September 12, 2005
High gas prices? How does 70 mpg sound?
BY michael terrazas
Even before Hurricane Katrina sent metro Atlantans into a panic about the cost of filling up their tanks, gas prices had been creeping up to their highest levels in more than two decades. Emory employees are fortunate to have several options for commuting to campus, from databases that will match up carpool riders to vanpools and subsidized MARTA passes.
But some people are finding other solutions. Ron Miller strapped on a helmet.
Early in the summer, Miller decided he’d had enough of pumping $2.50/gallon gas into his car, so he jumped online to do some research, then found himself in Twist ‘n’ Scoot on Piedmont Road, ready to purchase his new mode of transportation: a motor scooter. A Golden Bee TGB, to be exact.
“Every day since I bought it,” said Miller, senior office assistant in Human Resources, when asked how often he rides his scooter to work. “I had ridden motorcycles before, when I was in the military, and I enjoyed that. And I was looking for the cheapest way possible to get back and forth.”
Short of walking or bicycling, he may have found it. Miller said his scooter holds just over a gallon of gas, and he fills it up about once a week to make the roughly seven-mile round trip to campus. He estimates the scooter gets close to
70 miles to the gallon.
Miller is not the only Emory employee to discover the commuting joys of going continental; Jenn Mathews, an instructor in the School of Law’s Legal Writing, Research and Advocacy Program, picked up a Honda Metropolitan about a year ago, and she stretches her gas dollar even further than Miller; living only about a mile from work, Mathews said she can go nearly a month between fill-ups.
“I love it,” Mathews said. “I have to say I only ride it because I’m too lazy to walk, but if you’re like me, it’s a good in-between option. It’s a lot easier to get around campus, and you feel like you look cool—although the helmet doesn’t help.”
What looks coolest about scooter-riders to Emory parking and transportation officials is the car each of them removes from campus. Scooters qualify as motorcyles as far as University parking policies are concerned, and Emory does not require motorcyles to register to park; they are allowed in any of the designated motorcyle spaces around campus, and Parking Director Bill Collier said they can also park in hashed-out areas of parking decks by simply driving around the gate arms at deck entrances.
“We’re looking for any way—other than driving alone—for people to get to work,” said Patricia McCants, marketing coordinator for the Office of Alternative Transportation. “We want to leave no stone unturned.”
McCants’ office currently is in a state of transition; longtime director Brian Shaw left the University earlier this summer, and Harris Holmes from Community Services is serving as interim director until Shaw’s replacement is named. Program Coordinator Wanda Teichert continues to support the office’s many programs.
And though the office may be in flux, its programs continue their upward trajectory. McCants estimated that, since gas prices began rising this summer, inquiries about vanpools and carpools have doubled. According to the latest available statistics, through a cooperative effort under the Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association (CCTMA), about 525 Emory employees participate in some 214 carpools, and about 200 more ride to work in a vanpool.
Participating employees are eligible for a host of incentives, including financial subsidies from both the University and the state Clean Air Campaign. They may also enroll in the Guaranteed Ride Home program, an aptly named effort that provides up to five such rides per enrollment year. Through the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Ridematch Database (www.187ridefind.com), employees can search online for potential carpool partners who live near their homes or near any other location (a child’s daycare center, for instance).
Holmes said the office is about to take a hard look at Emory’s shuttle system, as well as expand existing service, possibly adding neighborhood shuttles so that more employees living close to campus can ride them to work.
“Transportation for the region is not going to significantly improve in the short term,” Holmes said. “We’re trying to provide the most efficient means of transit to get people in and out of the corridor. It’s a key to Emory’s being a success.”
Meanwhile, a select few employees will continue happily strapping on their helmets and revving up their scooters every morning.
“I had another scooter rider pull up behind me at a stop light recently,” Mathews said. “He got up next to me and said, ‘Enjoying your low gas bill?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah.’”
For more information about Emory’s alternative transportation programs, visit www.epcs.emory.edu/alttransp/.