Commuters traveling to the University of Kentucky may be able to leave their car keys behind this summer. UK is offering employees bus passes in exchange for their parking permits and has started an online carpooling system that is open to the public.
Officials hope the programs will reduce the number of cars parking on the space-squeezed campus while helping those struggling with high gas prices.
More than 24,000 parking permits were purchased last school year, but there are only 19,416 parking spots on campus.
During July and August, UK employees with an E permit can swap their parking permit for a LexTran Metro-Lex 30 day bus pass. E permits are for full time UK employees. A total of 11,762 E permits were sold as of March.
“We believe the community is looking for transportation options,” said Dave Riggins, a spokesman for LexTran.
Only a handful of employees have signed up for the program, but UK officials expect numbers to increase throughout the summer.
For employees that choose to trade in their parking permit, LexTran is promoting the route that runs between Wal-Mart on Nicholasville Road and the Transit Center on Vine Street, with stops at the Kentucky Clinic and UK Health Care Good Samaritan Hospital. However, the pass is good for all LexTran routes.
“As gas prices continue to rise Parking & Transportation Services is looking for ways to ease the Burden on the University community,” said Don Thornton, director of UK's Parking & Transportation Services.
UK hopes that employees who use the service this summer will then buy a bus pass from LexTran in the fall instead of purchasing a parking permit.
UK also recently launched AlterNetRides, a free online ride sharing service that is open to the public. The only costs are those that members of a carpool agree to share, such as fuel or vehicle maintenance costs.
The service can be used to find daily or one-time rides. People traveling to out-of-town athletic games or special events also can use the service.
“For some universities it's coming down to whether or not students can pay to put gas in their cars,” said Mark Edvanoff, president and founder of AlterNetWays.
More than 100 universities around the country use the network, which can be found online at www.uky.edu/Parking/transportation-ridematch.html.
People that sign up for the program are eligible for a carpool parking pass when they carpool with three riders or more. The permits cost about $160 extra, but the cost can be split three ways.
Alison Preston is one of a handful of UK employees who have already signed up for the service.
“I'm proud to be part of an effort to reduce the environmental impact of commuting to work each day,” Preston said.
The Web site operates like a social network for people who are looking to carpool together. Features of the site include instant phone notification, mapping technology, and a log that allows people to track how they get to work each day.
Users can search for similar transportation needs by time of day, frequency, and location. By communicating on the Web site, personal information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers remain confidential unless the user chooses to share them. Riders are responsible for their own safety.