After six months of a successful faculty and staff car-sharing program, students are still unable to use the resource they originally spearheaded, due to funding and insurance problems.
The UCSB Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) car-sharing service has been offered to faculty and staff since last April when former director of Transportation and Parking Services Tom Roberts organized it to decrease car-reliance at UCSB and increase environmental sustainability. Although faculty and staff are able to use the free two-hour service to run personal errands, students are denied the privilege because insurance companies are hesitant to cover those under 21 years of age in their policies, said Logan Green, a member of the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board.
Green, also a senior business-economics major, said he and other campaign workers attempted to put a $3 lock-in fee on the 2004 Spring campuswide election that would have paid for a student car-sharing program. He said they gathered 2,850 signatures – 850 more than was required – to place the initiative on the ballot when the insurance company they had selected, Flexcar, withdrew from the deal. For the initiative to appear on the ballot, it had to be backed by a car insurance company. Therefore, no money could be obtained for the program.
Flexcar opted out of the deal because a majority of the students they would have covered would be under 21 years of age and could have been a significant liability to both the company and the university. Since then, no other insurance companies have submitted a proposal to offer insurance.
Green said Roberts adopted the car-sharing program and presented a revised version of it to TAP board members, who supported it. The program is currently funded by money received through parking tickets and offers three Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles that are insured through UCSB’s car insurance policy.
James Wagner, program manager of TAP, said 250 faculty and staff members have given up their parking permits in order to participate in alternative transportation programs – a 26 percent increase since last April. Free bus passes have also contributed to this increase, he said.
Green said the popularity of the program among faculty and staff shows the success that the program could potentially have with students, who could be as enthusiastic to participate. He said he thinks students would need to become more active in the process in order for the car-sharing program to be offered and said they can write proposals to university officials, gather petitions and find other more creative ways to gain support.
“Students have to mobilize and explore interest in the program to help bring it to life,” Green said. “Currently, there are only three university-owned cars, but if the program is expanded to students, that number is sure to increase.”
Perrin Pellegrin, the campus sustainability coordinator, said carpooling, car-sharing and bus programs help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the environment. Pellegrin said decreasing emissions now might help reduce future environmental and economic concerns.
“The theory is to think ahead of the game so we will be under the threshold [of acceptable CO2 levels] in 10 years,” Pellegrin said. “Plus it’s the right thing to do.”
Ari Phillips, a fourth-year political science and art studio major, said he thinks the car-sharing program would be both useful and environmentally friendly.
“I would use the program for errands mostly,” Phillips said. “I think there is an excess of cars, and if the program cuts down on them it would be fantastic for Isla Vista. It needs to be easily attained though.”