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10 Tips for Greening Your Commute

By Clara Fang

By Clara Fang

Americans spend an average of 51 minutes per day on their commute, almost all of it in a single occupancy vehicle. During the summer, travel for leisure also makes up a large amount of mileage. Our dependence on cars has made the US the largest oil consumer in the world. 25% of the world’s oil is consumed by the US even though Americans only making up 4% of the world’s population. Too many cars on the road causes congestion, traffic accidents, air pollution, and greenhouse emissions that contribute to climate change. This summer, clean your commute by following these suggestions for alternative transport at TU.

1. Walk. If you are going to a meeting on campus, WALK instead of drive over there. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end of campus to the other, the minimal amount of exercise you should get each day. The American Heart Association lists the following benefits of walking 30 minutes a day:

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

If you can commute to campus by walking instead of driving, you can save hundreds of dollars on a TU parking permit. If you sign up for the Alternative Transportation Program at Towson and leave your car at home, you get four free parking passes and reimbursement for a taxi or rental car in the event of an emergency. Go to TU’s Parking &Transportation Service Website for more information.

2. Bike. Did you know that TU has a bike share program? The program is available for staff and as students. You can rent a bike for free for one year from the Office of Campus Recreation Services. Bicycles typically get rented out at the beginning of September and February. Contact Jillian Rogers for more information.

4. Take the TU shuttle. The TU shuttle serves thousands of riders every day. It goes around campus, off-campus to local neighborhoods and apartment complexes, and to downtown Baltimore. The service is entirely free to anyone with a TU ID card! Parking and Transportation Services recently added another route to the off-campus shuttles and added service for mini-mester and summer semester. Leave your car at home and save money on gas and parking! Look up shuttle schedules and routes here.

5. Take advantage of TU’s public transit subsidy. All Towson University faculty and staff are eligible to receive a $25 discount on monthly passes for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) bus, light rail and subway, as well as the MARC Train. Faculty and Staff are also eligible to purchase transit passes with a pre-tax payroll deduction. Individuals can register for the transit subsidy by submitting a completed Alternative Transportation application form to the Parking and Transportation Services Office. The discounted transit pass can be purchased directly at the Auxiliary Services Business Office (ASBO). Click here for more information. Use the MTA transit planner to find your route.

5. Carpool. Towson University offers a carpooling program which provides incentives to commuter students, faculty and staff who carpool to the university. The Carpool program is designed to allow 2-4 individuals who are driving to campus together at the same time to associate a single permit with multiple vehicles (3 vehicles per person). Individuals who carpool are given four daily parking passes per term and offered a guaranteed ride home when an emergency or last-minute schedule change leaves them without transportation. (Restrictions Apply) See more information here.

3. Switch to a four-day work week. If you are commuting to class, try consolidating your schedule so you reduce the number of days you commute to campus. At work, talk with your boss about switching that 5 day 8 hour work week to a 4 day 10 hour work week. Removing that one day from your schedule will reduce time and energy spent on commuting by 20%.

2. Work from home. TU has a telecommuting policy that allows employees to work from home if it does not interfere with his or her work. If you live far from Towson or have other extenuating circumstances, it may be possible for you to work from home one day a week. Employees need to discuss with their supervisor whether teleworking is an option for him or her. Click here for TU’s teleworking policy: Teleworking 07-06.40.

6. Improve driving habits. Speeding up to a red light or stop sign and consequently slamming on the brakes wastes gas and wears down the break pads and rotors. Poor driving habits can decrease fuel economy between 5 and 33 percent. For a gallon of gas costing $3.12, improving driving habits can save between 16 cents and $1.03 per gallon.

7. Slow down. Cars reach their maximum efficiency at about 60 miles per hour. According to fueleconomy.gov, drivers pay an average of 24 cents more per gallon for every 5mph increment above 60mph. Consider using cruise control (except in very hilly areas) to increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

8. Keep your engine properly tuned. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence indicates that bad spark plugs can decrease fuel economy by up to 30%, and can cost drivers up to about 94 cents per gallon at today’s prices. If a car’s gas mileage suddenly drops, there’s a good chance it’s because of misfiring spark plugs. A faulty oxygen sensor can also reduce fuel economy and a replacement can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.

9. Maintain Your tires. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3%. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall. Misaligned tires create drag and reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 10%. Tires that are not balanced properly can also result in lower gas mileage.

10. Plan trips. If you are traveling a long distance, consider the greenhouse gas emissions as well as convenience. Don’t take a plane if you don’t have to. Take the train, or bus, or carpool. Group destinations along the way and drive during times when you won’t be stuck in traffic. Set a budget on how much you want to spend on travel expenses, and then make goals to reduce. A little bit of planning can save you lots of time and money.


Fuel Freedom

U.S. Department of Energy

Originally posted on the Towson Goes Green blog.

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