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Sustainability Initiatives: Commute Green

By Albert Reiss

Section: Features

November 4, 2016

As our campus continues to expand, and as more people continue to utilize our facilities, it is important for us to be mindful of the environmental footprint that we are leaving. To compensate for these trends, Brandeis has begun several environmental initiatives to help improve sustainability on campus.

One program is Commute Green, a carpooling service. The other is a composting program that the administration hopes will make our campus more efficient and reduce waste overall. The Brandeis Hoot spoke to Manager for Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer and Vice President of Campus Operations Jim Gray about the two programs and how they plan to have them both implemented.

The carpooling service is quite innovative because of the significant amount of people coming to Brandeis on a daily basis via cars. Given that many faculty members, staff and students live near campus, carpooling is an excellent way to make use of an already large commuter pool.

According to Mary Fischer, Commute Green “is a site where students, faculty and staff can go to find rides.” The service works by having users state their desired route and then finding others, who may be nearby or interested, to carpool with.

Commute Green also allows for a customizable carpooling experience. “You can request a carpool with someone. You can request to be the driver or the passenger. You can say things that you want about your carpool,” said Fischer.

Commute Green operates through a company called Ride Amigos. Ride Amigos has an extensive pedigree of active users, including MIT, American Univeristy, Amazon, Google and more, according to Fischer. Therefore, the carpooling service has a proven track record of success.

Using Ride Amigos has many useful benefits. For example, many Brandeis students will go home during the various breaks such as Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah. A ride to Boston, the airport or train station can be very expensive. However, given the large amount of students planning on taking such a route, Ride Amigos can be an easy and cost-efficient tool to explore.

Additionally, Ride Amigos is a perfect solution for any Brandeis member with regular commuting routes. Once one finds another commuter, it is very easy to exchange contact information with each other and make the commute a daily occurrence.

Ride Amigos makes trips very easy in this regard because you can choose when you would like to carpool. Therefore for any students living off campus who need to make an early class, Ride Amigos works very well.

Fischer also mentioned that if you have a car “you can post that you have a ride” and then have other users potentially request a ride. Ride Amigos also allows you to say how many seats you have to maximize each carpool’s use.

Another Ride Amigos feature is that one can see the amount of users in their region. This makes it is easy to determine the best areas for trying to find a carpool. Ride Amigos is one of the “best practice[s] that other universities are doing” to become more environmentally conscious, said Fischer.

To encourage many Brandeis people to sign up and use the service, Fischer pointed out several incentives that the university will be offering to anyone who signs up for the service. “We are doing gift card raffles; we are doing a point program where if you rack up 10 points you can earn a water bottle, if you rack up 20 points you can earn a t-shirt.” Also, there will also be various competitions put in place to see who has the highest amount of points.

Fischer noted that the department was made aware of Ride Amigos through a former intern who worked closely with her.

Among the potential challenges with the Commute Green program is what Fischer saw to be the lack of “critical mass.” In other words, for Commute Green to be successful, it is imperative that as many users sign up as possible. Without a large user base, commuters could have significant wait times in requesting carpools and therefore the program might not be very successful.

Additionally, Fischer also noted the importance of having “users in your area” so that all Brandeis-affiliated people can identify a potential carpool in their region, regardless of location in Massachusetts or farther.

The incentives program should stimulate interest in Commute Green and help make the program a highly useful piece of software for the entire Brandeis community, noted Fischer. “One incentive,” notes Fischer, is that “the first 20 people or so who sign up and post a carpool will get a little certificate.”

Many people may be asking though who should be using Commute Green program. Fischer stressed the point that Commute Green welcomes all members of the Brandeis community and specifically “anyone who has a car on campus in particular between the nine to five time.”

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