Philly awards Penn for sustainable commuting efforts

New incentives that support the use of bicycles helped Penn win two local awards for the University’s efforts to encourage sustainable commuting.

Penn received the 2017 Bike-Phriendly Business Award from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia for “modeling excellence in providing bike-supportive employee amenities, facilities, encouragement, and office culture.”

The University was also named the 2017 Clean Air Commute Employer of the Year by Philadelphia’s Clean Air Council for several programs and incentives that focus on sustainable transportation, based on Penn’s Climate Action Plan to lower its carbon footprint.

The Business Services Division, which oversees the University’s Sustainable Transportation Initiative, has been working with Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), and the Division of Public Safety to manage the Penn Bike Planning Committee, which has been in high gear the past year stewarding the new programs and policies.

“We look at it as more of a mission, to really encourage people to bike on campus, and create a safe environment to ride and lock their bikes,” says Chloe Cerwinka, chairperson of the Bike Committee and a FRES landscape planner. “We are really trying to build a bicycling community.”

Business Services’ Bike Commuter Expense Reimbursement Program is a new incentive that offers reimbursement of up to $20 a month for eligible commuting expenses to qualified faculty and staff. Eligible expenses include bike purchases, accessories, safety gear, maintenance, parking, and commercial storage costs.

More than 350 people have signed up for the information sessions about the program so far this year. Enrollment is available online, and requires that participants register their bike with Penn Public Safety. More sessions are planned for the fall.

The new program helps give bicyclists benefits similar to those who use public transportation. Through the Compass program, Penn has an agreement with SEPTA to provide a 10 percent discount—5 percent paid by SEPTA with an additional 5 percent contributed by Penn—for travel within the city and on regional rail, pre-tax up to $255 a month.

“This allows bicyclists to be a part of that community,” Cerwinka says.

The Bike Committee also expanded Penn’s participation in national Bike to Work Day on May 19, the University’s third year of participation. An event in front of the Penn Museum included several partners such as SEPTA, Indego, Student Services, Public Safety, and the Neighborhood Bike Works.

“That’s been a great way for us to make connections not only within the University, but with groups in Philadelphia,” Cerwinka says.

Other Penn services for bicyclists include four locations of Indego bike rental stations on campus, three bike repair stations with pumps and tools, and 62 bike parking stations. A newly redesigned website has a map showing where all are located, as well as the bike lanes on campus and information on all transportation services available at Penn. 

“We do it because it is the socially responsible thing to do,” says Brian Manthe, director of Business Services, which includes Penn Transportation & Parking. “But it’s nice to be recognized for doing the right thing.”

The Clean Commute Award acknowledged Penn for the bicycle programs and the commuter transit benefits, and also for discounted parking rates for carpools and vanpools, charging stations for electric vehicles, and incentives for participating in car sharing. More than 50 percent of the Penn community uses sustainable transportation.

In addition, Penn Transit operates buses and shuttles, such as the Pennovation shuttles, on campus and beyond for use by the Penn community at no charge. Penn and Drexel have an agreement that allows each community to use the other’s buses, and Penn and SEPTA support the LUCY shuttles. All these services are free of charge for PennCard holders, says Michael Randolph, associate director of Penn Transit. Penn’s buses are equipped with bike racks on the front that are compatible with the racks on the SEPTA buses, he says, noting that the vehicles also run on cleaner and more-efficient bio diesel fuel.

Commuter Awards Penn