USC noted a recent improvement in air quality scores surrounding campus, a result of the many efforts the university is taking to become more environmentally friendly, transportation officials said.
Part of this success can be attributed to USC’s exclusive partnership with Zimride, a ridesharing service that hosts a social networking website that organizes potential carpoolers into one vehicle, said Tony Mazza, director of USC Transportation.
“The program helps students, staff and faculty find other friends within their trusted community to reduce their transportation-related carbon footprint,” said John Zimmer, co-founder of Zimride.
The service has also contributed to changes at USC in its attempts to minimize the environmental problems that arise from the heavy traffic often seen around Downtown Los Angeles.
“We have increased our South Coast Air Quality Management District commuter survey score year over year since 2006, with milestone scores being recorded in 2009 and 2010,” Mazza said.
USC sold approximately 250 carpool passes for the 2010-2011 school year, which is consistent with those sold in years past. Currently, most of those who carpool to campus are faculty and staff. However, USC is encouraging commuter students to be more receptive to carpooling with fellow classmates as their primary mode of transportation, Mazza said.
The university is using the collaboration with Zimride as a starting point for more “green” initiatives they hope to establish throughout campus for students.
“In the last three years we have purchased several hybrid and low-emission vehicles as well as eight propane-powered buses,” Mazza said.
USC Transportation also offers subsidized mass transit permits, subsidized van pools, Zipcar and a free shuttle to and from Union Station and L.A. Live on the weekends.
Zimride was created at Cornell University, and now works with more than 55 other universities across the country. It has become grown in the Southern California area, and is in use at schools such as UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and UCLA.
The program also incorporates its services with other social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The company has developed an application that offers students a quicker way to register and find a carpool that matches their specific needs.
“The Facebook integration not only makes it user-friendly but provides an added layer of trust in conjunction with the restricted USC community-only access,” Mazza said.
Zimride offers approximately 154,000 available commutes and has close to 3,000 members from the USC community.
USC hopes that Zimride will appeal to commuter students, as well as those who reside on campus but do not have reliable access to a car, Mazza said.
Some students said the service would make traveling easier.
“I don’t have a car with me on campus, so having something like this to use when I want to travel to other places in Southern California or anywhere else is really convenient,” said Michiko Morri, a senior majoring in psychology. “It gives me more flexibility if I want to plan a trip somewhere. Plus, it seems like a great way to reduce traffic and help out the environment at the same time.”
USC is looking to further educate students about its “green” transportation options by advertising Zimride around campus and through the USC Transportation Facebook page.
“We are hoping to put together some student-organized street teams this semester to help educate the campus community about all of our commuter offerings,” Mazza said.