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Flexcar Offers New Transportation
Option to Those Who Don't Drive to Campus

By Ioana Patringenaru | May 22, 2006

Rideshare Incentives:

Two free months for all new Rideshare Program members (up to a $288 savings)

$15 discount on all monthly Coaster passes

$15 discount on all monthly Transit/ Trolley passes

$10 reduction per month in 2006/2007 vanpool rates

$1 per day parking along Bachman Drive, Hillcrest Medical Center (a $5 discount on daily parking)

You’ve read the e-mails. You’ve seen the signs. You might have noticed the booth at the Farmer’s Market on Library Walk urging you to sign up for the Flexcar program.

But what’s Flexcar, anyway? The answer, actually, is pretty straight forward. It’s a program that allows employees who don’t drive to work to have access to a car on campus. The vehicles are available for short periods of time, both for personal use and business trips.

Together with a series of other incentives, university officials said they hope the program will help get people out of their cars and onto carpools, vanpools, bikes and trains. As one of San Diego's largest employers and a community leader, UCSD should provide sustainable transportation to reduce traffic, parking congestion, and air pollution in the San Diego area, said Assistant Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews. Flexcar and incentives will help save money for students, employees and the university, officials also said in interviews.

“We feel very strongly from the transportation point of view that our goal is to make things more affordable,” said Brian d’Autremont, director of Transportation and Parking Services.

He pointed out that each spot in a parking structure costs the university $22,000 to $29,000. Higher gas prices are making it easier for advocates of public transportation to get their message across, he added.

The Flexcar program started in April, said Edwin Webb, marketing manager for Rideshare programs. Seven vehicles are available, including two vans. Four are stationed on the main campus, one at Thornton Hospital and two at the Hillcrest Medical Center. Most of the cars are Hondas and most of them are hybrids. Employees have used Flexcar about a half a dozen times in Hillcrest, d’Autremont said.

The program is available for employees who don’t have a UCSD parking permit. The cars are available for free for six hours a month, up to three hours at a time. Employees can use the car for longer periods of time at a special discounted rate of $8 per hour.

Several employees said the program was a good idea.

“It would be wonderful,” said Edie Munk, special projects coordinator at UCSD Extension.

Munk said she usually rides her bicycle to work. But she sometimes drives when she has meetings or needs to run errands. Using Flexcar would allow her to leave her car at home for good, she said.

Meanwhile, starting July 1, the university will offer incentives to increase membership in its Rideshare programs. They include a discount on Coaster and Trolley passes, as well as vanpool and Hillcrest parking rates. The goal is to double membership within the next three years, d’Autremont said.  So far about 4,300 employees and students are members. They take the Coaster, or ride in vanpools and carpools from as far as Temecula to the north, El Cajon to the east and Imperial Beach to the south. They also bike to work.

“We know that to meet everybody’s needs, we have to be able to do a little bit of everything,” d’Autremont said.

Katie Koteen, a senior artist, said she was glad to hear that the university will offer a $15 monthly discount on Coaster passes. Her pass currently costs $116 a month. The North County Transit District recently announced it plans to raise Coaster rates by $10 a month, she said. Koteen said she rides the train because she doesn’t really like driving.

“It’s not faster,” said. “But at least you have time to yourself.”

The incentives do carry a price tag for Rideshare members. They will now get 10 days of complemintary parking a year, instead of 10 days of complimentary parking a quarter. The savings were used to finance other Rideshare incentives and try to boost membership, Webb said. The university has handed out $2.1 million in free quarterly occasional use parking permits last year, according to a statement.

This year, the university also has handed out 20,000 stickers, which allow employees and students to ride city buses for free. Next school year, the stickers will be valid on entire routes, including the route going to the Hillcrest Medical Center. 

Read more about the Flexcar program.

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