pass, which is free to those who commit to use alternative transportation just four days each month.
"It's a great deal and really saves on emissions," Case said, adding that daily commutes to and from Westminster contribute nearly 16 percent of the school's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Students were exposed to numerous alternatives to gas-powered vehicles, including an entirely electric, zero-emission car built by engineer Kyle Dansie. Instead of a fuel tank, gas lines and an exhaust system, his retrofitted-fitted Volkswagen contained 20 golf cart-sized batteries and solar panels on the roof.
The vehicle can travel about 70 mph and run a total of 50 miles before the panels need recharging.
"I built it out of frustration. I was tired of breathing dirty air," said Dansie, who sells and/or installs kits that allow cars to run on the power of the sun. "I decided to work on a solution and not continue to be part of the problem."
Students needing an occasional alternative can borrow a purple and yellow bike from Westminster's on-campus rental program. The bicycles are single-speed, low maintenance and "a little silly looking as a theft deterrent," Case said.
"It's an easy, accessible way to get around," she said. The school will soon double the available bikes due to the popularity of the student-proposed project.
Breanna Glaeser, a senior studying psychology, typically rides the couple miles from home to school each day and came out of class one day to find her own bike had a flat tire. Rather than wait around for a ride home, she rented a bike and was able to make the trip herself.
"It's a bit excessive to drive (a car) every day, making such a short trip," she said, adding that the exercise also helps keep her more healthy.
The push to get campus community members to leave vehicles at home is part of continuing efforts by the private, liberal arts college to help reduce its carbon footprint.
In addition to the UTA premium pass, a $1,920 value which provides unlimited access to all modes of UTA transportation, students were given access to city bike maps, safe commuting tips and mass transit schedules."It's just a way to remind us all there are other ways to get around that are convenient and can save us money," Case said.