The University of Virginia has set new goals in its quest to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles used by employees in their daily commute. While removing cars from Grounds might have an environmental benefit, the effort is primarily designed to make way for more buildings.
“If we can reduce the number of parking spaces needed, then we can save that land for a higher and better use, which for us would be classrooms,” said Julia Monteith, UVa’s senior land use officer, at Wednesday’s meeting of the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The university does not plan to build any more parking lots, and many surface lots are destined to become the sites for future buildings. There are currently more than 16,000 parking spaces that serve UVa’s core campuses but that number will dwindle as more construction occurs.
To solve the potential deficit, UVa created a program known as transportation demand management (TDM) to lure commuters from their cars. As part of the program, the school’s transit service entered into a reciprocity program with the Charlottesville bus system, started a car-sharing program and made it cheaper for those who carpool to park. Two people who carpool get a 10 percent discount, whereas three who regularly do so save 25 percent.
“Instead of just focusing on how cars move around Grounds, we [wanted to] be able to look at more multi-modal transportation and be thinking about this in more of a forward-thinking way,” Monteith said.
In 2008, the Center for Survey Research found that 78 percent of employees drove alone to get to work. As part of an expansion of TDM efforts, UVa wants to bring that number down to 70 percent by 2015 and to 64 percent by 2020.
“We do have robust transit, we have great walking conditions and improving bike conditions but realistically speaking, this is where we set our goals,” said Rebecca White, UVa’s director of parking and transportation. She said the most effective tool will likely be the encouragement of carpooling.
“About two-thirds [of UVa employees] do not live within a quarter-mile of a Charlottesville Transit bus stop,” White said.
White recently hired a staff member to specifically try to meet the goals of the program. UVa will also begin using special software to match those who are willing to carpool.
Monteith said it will take a concentrated effort by UVa to meet the goal.
“This is a cultural change that [we’re] trying to enact and to do it for just three or five years doesn’t really make it happen,” Monteith said.
White also said the university would like to partner with the Charlottesville Transit Service to increase frequency on some routes, but stopped short of saying that the university would join a regional transit authority. Efforts to create such an authority stalled after the General Assembly declined to allow Charlottesville and Albemarle to hold a voter referendum on a possible sales tax increase to pay for expanded transit service.
TDM efforts do not include the Fontaine Research Park or the UVa Research Park north of Airport Road. Monteith also explained that the University Transit Service does not extend to these properties because the majority of its funding comes from fees charged to students.