Riding green

The NuRide program is a positive initiative in the shift toward greener living

The University is always searching for new, "green" initiatives. For instance, we have biodegradable and reusable to-go containers at the dining halls. Last year, the University introduced Zipcars, and U.Va Recycling is a driving force on Grounds that helps organize large University-wide events, such as Earth Week. Most of the University's sustainability efforts are targeted toward students, but NuRide - the latest initiative introduced by University Parking & Transportation - is not only for students. Faculty and residents in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties can benefit from the program, as well.

Zipcars are convenient alternatives for first-year students and other car-less members of the University community. But the program costs money for students. The Facebook group, "Hoo's driving? Hoo's riding?" is great for people trying to find rides home or to other universities for the weekend, although the group does not address carpooling around the University. Both of these resources are good ones, but they do not address how the wider community can be a part of sustainability practices in the area.

NuRide, on the other hand, is a wide-reaching program that spans numerous counties, including the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, Orange, Madison, Fluvanna and Louisa Counties. NuRide is an Internet company, currently active in 10 regions, that provides incentives for people to use greener transportation technology. A member can gain rewards for taking public transportation, walking, carpooling, telecommuting or even reducing his work week to four days instead of the typical five. Rewards include coupons to Quiznos, Shenandoah Joe Coffee and Qdoba, to mention just a few. This incentive program seems like a great way to encourage members of the community to use NuRide, and it rewards those that already make an effort to be environmentally conscious.

According to the NuRide website, there are currently 429 NuRiders registered in the Charlottesville area, who are an average of 34.7 years old. Surely this age demographic will drop with the registration of more students as the program expands, but it just goes to show how beneficial the program can be for the greater community. The University and the Charlottesville communities are finally banding together to reach out to students and residents of Charlottesville alike to promote sustainable practices. A greener community is only possible when everyone is involved. Targeting the entire population is key to successfully providing a positive environmental change.

NuRide will cost the University $16,000, which seems like a pretty penny. But considering how much money it will eventually save members of the surrounding community, it no longer sounds exorbitant. The NuRide website reports that, since its inception in March 2004, the program has saved riders over $24 million in gas and other transportation costs. In Charlottesville alone, NuRiders have saved almost $8,000 since the beginning of its implementation this month. The program will also help us reduce our carbon footprint by preventing thousands of tons of carbon emissions, which will allow us to do our part in slowing climate change.

Not only will all of this allow us to save money, get rewards and help the environment, but the program could also address the horrendous parking issue that faculty and students both face here. By carpooling and encouraging members of the community to use greener transportation - such as public transit, bikes, etc. - fewer vehicles will pour into the already congested areas of Emmett St. and University Ave. This will reduce traffic and hopefully alleviate some of the parking strains at the University. Rebecca White, director of the University's Department of Parking and Transportation stated, "This advances the University toward its goal of reducing vehicle emissions, congestion and parking demand."

I applaud the University's steps toward reducing carbon emissions and believe NuRide will be a great tool in accomplishing this goal. NuRide combines a number of the green alternatives offered by UTS and other groups around Grounds into one, convenient place. It takes the positive aspects of Zipcars and joins them with Facebook's "Hoo's driving? Hoo's riding?" board. The program targets faculty through promoting carpooling to and from the University, and NuRide allows students to find rides home and to other places for weekends. And most importantly, NuRide allows those outside the Academical Village to join us in efforts to promote sustainable transport.\nClaire Shotwell is an associate editor for The Cavalier Daily.

She can be reached at c.shotwell@cavalierdaily.com.

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