USF encourages students to reduce eco footprint by riding green

It’s not surprising to know that most students and faculty drive to work or school alone. It is also not surprising to know that most people have problems getting anywhere during rush hour traffic. However, it may be disconcerting to know that Tampa Bay commuters spend an average of 45 hours a year stuck in traffic, according to a study released by the Texas Transportation Institute.

It ranked the Tampa-St. Petersburg area as the 20th most-congested metropolitan area in the nation.

This week, in conjunction with Bay Area Commuter Services (BACS) and the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), USF will hold “Ride Green Day” – a promotion for the 11th annual “Commuter Choices Week.”

Intended to promote alternatives such as bicycling, carpooling and bus riding, “Commuter Choices Week” gives residents a fresh look at different ways to get around.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 10,000 people in Tampa use bicycles to

commute. In a random sample of 6,500 students, CUTR found a slim 1 percent of students using bicycles as a way to get to campus.

While bike statistics have been lean, Bull Runner and HARTline ridership have seen slightly better results. Director of USF Parking and Transportation Services Manuel Lopez said that Bull Runner stayed consistent with last year’s average of a million riders a year but that HARTline use has increased. Lopez said statistics from this August revealed nearly 24,000 rides for that month – nearly 1,500 more riders than during the same time last year.

What many may not know about HARTline bus rides is that all rides, excluding those on the express routes, are free with a valid USF student ID.

Lopez attributes the increase in bus riders to fuel prices and traffic congestion.

“I think a lot more people are paying attention now with everything going up. Everyone is getting to the point where they are looking for alternatives,” he said. “From a parking and transportation perspective, we support anything that alleviates congestion on campus.”

Parking and Transportation is projecting to install bike loops and lid covers at all garages and bus shelters in the near future, yet another step to ease parking woes.

The University is also considering another alternative way to commute.

Bay Area Commuter Services (BACS), a state-funded agency, offers a database of 6,700 carpoolers to commute with on its Web site, Residents have the option of putting their travel route onto the database and be matched to another carpooler.

USF is considering its own campus carpool option. Lopez said companies such as Flex Car and Zip Car offer car rentals on campus for students to use if they need to get somewhere for an emergency or to run errands.

“It’s all about trying something to see if it works in your lifestyle,” said Executive Directors of BACS Sandi Moody. “You’ll do yourself, the community and the plant a favor.”

Students who live in dorms and need to get groceries would be able to rent a car by the hour and return it to campus in assigned parking spaces. Lopez said the good

parking spaces are the incentive.

Thursday’s “Ride Green Day” will feature vendors from various public transportation groups in Hillsborough County, such as the Environmental Protection Commission.

Lopez said representatives from the Bull Runner will also be there to educate students on the provided bike racks, wheelchair lifts and passenger identification system.

A raffle will be held to give away a Schwinn Cruiser, along with prizes such as U-locks, helmets and lights.

“A lot of universities are trying to lower their carbon footprints,” CUTR research assistant Julie Bond said. “In my opinion, we need to get students talking about this in open forums. This is something we need to work toward.”

Assistant News Editor Dan Catlin contributed to this report. Eric Smithers can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or

Commuter Choices Week Fast Facts

Bicycles10,000 people in Tampa commute by bicycle. At USF, the numbers are a dramatically lower. The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) did a random survey of 6,500 students this semester and found that 1 percent of students commute to campus by bicycle.

BusesDirector of Parking and Transportation Manuel Lopez has seen slight increases in HARTline uses this year. August had nearly 24,000 riders, a near 1,500-rider increase from Aug. 2006. Bull Runner numbers have stayed consistent at an approximate million riders a year. All USF students with a valid ID ride HARTline buses for free.

CarpoolBay Area Commuter Services (BACS) is one of the Florida Department of Transportation’s nine commuter assistance programs in the state. It has a database of nearly 6,700 commuters to carpool with. Visit for more information.