Sustainability has long been a core topic of conversation across the University of Arizona. From an academic standpoint, the UA’s Institute for the Environment represents a leading cross-disciplinary center for examining and resolving humanity’s environmental challenges. As for our student body, the UA Green Fund – a committee made up solely of students – allocates approximately $400,000 every year for projects to continue to transform campus into a more environmentally sustainable enterprise.
Wildcats are passionate about the environment and sustainability. But, let’s get down to it. What is the UA doing on the ground to make campus and the surrounding Tucson community greener?
Aside from installing solar panels, building community gardens, greening buildings and implementing campus-wide compost programs, the UA is working to shrink its carbon footprint literally where the rubber meets the road. Targeting the four- and two-wheeled contraptions we use to get around, the University has implemented programs that are changing the way people feel about their need to have their own transportation.
Daring to Share
“We started our car sharing program in the summer of 2009,” says Bill Davidson. “We pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve, especially on sustainability and lower emissions programs.”
Today, the UA’s car and bike sharing program includes forty bicycles, seven Toyota Prii, one Smart Car, one Mini Cooper, and three Ford Escapes. (And to answer your question: Yes, Prii is the plural of Prius.)
With the goal of staying on the cutting edge of sustainability practices, UA Parking and Transportation performed a travel demand survey of the campus, asking students as well as faculty and staff what they wanted. They learned that car and bike sharing were in high demand. Those results, factored in with the skyrocketing trend in fuel prices, drove the organization to take a close look at options for car sharing.
According to Davidson, after a rigorous RFP process, the UA chose Connect by Hertz from a number of respondent organizations to administer the program.
“Hertz was very supportive of what we were trying to do,” he says. “We were the third university to sign up with them, and now they are in 48 schools only two years later.”
With the rising costs of parking, the multiple pick-up and return stations across campus, and the fact that insurance and gas are both included in the five-dollar-an-hour fee for using the vehicles, the cost and convenience of the UA’s car sharing program can’t be beat.
On Earth Day, April 22, 2011, the UA rolled out the latest addition to its Connect program, a brand new, 100 percent electric, zero-emissions Nissan Leaf. On that first day when the car was on display out in front of Old Main, it attracted the eye of many an engineering student.
“They all came out to check out the technology and sign up for a test drive,” says Davidson.
Today, the vehicle is being used just about every day. With a range of 100 miles and a daily operating cost of about $1.25, it has been a great resource for the campus community.
But this single green Leaf has also had an effect on the greater Tucson community. The forward-thinking decision to add an electric vehicle to the UA’s car sharing program has helped Tucson take steps to become one of 11 cities taking part in an electric charging station development initiative called the EV Project. According to UA Parking and Transportation Manager Tom Amparano, the UA will have three electric vehicle chargers stationed around campus and one in the motor pool, all of which have been donated to the University by AeroVironment. These charging stations will be available for the car share vehicles, as well as EV owners from the Tucson community.
“We’re a green campus and a green city,” Amparano says. And with concerns over global warming, oil shortages and increasing gas prices, this project, along with the Nissan Leaf, could not have come at a better time.”
Overall, the car sharing program has been a fantastic success. “Parents, students and faculty love it because they don’t have to worry about owning a car and covering those ongoing costs,” says Davidson. “It’s a great mix for everyone.”