Wednesday, October 6, 2010

DePaul and Transportation

While it may seem inconsequential or minor as a sustainability initiative, DePaul University's participation in the Chicago Transit Authority's U-Pass program is an impressive sustainability program. The program not only benefits students but to a larger extent, city residents in general. In addition, the program places less strain on limited university and nearby parking facilities and reduces traffic congestion in the city as well as carbon emissions.

First, the program benefits full-time undergraduate and graduate students by providign reduced fare cards to use Chicago public transportation. In fact, for undergraduate students the the card is included in the cost of tuition. According to one 2009 article, about 15,000 DePaul students use the pass. Because both Lincoln Park and Loop campuses are loacted close to CTA stops, the pass is ideal for students who live and work in the city. As a private university, the cost of tuition for attending DePaul is several thousand dollars. The reduced fare cards are a cost-savings benefit for full-time students who want the quality education DePaul offers without having to incur high transportation costs to attend classses. On average, the card saves students $200 in transportation costs during the academic year. U-Pass cards give students 24-hour access to unlimited CTA rides, during academic quarters. The U-Pass is very popular among students as indicated in this video. In addition, DePaul University's parking facilities are limited. Parking costs at the city campuses average roughly $600 for the academic year; the U-Pass is roughly $400, a substantial savings for young students during more difficult economic times.

The pass saves time. Full-times students juggle multiple classes, extracurricular activities, sometimes even work and parenting responsibilities. The availability of the U-Pass means students can get to-from class in great time. In fact, the time (on the red and or brown lines) to-from the Lincoln Park-Loop campuses is only 15-20 minutes. The hassles of "sitting" in traffic and having to locate parking are completely avoided by using the U-Pass.

By encouraging use of public transportation, DePaul also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion in the city. It's simple: fewer cars=less gas=less traffic! According to World Carfree Network's website " motor vehicles are the single biggest source of atmospheric pollution, contributing an estimated 14% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning..." ( ) By providing a financial incentive for students to make use of Chicago's great public transport system, the university helps reduce carbon emissions in the city and thereby, contributes to cleaner air for city residents.

DePaul University is not alone in implementing the U-Pass program. Most Chicago-area colleges and universities also make the program available to students. But it is an important initiative that fits into several components of DePaul's sustainability framework: environment, social, economic, cultural. Environment: riding public transportation-trains in particular-reduces the amount of carbons emitted in the air; Social: using the CTA enables students to engage with each other and the larger Chicago community; Economic: the pass save students' money; Cultural: the pass makes it easy for students to explore different areas and neighborhoods of the city.

Posted October 6, 2010 by Julie Felix
photo credit: DePaul

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