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11/23/2010 08:00:00

Alternative Transportation Programs Honored

Five years ago, Caltech's transportation office had one vanpool and just 150 participants in its Bike-to-Work and Walk-to-Work programs. Today, the university boasts 13 vanpools, 150 carpoolers, and nearly 1100 Bike- and Walk-to-Work participants—along with a wide array of other commuter services, including transit subsidies, telework and flextime options, Zipcar rentals, secure bike-storage facilities, and more. Caltech's commuter- and environmentally friendly programs haven't gone without notice. Indeed, the university recently was singled out for a corporate Blue Diamond Award by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The award is given annually to a company that has proven itself a leader in ridesharing, with an active and visible presence in the commuter transportation field.

"Ridesharing has a number of benefits for Caltech employees, including reduced commuting costs, more commuting options, increased personal time, decreased stress, better health, and the chance to make new friends," says Kristina Valenzuela, Caltech's employee transportation coordinator, who accepted the Blue Diamond Award on behalf of the university at a ceremony in September. "Caltech as a whole benefits by retaining employees, increasing employee productivity, reducing congestion, and improving air quality around the campus," she says.

Valenzuela—who is herself in a commuter vanpool ("I do practice what I preach," she says)—continues to explore innovative alternative transportation options. In September, for example, the Rideshare office instituted a folding bike loaner program on campus. For a $20 refundable deposit, Caltech students, faculty, and staff can rent one of two folding bikes from the Parking office at 515 S. Wilson, plus a helmet and lock, "to do errands, go to meetings or just enjoy a bike ride," she says.

Not content to rest on her success, Valenzuela plans to soon expand the bikeshare program and also hopes to install a one-stop bicycle parking area and service facility on campus. "I've applied for a grant to put a Bikestation here on campus," she says. "If the grant is approved, this will be a stand-alone secure bicycle parking facility. The facility will be fully self-contained with a solar electrical system and will offer bicycle commuters service amenities such as lockers and work bench area for small repairs, a free air station, and a hand washing area."

Written by Kathy Svitil