The Central Campus Master Plan has laid the groundwork to build a green and more sustainable campus. The plan is intended to stimulate the revitalization of the campus and the surrounding community through new residence halls, research facilities, public recreational facilities and a visitor center. Following the approval of the District of Columbia’s Zoning Commission, a cross-departmental team is working to implement its sustainability initiatives.
As part of the Howard University Central Campus Master Plan (HUCMP), the University is required by the District of Columbia to include a Transportation Demand Management initiative, which provides strategies for increasing the overall transportation efficiency to and from the campus. This plan is intended to improve mobility and access, reduce congestion and air pollution and increase safety.
“Like all of the other university campuses in the District of Columbia, we are being required by the D.C. Department of Transportation to reduce the number of drive alone trips to the campus,” said Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association and co-chair of the HUCMP steering committee.
As an alternative, the University is taking steps to increase its current travel options, and is implementing new ones to better help the community transition. Such methods include, public transit, carpooling, bicycling, walking and ridesharing.
“We are providing members of the Howard community with a wide range of transportation options,” said Margo Smith, assistant vice president, Auxiliary Enterprises. “Individuals will make the decisions about what works best for them.”
Currently, Howard offers pre-tax WMATA SmartTrip benefits for employees using public transportation. The city already offers Commuter Connections, which is a program that connects students, faculty and staff with others who carpool in the area. The University will provide space for and fund the installation of at least one Capital BikeShare station on the Central Campus during Phase I (1-3 years) of the HUCMP.
There are bike stations around campus for those who are cyclists to secure their bikes or rent a Capital Bike, a citywide share program. New stations will be added during all three phases of the master plan. For the last several years, the University has offered Zip Car services, which provide the community with convenient access to cars. Access to the University Shuttle Bus is also offered, and is free for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to and from the Central Campus and various other locations including the Shaw-Howard (green line) and Brookland (red line) Metro stations.
“The University is in early discussions about a telecommuting program,” says Smith. “Once policies are in place, there are some job functions that may allow for working remotely. So the employee could reduce their number of daily trips to and from the campus.”
Some departments on campus have already adopted alternative work schedule plans. The advantages include improved productivity and environmental preservation.
“This opportunity will allow employees to spend more time with their children instead of investing in childcare. They may even find out that they are more productive,” says Bennett. “Those approved for flex time will not be confronted with rush hour traffic because they won’t be coming into the campus when everyone is.”
Phase I of the campus master plan includes new facilities that will be constructed on existing parking lots but will be critical to the campus renewal initiative. The two new residence halls will complete the undergraduate village along the Fourth Street corridor.
Changes to Parking, Fees
In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, there will be increases to parking fees. The new rates will be provided at the end of April. In addition, employees will have the option of purchasing daily, monthly or yearly passes.
“We are also going to be expanding parking system offerings,” said Margo Smith. “There will be some pay-as-you-go lots, which are less economical than annual or monthly, but provides options for the campus community.”
Cliff Smith, director, of the Office of Transportation Demand Management formerly Parking and Shuttle Operations, recognizes that this new process is asking employees to change their routine.
“There are a lot of changes that are happening very quickly, but we hope employees see that we are ultimately enhancing the campus for this generation and the next,” said Cliff Smith. “By doing this, we are all participating in the campus renewal and taking steps to preserve the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.”
Experts maintain that “Going Green” is one of the largest social and economic opportunities of our lifetime. Howard has implemented several initiatives in the last five years to reduce its carbon footprint and have taken measurable steps to advance the campus’ sustainability agenda. In its first campus energy competition, Howard University students reduced overall energy use by 14% in its participating dorms, out-saving fellow competitors at American and George Washington Universities in the Alliance to Save Energy’s “D.C. Campus Challenge: How Much Can You Power Down?” competition.
The University has also fostered partnerships with Environmental Protection Agency and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to complement our research efforts as well as the installation of solar panels, organic and rain gardens, a green roof and exploratory work to develop a microgrid system.
In late February, President Sidney Ribeau and other D.C. area university presidents signed on to Mayor Vincent Gray's College and University Sustainability Pledge. The pledge, a voluntary public agreement between the D.C. government and its institutions of higher education to support a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable District. Signatories agreed to adopt policies and develop projects that will enhance the District's overall sustainability in exchange for support from the D.C. government.
“Together, we can do this,” said Alfonzye Chisholm Jr., director of the Office of Sustainability. “We need to take incremental steps to change our behavior and be mindful of areas we can reduce.”
The Implementation of the Transportation Demand Management plan and many other “Green” initiatives will propel Howard as a leader in sustainability.