Saving money, making friends on commute to work
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
When most people are white-knuckled in their vehicles, battling the daily work commute …
Shannon Vigil fires up her scooter.
Andre Anderson chats with friends on the light rail.
Bobby Ferreira pedals a bicycle.
And Brittany Lyons and Sierra Daniels remain calm, sharing a faster ride in the HOV lane.
Increasingly, Grand Canyon University students and employees are choosing alternative modes of transportation to campus to save money and time, connect with others and help the environment.
In the last six months, Eden Adams has seen a 12.5% increase in users of the GCU Trip Reduction Program, whose goal is to reduce single-occupant vehicles or miles traveled to work.
“People want to save time and money on gas. Others say they ride the bus to work so they can listen to music or work on their laptop, and it’s less stress,” said Adams, the HR Service Center Representative who oversees the program, which now has 581 participants.
Users who sign up at ShareTheRide.com log their trips to work via carpool, bus, light rail, bicycle, walk or telecommuting are eligible for prizes from Valley Metro Solutions and through GCU’s Trip Reduction Program.
“The whole goal is to reduce impact on the environment and reduce the number of cars on the road,” said Adams, who is planning a TRP party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, in the lobby of Building 71 at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road.
GCU employees and student commuters who chose alternative modes, it was estimated in the program’s annual survey, prevented 48 tons of pollution from entering the environment.
Vigil, a GCU senior, signed up last year after realizing that pushing her green Razor scooter the two miles from an off-campus apartment to class “was going to be easier and get me fitter,” she said.
“Instead of hopping in a car, my friends and I can hop on our scooters and enjoy God’s creation. I can use my senses to enjoy what He has created.”
Meeting new people who ask – “You scooter?” – outweighs the accidental spills, such as the time she slipped on a rock.
“This year I’m upgrading to a bigger scooter,” she said. “This one is kicking my butt.”
Anderson, a university counselor, has found similar benefits while taking public transportation. He sees many of the same people every day on the light rail or the city bus, and they have become casual friends.
“There’s so many interesting people you see every day, and conversations develop. And the bus drivers and I, in the mornings, get to talk sports and business,” Anderson said.
“You do see some crazy stuff, depending on the time of day, but for the most part nobody bothers you. And if you are a reader, it’s one of those times that are relaxing because you are not in control of a vehicle. You just sit on the light rail and read a book. “
Anderson typically takes the 6:01 bus from his West Valley home a few miles north of GCU to get to work 30 minutes later. Going home, he will grab a bus from 27th Avenue to the light rail on 19th Avenue, which travels north to drop him off near his home, only a short walk away.
“It works out big time, especially with finances,” he said. “Buying gas is not cheap.”
Employees also can get free bus or light rail passes, offered at the beginning of each month on a first-come, first-served basis via email or by visiting the Human Resources office in Building 71. Last year, those passes covered 7,436 trips for employees and students.
Ferreira is burning even less gas. None. At least on the couple days a week he hops on his bicycle to pedal 11 miles to work.
“It is great exercise and, mentally, you can pump your music and go out and smell the fresh air rather than being in an enclosed car,” the IT System Administrator said.
One problem can be the heat. In the mornings when he leaves at 5:30, it’s not too bad, although his partially frozen water bottle is hot two miles into the ride. He can take a shower at the gym on campus.
He has found the ride down the Arizona Canal trail to Metro Center is a breeze, and there are only a couple of miles on 35th Avenue without bike lanes that “I have to ‘pigeon head’ to be careful for cars.” On the way home, if it’s especially hot, he will ride the bus to his spot on the canal and cut the ride in half.
Does it take longer? Not much, he said. One time he even found the bus was behind him for five miles — he was going to jump on, but it couldn’t catch up.
“It takes me 29 minutes in the car, but on my bike, with the phone hooked to my handlebar and my bluetooth headphones in my ear, it took 39 minutes,” Ferreira said.
Others are teaming up to commute.
Lyon and Daniels discovered five months ago that not only do they live in the same neighborhood, they also work in the same department in Human Resources.
“Why don’t we car pool?” Lyon asked.
Where once Daniels had to fill her Ford Edge with $60 of gas, she now does so every other week because the two travel the 15-mile commute together three times a week.
They also figure to shave five to 10 minutes off a commute because they can take the HOV lane.
“It’s also more fun to talk to someone,” said Lyon, a talent acquisition partner.
“Less anger on the 10 (Interstate 10),” added Daniels, a talent acquisition analyst.
Another set of eyes on the road also makes it less stressful than driving by yourself.
Lyon won a $25 gift certificate from Target as part of the monthly prizes awarded to GCU participants.
“I haven’t experienced that yet,” Daniels said, laughing. “But I like to be environmentally friendly. It’s nice that I’m doing my part.”
● TRP Party: The GCU Trip Reduction Program will celebrate its efforts to reduce single-occupant vehicles and/or miles traveled to work with refreshments and information on the program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, in the lobby of Building 71, 27th Avenue and Camelback Road.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.