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University's transportation services get deep and broad review

During the 2011-12 academic year, a transportation review committee was assembled to define and clarify the role of the University's transportation programs and to evaluate the effectiveness of each program, including its utilization, cost and environmental impact.  That committee met throughout the 2012 spring semester and into the early summer.

"While we are constantly monitoring the success of our parking and transportation programs, this is the first time in several years that we have conducted a deep analysis with multiple stakeholders to collect feedback and ask them to think critically about the services we provide," says Lisa Underwood, associate vice president of transportation and parking.

"I found the review and the wider campus input to be a very healthy process, and one that was enlightening for our committee and my department. We are always mindful of the cost to provide our services, and were pleased to announce in August that our parking rates did not increase for the 2012-13 academic year."

The committee included a broad representation of constituencies from across campus, including representatives from: the Transportation and Parking subcommittee of the University Senate; Employee Council; Emory's Goizueta Business School; Emory law school; the Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Emory Healthcare; the Office of Sustainability Initiatives; Human Resources; Emory WorkLife Resource Center; Campus Life; and student leaders.  In order to get feedback and suggestions, a survey was distributed and a series of focus groups assembled with current transportation program participants from across campus.

The committee's recommendations were based on the following findings, which emerged as a part of the process:

  • Emory's Commute Alternative Program is very successful based on its wide use by employees and students;

  • There is currently a challenge with information distribution methods, communication and marketing/framing;

  • There are current gaps, including a significant challenge with program registration, that could be bridged with technology solutions;

  • There is some misuse of the Commute Alternative Program incentives that should be addressed; and

  • There needs to be further review of underutilized, ineffective and/or over subsidized programs for modification, realignment or reduction. 

Based on those findings, the recommendations included:

  • Align subsidies and incentives with each specific program effectiveness; the "one size fits all" approach to incentives is not effective.

  • Enhance education and communications for clarity about the programs. Explore cost sharing for certain programs. Costs for providing the transportation subsidies and programs have risen significantly in recent years due to outside factors. For example, in the last three years, the costs for the transit pass program have increased by 97 percent mainly due to fare increases, regional policy changes, and to a lesser degree increased demand. In the past, Emory has absorbed these increases. One option for exploration this year is whether participants might contribute to the cost of the cards, possibly allowing Emory to fund the current costs and participants to pay for some incremental future increases.   

  • Implement new program features, like random audits, to ensure commuters are participating in transportation programs based on the guidelines to which they agreed.

  • Monitor Park-and-Ride route effectiveness. The committee evaluated the effectiveness of the Park-and-Ride programs and recommended that the existing Park-and-Ride service remain in place for the upcoming academic year. However, the recommendation was also for the Transportation and Parking department to continue to assess these routes for future adjustments with the goal of improving the effectiveness of this service.   

  • Explore whether Park-and-Ride passengers should be required to use their Emory identification to enter the buses on these routes.

"Over the years, Emory has invested considerably in developing its transportation programs, and our goal continues to be serving faculty, staff and students as effectively as possible.  We look forward to continuing to providing a portfolio of programs that serve a wide range of Emory commuter needs," says Underwood.

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