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UVM faculty trade in parking permits to help environment

(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 8:45 AM EST
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Teachers and faculty at the University of Vermont are giving up an everyday luxury to reduce their carbon footprint and save money.

"While behavior change is scary, it is possible," said Brianna Jasset, a junior at UVM.

Changing behavior is what this transportation program is all about. Piloting the program last semester, 25 UVM employees traded in their parking permits for the public bus.

It's a green switch that can be overwhelming without some support.

"If they tell me their address, I'll tell them the closest bus stop to them, and it's only a three-minute walk. Figuring out all that information alone is what stops people," said Jasset.

But those who have stopped gassing up and driving their own cars last year have kept that commitment to sustainable transportation this year.

"Most people, once they kind of give it a try and realize how much money they're saving and how much time they're saving, most people really do want to stick with those patterns," said Jack Hanson with the Sustainable Transportation Vermont.

The project offers one-time incentives including a $75 gift card to City Market and 18 single-day parking permits for those days when riding the bus just isn't feasible.

Right now the program is funded by the Chittenden Regional Planning Commission.

"I was fully supportive right away," said Kevin Chu, with UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Participants say having multiple options like biking, busing or driving is what sparked their interest.

"If I have these three different options, then any day of the week, I can get to where I need to go," said Chu.

But some campus employees say while it's a great idea, they can't get on board quite yet. Professor Josef Gorres says the way to make this work is by also increasing the frequency of those buses in places outside Chittenden County.

"I would absolutely take the bus. I'd love to sit in the bus and read rather than drive and get aggravated at all these people that drive too fast or too slow," said Gorres.

And they say it's workers who have a longer commute, who can benefit from this the most.

"We have a woman who signed up from Ferrisburgh, so that's a long commute every day, it's a lot of wear and tear on her vehicle, a lot of money that she's spending on gas and the money that she's spending on parking. She's saving all of that. She's bringing down her carbon footprint dramatically. So, it actually is a bigger bang for your buck both environmentally and monetarily for those longer commutes," said Hanson.

Project leaders say they recognize it's not going to work for everyone, but the people who can make it work, should. By signing up, they say employees are aiding in the state's larger effort to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Transportation is by far the largest source of emissions in Vermont, so there's really so much work to be done, and I think a lot of people are scratching their heads and wondering how we're going to do it," said Hanson.

"If we can just change people's ways that they commute to something as easy as work, we can make a huge impact," said Jasset.

Officials say there is a six-month trade-in that where if it doesn't work out, you can trade it back in.

But the group wants to expand the program to include incentives for employees at other companies in Chittenden County, like Dealer.com, Burton and Seventh Generation.

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