Humber struggles to get commuters out of their cars

by | Oct 5, 2017 | Campus News, Headlines, News

Michelle Rowe-Jardine
News Reporter 

A lack of awareness slammed the brakes on carpooling at Humber College.

Humber’s sustainability plan for 2014-19 included a strategy to reduce single-occupancy vehicles, but encouraging students and staff to carpool hasn’t been an easy road.

A 2016 survey of Humber College’s commuting habits indicated 4 per cent of students and 8 per cent of faculty and staff at the North campus primarily carpooled to campus. The survey showed 24 per cent of students and 67 per cent of faculty and staff drove alone to campus.

Metrolinx partnered with Humber College in 2014 to bring a carpooling app called Smart Commute. The app is an interactive map where users heading to the same place can coordinate and carpool together.

According to the Smart Commute website, carpooling helps users reduce congestion, save money and be eco-friendlier. The survey showed only 38 per cent of faculty and 9 per cent of staff and faculty knew the app existed.

Roma Malik, the sustainability manager at Humber College, said awareness is part of the problem.

“We notice there’s a lack of information when it comes to the benefits of carpooling,” Malik said.

The program features on-campus parking spaces reserved for carpools and a cost-sharing of parking permits and fees to make travelling to and from campus more affordable.

There’s also an Emergency Ride Home Program, which offers reimbursements of up to $75 if a user’s carpool falls through due to unforeseen circumstances and they commute home another way.

Colling Do, a second-year architectural technology student, said a friend in Waterloo carpools to school which made her consider doing the same.

“But I didn’t know how to approach it,” she said. “If a student in my area needed a ride I wouldn’t mind,” Do said.

However, signing up doesn’t guarantee a carpool connection will be made because of conflicts in students’ schedule.

“The issue we have with carpooling is students aren’t always on campus at the same time,” said Malik.

Second-year paramedic student Kinesha Beneteau said she probably wouldn’t try carpooling because coordinating with someone would be too difficult.

“My schedule is very strict, usually when I finish class I have to run off to go to work,” she said.

Carpooling isn’t the only way the Office of Sustainability is trying to reduce Humber’s carbon footprint.

“I notice the students, staff and faculty are not necessarily looking to carpool,” Malik said. They are, however, looking at bike-sharing, electric vehicle charging stations, more efficient bike routes and more public transportation options, she said.

Humber College has been given a Gold Smart Commute Workplace title for the past two years for its sustainable travel options. Smart Commute is a joint program between Metrolinx and various municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.