Brian will annoy you with his enthusiasm. He will irritate you with his optimism.
But, Brian is exactly the kind of person Duke needs to get this climate neutrality thing done.
Brian Williams (not the one from NBC), is the transportation demand management coordinator at Duke Parking and Transportation (DPT). He has only been on the job for a year, but he is making progress.
The 2009 Climate Action Plan (CAP) laid out the challenge.
According to the CAP, transportation accounts for approximately 23 percent of Duke’s baseline greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. Commuters contribute about 52 percent, while air travel (43 percent) and the campus fleet (5 percent) make up the rest.
Brian’s focus is on alternative transportation. It’s his job to create the right incentives and implement programs that entice commuters and residential students to move from high impact modes of transportation (the single occupant vehicle (SOV)) to lower impact modes of transport like carpooling, vanpooling, public transit, bikes or walking.
This month’s Green Devil Challenge is on point in urging the Duke community to “Get Electrified” and to engage the latest batch of Brian’s alternative transportation options including WeCar, GoPass and the not yet arrived hybrid articulating busses which are slated to start service later this semester.
First, WeCar: WeCar is the new ZipCar-only-better (according to Brian) program run by Enterprise, and yes, they will come pick you up for extended rentals—on campus!
WeCar ratchets up the sex appeal of campus car-sharing programs with four Chevrolet Volts. These plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are touted to be the most fuel-efficient compact car sold in the U.S. They will travel approximately 35 miles (which is sufficient for most local trips) on a full charge before engaging the gasoline engine. Just remember to plug it in when you return—sharing is caring, after all!
An Enterprise representative who was checking up on the Volts, which reside just outside the Bryan Center, told me the usage on the vehicles has been good and steadily growing, as has membership in the WeCar program itself, which arrived on campus Aug. 15, 2011.
Although the program appears to be on track to duplicate and hopefully expand on the success of its predecessor, ZipCar, the reduction of SOVs and SOV trips on campus as a result of either program is unclear.
The second exciting edition to the alternative transportation arsenal is the new GoPass program. Replacing the old subsidized system, GoPass is essentially a free bus pass providing access to the regional transportation network (DATA , TTA, CAT and C-Tran) to students and those faculty and staff with offices on or adjacent to Duke’s Durham campus.
According to Brian, under the old program, approximately 600 to 700 people used public transportation and had a partially subsidized pass. Since the new GoPass program was announced, roughly 4,500 Dukies have claimed their GoPass—a plastic swipe card tied to your Duke unique ID. Of those new card holders, Brian reported that about 1,500 have used their card to access the public transit network at least once. However, more analysis of ridership patterns and improved usage rates will be required before the program can be called a true success. Regardless, the initial enthusiasm is impressive.
In addition to the new and modified programs, older programs, like the free Bull City Connector bus between Duke and Durham, carpool permits and the bike commuter program are also still available and building momentum.
Changes in culture can be difficult and can take a long time to manifest themselves. So when Brian reported that the number of carpool permit and bike commuter applications is much higher than last year and creating a backlog at the DPT offices, my first response was nearly an enthusiastic fist pump.
Unfortunately, I also know the flip side this backlog implies: it’s the frustration and confusion that comes from interacting with an over worked and stressed out DPT staff. Barriers get erected, communication breaks down, assumptions are made, progress is stunted, groups feel alienated ... you get the idea.
So, we might all agree that good communication, clear information and useful resources are excellent, although non-trivial goals going forward now that a good foundation of alternative transportation options has been constructed. Good thing Brian is confident he can meet the challenge. In fact, he has already started with targeted in-person outreach, access maps for well served housing locations in Durham, maps of bike facilities on campus and informational how-to videos. And there’s so much more to come.
Lest you think I place too much faith in one man, I dare you to meet Brian. His infectious optimism for positive change will rub off and leaving you humming: “Always look on the bright side of life …”
See, we can all be like Brian.
Liz Bloomhardt is a fifth-year graduate student in mechanical engineering. Her column runs every other Thursday.