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Posted 06/13/03, by Tammy Steinert
Decal Buyout Program reduces commuter traffic
A year after implementation, Dartmouth's Parking Decal Buyout program has helped reduce parking and traffic woes on campus and earned the College a designation as a "Commuter Choice Employer" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.
Implemented last July as a two-year demonstration initiative, the Decal Buyout program offers subsidies to eligible employees who agree to use means other than single-occupant vehicles to get to work. For days when a car is needed, participants receive passes that allow four days of campus parking each month.
In its first year, approximately 175 employees chose to participate in the program, according to William Barr, Director of Fiscal and Auxiliary Services for Facilities Operation and Management. Although many elected to use public transportation, a significant number also formed the three dozen car pools that come to campus each day. Barr estimates that the net difference in the number of cars on campus is about 100 per day compared to the period before the program was implemented.
"We've been really happy with the way the program has worked," said Barr. "We were close to the mark in our guess of how many people would participate last year and hope to build on that." So far, he said response from participants in the program has been positive. One of the program's strengths is that it is so flexible, he said, noting that employees may join or leave the Buyout Program at any time, not just in the spring when parking registration renewal occurs.
"Having that option to park on campus four days a month really helps, too, because it allows people to take care of the errands and appointments that we all have periodically," he said.
Besides reducing traffic and parking congestion and pollution, Barr said the Parking Decal Buyout has an impact on long-term planning for the campus.
"Hanover sits on a very small plain; space is pretty valuable. If we decrease the demand for parking spaces, then that has implications for future planning," Barr explained.
Because of the Decal Buyout program and the College's other efforts to reduce traffic on campus, Dartmouth was one of 33 New England employers - and the only one in New Hampshire - to earn the Commuter Choice designation in May. This nationwide program honors companies that offer their employees at least one major commuter benefit, such as the subsidy offered in the Decal Buyout program, in addition to at least three other commuter benefits, like carpool matching, transit subsidies, membership in a transportation management association, or bike lockers.
In an address at the May 13 ceremony, EPA's Regional Administrator Robert Varney praised New England's Commuter Choice Employers for their efforts to expand commuting options for employees.
"These organizations are setting the bar in providing real financial incentives to encourage employees to leave their cars at home and commute in ways that reduce traffic congestion and air pollution."
- Tamara Steinert
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Parking Decal Buyout program?
How much is the subsidy?
What if I have a doctor's appointment or other off-campus appointment?
When can I register for the Decal Buyout program? Am I required to commit to a full year?
Who is eligible to participate?
Commuting Facts and Figures
From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
In the United States, three-quarters of all trips made to and from work are in single-passenger vehicles.
Since 1982, the U.S. population has grown 20 percent, but the time spent by commuters in traffic has grown 236 percent.
Last year, commuters in the United States spent $60 billion in gasoline traveling to and from work - more than double the annual revenues of Microsoft Corporation.
A typical commuter who switches from driving alone to using Commuter Choice Employer benefits for transit, walking, cycling, or telecommuting saves more than $800 per year in transportation expenses including fuel, taxes, and vehicle maintenance.
By offering commuter benefits, a company with 1,000 employees can lower its annual parking expenses by more than $70,000.
With commuter benefits, a typical employee can avoid driving 3,300 miles each year, which is greater than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.
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