College looks to improve sustainable transportation

By Zach Selke

Macalester is taking a step toward becoming more ecologically friendly by subsidizing bus passes to encourage students to take public transport. Macalester’s location along two of St. Paul’s largest thoroughfares makes public transportation a logical choice for many members of the Macalester community, but students frequently fail to take advantage of this opportunity, said Molly Brown ’10, a member of the President’s Climate Commitment Committee.

To improve transportation sustainability, the college will subsidize bus passes for members of the Macalester Community with a 50 percent discount. The subsidized bus passes should be available next week at the Information Desk in the Campus Center.

The use of public transportation is important to carbon emissions as it provides a more efficient alternative to the use of cars, Sustainability Manager Suzanne Savanick-Hansen said.

“The impact could be substantial if people really take advantage of this opportunity and think about changing their habits,” Brown said.

Last year President Rosenberg signed the President’s Climate Commitment, in which he pledged that Macalester would achieve climate neutrality in the near future. The climate neutral action plan laid out the process stipulated the integration of sustainability into the academic curriculum as well as more tangible steps such as renovation projects to create immediate changes to Macalester’s carbon output.

The 2008 College Sustainability Report Card, which granted Macalester an overall “B,” applauded MacCARES’ efforts to develop biodiesel from waste cooking oil for use in college vans, as well as the presence of the HOURCAR car-sharing program. But since the HOURCAR program is only available to drivers over the age of 25, almost all Macalester students remain unable to take advantage of the Toyota Prius parked in the Patagonia parking lot.

Savanick-Hansen said she conducted research on the impact of public transportation at the University of Minnesota, finding that the community’s use of public transit has kept campus carbon emissions at half the level they would be with standard car use.

She said she hopes that the subsidized bus passes will encourage more people at Macalester to take the bus and reduce the campus carbon-footprint.

“It’s things like not getting to your off-campus internship or job by car, or taking the bus on more excursions into the Twin Cities or even just to Target or wherever for your errands,” Brown said. “With the passes at such a low cost, we hope it’ll be a real incentive for Macalester community members to reevaluate both their needs and their impact on the Earth.