The Dernogalizer

February 3, 2009

Column on Campus Transportation Emissions

Filed under: Dernoga,Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 10:19 pm
Tags: , ,

I have a column out today about how our plan for lowering campus transportation emissions is flawed, and how to tweak the funding for our Department of Transportation Services to give us a greater chance of success. There are a couple of spellings errors which I definitely didn’t make(darn editors!).


DOTS: Lowering emissions has a high price

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 2/3/09 Section: Opinion
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For the last year, a group of students, faculty members and administrators have been outlining a plan for the university to reduce its carbon footprint. I’ve sat in on some of their meetings, and though the group has proposed several innovative initiatives to make the university more eco-friendly, the group has consistently run into one seemingly insurmountable challenge: Transportation makes up 33 percent of campus’ emissions.

The working group aimed to solve this problem by instituting new car pooling programs, increasing shuttle bus access, and adding more local transit options. They also talked about giving out cheaper permits for fuel-efficient cars, and having faculty and staff telecommute. All these solutions would mean less cars on the road. But they’d also mean a drastic reduction in the number of parking permits the Department of Transportation Services sells.

The problem? DOTS gets a big chunk of its money from selling parking permits and parking garage receipts. So, in trying to cut transportation emissions and on-campus driving, the department’s revenue will plummet – and probably faster than the stock portfolio of someone who invested in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme (sorry, Hillel).

There’s obviously something counterintuitive about how this works. For the campus to successfully reduce transportation emissions, we need to dramatically reduce the number of permits issued. It’s the department’s job to successfully implement this program, but DOTS has incentive to give more parking permits, not fewer.

Asking DOTS to reduce parking permits would be like asking the oil companies to manage drilling permits for environmentally sensitive areas or relying on the coal companies to design a national plan to fight global warming. None of it passes the laugh test unless you’ve been given laughing gas. I don’t trust DOTS to actually do anything meaningful to reduce the number of parking permits it gives out as long as it needs permits as its revenue source.

The source of funding for DOTS has to change. I propose the parking permits’ revenue goes straight to the university’s budget. Then, each fiscal year DOTS can submit its budget request to the university, which would have to approve it. This way, DOTS is going to get the money it needs, regardless of how many permits it sell. We could even create an incentive by guaranteeing DOTS a larger budget for each permit they reduce.

We’re inevitably headed toward reforming the department’s budget. The number of parking permits has already been going down over the past few years, thanks to building construction. Commuters have noticed the giant spike in permit prices. This is only headed in one direction. I say we change how DOTS gets its money sooner rather than late and witness the emissions reductions that follow. If not, pass me the laughing gas.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at


1 Comment »

  1. Hello. I was reading someone elses blog and saw you on their blogroll. Would you be interested in exchanging blog roll links? If so, feel free to email me.


    Comment by Josh Maxwell — February 3, 2009 @ 11:00 pm | Reply

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