Andrew Heaslet, Washington University in St. Louis’ first alternative transportation coordinator, rides his bike to work. But that doesn’t mean you have to, too.
“It’s not always possible to take an alternative form of transportation — there’s kids and appointments,” Heaslet said. “But that’s where all of our programs come in. There’s the Occasional Parking Program, CarShare and other options. Maybe you make a small change one or two days a week that make sense for you. That can add up to a big change.”
Community members can test those options during Car-Free Month, which kicks off Friday, Oct. 4, with “Bike with Mike,” a bike-in screening of Space Jam on Art Hill. Drivers also are encouraged to sign up for the Car-Free Challenge.
Heaslet is meeting with departments and individuals to outline the campus’ various programs for commuters. Parking and Transportation Services also launched a new website this week that provides extensive information about parking, permits and sustainable transportation alternatives.
Heaslet gave up his own car a few years ago. It simply wasn’t worth the cost to his pocketbook or his waistline, he said.
“I used to be 40 pounds heavier, and not driving has made a big difference,” said Heaslet, who either rides his bike or takes public transportation from his home near Tower Grove Park to campus. “So when I meet people, I ask them, ‘How much time does it take you get to work, and how much does it cost you? How long it would take you if you used mass transit?’ I’m not asking for radical change but for them to really examine their options. Maybe your commute takes 10 minutes more but you’re walking more, and so it evens out. For me, the math has meant more money and better health.”
Nicholas Stoff, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said many employees aren’t aware of the university’s many parking options. Yes, they know about U-Pass, which provides students, faculty and staff a pass for Metro’s bus and MetroLink light-rail service. But there also is CarShare, the discount car-rental program. This month, the university doubles its fleet of CarShare vehicles to 21 hybrid and electric cars; employees and students can rent a car for $5 an hour or keep it overnight for $30. Another inexpensive option is the West Campus parking permit. Commuters can park in the West Campus garage and then hop on a Metro bus or MetroLink for a quick ride to the other campuses. The total annual cost? $15.
“That’s like a $500 raise right off the bat,” Stoff said. “I was just telling someone about that, and he couldn’t believe it. We consistently hear from people that they don’t know what options are available. Once they learn about them, they are receptive to trying some of them.”
That’s good, because parking permit rates will rise by a yet-to-be-determined amount next year, said Steve Hoffner, associate vice chancellor for operations. Meanwhile, new building construction is on the horizon for the east end of the Danforth Campus, home to some 1,100 of the university’s 4,800 spaces.
“More buildings means less spaces and more people,” Hoffner said. “We don’t want people to be caught off guard. We want them to know their options now.”
Hoffner hopes to expand those options. The university is working with Great Rivers Greenway to improve bike routes to both the South Campus and the Delmar Loop. The university also is exploring the possibility of Metro providing direct, express routes from outlying communities to WUSTL. There also are plans to build an underground garage to serve the new buildings.
Meanwhile, Heaslet encourages faculty, staff and off-campus students to participate in Car-Free Month. In addition to the bike-in movie, activities include free bike tune-ups on the Danforth and Medical campuses, group rides to Grovefest and Calvary Cemetery, free breakfast at Kaldi’s on DeMun Boulevard and the Metro Prom, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 19, on MetroLink. Visit here for a complete list of events. Faculty, staff and off-campus students also are invited to register for the Car-Free Challenge, which runs Oct. 7-31. Awards include prizes for the team with the greatest number of car-free miles and most car-free trips.
Heaslet also welcomes calls from anyone with questions about commuting options.
“Someone’s commute is a very personal thing,” he said. “I’m here to help anyone work out the right plan for them.”
More about Andrew Heaslet:
Title: Alternative transportation coordinator
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Science, Technology and Society, Butler University (Indianapolis)
Background: Founded Griffin Delivery, a bike service that delivers food from local restaurants. Heaslet recently sold his share to the Bike Waiter, which plans to expand service.
On biking in St. Louis: “I feel like I’ve been riding a crest of a wave. I’ve noticed a difference in both the number of cyclists and the ways cars interact with bikes. Part of the reason I started my business was to prove that bikes are safe and you can make money with a bicycle.”
Contact: Andrew.Heaslet@wustl.edu or (314) 935-9275