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Southwestern Commuting and Vehicle Usage Reduction Study “Pirate Ride”

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Jesse Chiu
Advisor: Jim Kilfoyle

Based on the collected data, the result suggests a full-scale carpool/vanpool/rideshare program would be difficult to implement, judging from the overwhelming number of students, staff, and faculty living in/close to Georgetown. Schedule differences, changes, and additional trips taken by SU members along their commuting paths (dropping children off in the morning, grocery shopping in the evening, picking up clothes, etc.) made consistent carpooling less likely, as evidenced by the survey’s high percentage of respondents answering “not at all likely” to carpool daily. 

Instead, the primary audience most likely to benefit from vehicle sharing (a.k.a. rideshare) are students returning home during weekends and holidays. The survey results indicate students spend an average of $60 per trip driving back home during the weekends and holidays; a sizable amount of gas and money can be saved if one, possibly more students shared the ride. The overwhelming concentration of on-campus students also facilitates such potential program, as almost all students will be leaving from & returning to campus during the same time period.

Based on the research conducted so far, the creation of a website, perhaps a portal (such as on MySouthwestern) where students can post requests for rides, as well as to offer rides may be the most practical option in the short term.  In addition to offering roughly half of the student survey respondents who did not have a vehicle access on campus additional option to make grocery runs and take rides to airport, the small percentage of students, who reside off-campus in the Austin area, can also possibly find carpool matches. The high concentration of students from Houston, San Antonio, and DFW area makes it more likely for students to be able to split gas cost for rides back home, while also offering the comfort of not driving long distance alone. Although current options seem limited for any carpool/rideshare, the use of electronic medium, of an automated online forum/bulletin board for offering/requesting rides is both a cost-effective and low-maintenance approach at promoting rideshare, while a once-a-year initiative to push for one-day carpooling may also be a good way to raise awareness of both personal environmental footprints, hidden costs of high vehicle usage, as well as in considering alternative modes of transportation. 

One of the surprising results from the survey was that several students, staff, and faculty member spent over $300 per month on gas alone.  Most commuters originated from the Greater Austin area, though several commuters seem to be driving from Killeen/Temple (40 miles up north) - Georgetown, as well as San Marcos – Georgetown (100+ miles round trip). 

The link below is a sample of the bubblemap that visualizes the high concentration and dotted spread of students between the Georgetown-Austin areas.

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