November 9, 2009
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College ‘Report Card’ Shows High Marks for Transit
The Sustainable Endowment Institute’s recently released “College Sustainability Report Card” for 2010 found that 64 percent of North American colleges and universities surveyed provide some form of financial incentive—subsidies, tax rebates, or reimbursement—to encourage students and employees to use public transportation. More than three-quarters of these institutions operate hybrid or other alternative-energy vehicles in their fleets, and sizable percentages offer car-sharing and bicycle-sharing programs.
In total, the organization ranks 105 of the 332 participating colleges and universities as “Transportation Leaders” with “A” grades for their innovative transportation initiatives. Here are just a few examples of forward thinking among universities and their communities:
* Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge is one of dozens of higher education institutions whose students, faculty, and staff benefit from free fares on the local municipality’s bus service. LSU also is implementing its own bus system, which will expand coverage and is free to the public.
* The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge subsidizes the purchase of public transportation and commuter train passes for students and employees. MIT’s fleet includes a range of alternative-fuel vehicles, and a student-run biodiesel processor provides fuel from waste vegetable oil. The institute has a bike-sharing program and partners with a car-sharing service, through which a hybrid option is available.
* In Austin, the University of Texas is another school that provides free rides on city buses with an ID card and offers carpool incentives. The university also makes shuttle service available between residential areas and outlying academic locations, and the Orange Bike Project on campus provides free bicycle rentals.
* The University of Utah uses biodiesel to power vehicles in the campus fleet. Carpool participants receive priority parking permits, and the university is adding car sharing on a pilot basis to its existing bike-sharing program. A free shuttle provides service to the campus. Parking and student fees fund regional transit passes for all full-time students, staff, and faculty.
According to the institute, “the Report Card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leading by example on sustainability. The aim is to provide accessible information for schools to learn from each other’s experiences and establish more effective sustainability policies.” The institute is a nonprofit organization that supports sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.
The survey pool includes 300 educational institutions with the largest endowments, as well as 32 others that applied for inclusion. Other categories of the study are Administration, Climate Change and Energy, Food and Recycling, Green Building, Student Involvement, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement.
The text of the report is available online.