Transportation programs offer smart alternatives for commuters

July 19, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- Whether it's their environmental conscience or to avoid high gas prices, many Penn State employees are finding new ways to get to work. Fortunately, there are a number of options provided by Transportation Services that allow staff to leave their car at home—or at least closer to home.

Transportation Services always is looking for ways to expand options for employees who do not live near CATA's Centre Line routes. Two programs that help these individuals are the RideShare Program and the CATA Commute Vanpool Program.

CATA Commute Vanpools

CATA's Vanpools have seen significant growth recently. Fifteen vans run from many different locations in the region, including Lewistown, Lock Haven and Tyrone. Daily commutes from Snow Shoe and Phillipsburg have recently been added to the roster, and interested riders can sign up for a seat while space is available.

A vanpool typically carries seven to 12 riders. The commute should be at least 40 miles to be cost effective and the group shares the total cost -- so the more riders, the cheaper it is. Luke Anderson, on-campus kiosk supervisor, takes the Altoona vanpool. His van leaves from the Altoona Lowes, but Anderson gets picked up at the Bellewood Park & Ride.

"It's nice. I've seen significant savings," he said. "It's convenient because it doesn't put a lot of wear on my car, I can do other things on the commute and it ends up being around only $100 a month."


The RideShare Program uses an online matching program to connect individuals from the surrounding communities who share the same commute. Once signed up, riders receive a RideMatch list with names and contact information of potential fellow commuters. Rideshare is perfect for a flexible, convenient way to get to work. More than 800 faculty, staff and students are currently signed up for RideShare.

The service is free and is provided by Transportation Services and CATA. Full-time employees will also be registered with CATA's Guaranteed Ride Home Program. This guarantees commuters a ride home (up to 50 miles) in case of an emergency or if the driver is unable to make the commute due to an emergency. Members are eligible up to four guaranteed rides home per year.

Ride for Five

In partnership with CATA, Transportation Services offers a discounted mass transit pass to all full-time staff. The program is called Ride for Five, and is valid on all CATA Centre Line bus routes seven days a week. Employees who hand in their on-campus parking pass can take advantage of the program for only $5 a month.

"This is part of our initiative to make campus more pedestrian friendly," campus parking manager Jean Harris said. "We take a hit by losing a parking pass, but it's a good hit. (It's) one we're willing to take."

The Centre Line includes stops in Boalsburg, Houserville, Pine Grove Mills, Stormstown, Toftrees, Cato Park, the Nittany Mall, the University Park Airport, Bellefonte and Pleasant Gap. More than 800 employees are signed up for Ride for Five.

"That's 800 less cars on campus, " Harris said. "There's less demand on the lots and it makes campus less congested, easier to get around and more enjoyable."

Now in its eighth year, the Ride for Five program is very popular among its users. For those skeptical about trying it out, the program offers several options to fit even the most unusual schedules. Ride for Five customers can still keep an evening/weekend parking permit, and all users will receive four regular parking passes that can be used at any time.

"We have over 20,000 (parking) permits," Harris said. "Ride for Five is a big savings on the environment and it's not a bad way to save a buck."

For more information on campus parking, transportation or commuting options, visit the Transportation Services website.

"Anything we can do to help the environment is a good thing, " she said. "Reducing the amount of single occupancy vehicles is the goal. These programs are getting us there."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 27, 2010