Committee Supports Rideshare Program, Alternative Work Schedules to Lessen Traffic at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - In an effort to reduce the number of cars on campus and neighboring roadways, the Parking and Transportation Advisory Board (PTAB) at the University of Massachusetts supports the implementation of a rideshare program which will begin next September and recommends the campus implement alternative work schedule measures such as flex-time and extended office hours.

The committee also suggests the establishment of a campus traveler information center at UMass to collect and disseminate parking and traffic information to the campus and the surrounding communities. The UMass facility would be a satellite center of the Western Massachusetts Traffic Operations Center to be located at the district office of the Massachusetts Highway Department in Northampton.

The recommendations are outlined in PTAB''s annual report, which has been forwarded to Paul Page, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

By reducing traffic congestion on campus, says Sandra Anderson, director of campus services and committee chair, PTAB''s recommendations would help the campus to comply with a mandate from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for large employers to control pollution by reducing commuters'' use of single- occupancy vehicles by 25 percent. An additional benefit, says Anderson, particularly of the rideshare program, will be to mitigate the traffic congestion expected from the imminent construction on nearby Route 9 and the Coolidge Bridge, one of the University''s main commuting corridors.

Says Anderson: "PTAB was motivated to implement a program that would not only alleviate the short-term effects of the Route 9 construction, but also address the longer-term effects of single-occupancy vehicle use and the number of vehicles that brings to campus."

The new rideshare program will provide incentives for employees to carpool, such as reduced parking rates or preferred parking spaces; guaranteed rides home within a 10-mile distance from campus for emergencies; a limited number of no-charge, one-day parking permits; and prize drawings after one full academic year of participation. Other components of the program include encouraging commuters to ride the bus or bicycle to work and promoting pedestrian safety on campus.

In addition to providing employees with greater flexibility in their workdays, changes in work schedules could also mean expanded customer service hours for students for such offices as financial aid services, housing assignments, and the bursar''s office, says Anderson. The committee''s recommendation also suggests the University promote telecommuting, where feasible, and consider offering schedules that differ from the normal Monday-through-Friday workweek.

Anderson says the University will soon name a rideshare coordinator to oversee the rideshare program and manage the traveler information center.