Sharing is caring — and, now, commuting

A commuter bus, two Zipcars and a ride-sharing program all arrived at the University of Richmond this week.

The school introduced the three new transportation services Monday to connect students and faculty with the community and help them get to jobs, community service projects and social events.

The services “will provide opportunities for students to use mass transit and share rides,” said Brian Eckert, director of media and public relations.

UR has about 3,000 on-campus undergraduate students. About 1,000 don’t have cars, Eckert said.

He added that commuting can be a challenge for students who don’t have their own ride. And for students with cars, getting in and out of downtown has become a problem.

“This will provide a more environmental way of getting around and an alternative for commuter students,” Eckert said. There are about 500 commuter students.

The school already had the Spider Shuttle, the GRTC Connector and a safety shuttle, but it wasn’t enough to support students’ needs, Eckert said.

The safety shuttle “was getting 200 calls a weekend from students trying to get back to their dorms and get around campus,” said Cheryl Spain, a communications director.

The new initiatives are part of a project the school has been trying to get together since the fall of last year to provide more efficient transportation for people struggling to find a ride or dealing with the hassle of commuting and parking in Richmond.

Reggie Gooden, a senior at UR, said he’s excited. “Usually I have to work around my friends’ schedules, and this way it will be easier to get to where I need to go.”

“We needed something else to make students more mobile,” Gooden said.

The university partnered up with Groome Transportation to provide the UR Downtown Shuttle, a short bus that travels from the student activities center on campus to Robinson and Broad streets and UR Downtown.

“We looked at where students needed to get to for internships, jobs and community service,” said Eckert.

The bus is also part of an effort to be green.

“It is a local company that was willing to provide a brand-new fleet of propane-fueled vehicles that contribute to our green-campus efforts,” Eckert said.

Zipcar has also joined UR’s transportation effort, adding two cars to the campus.

The car-sharing service will allow faculty, staff and students a 24-hour service to two on-campus cars for $8 an hour, up to $60 per day.

VCU is the only other school in Richmond to use the service. The cars, a Honda Civic and Toyota Prius, will be parked at the new transportation center.

An informal survey went out to the school beforehand to see if it would be something students would use.

“For students driving, they will be able to share rides and cut costs at the same time,”  Eckert said.

Zimride, an online equivalent to hitch-hiking that matches drivers with space in their car with people who need a lift, also launched for students to sign up online to connect with other students. Any UR student, faculty member or staff member can sign up for the free service to offer rides to others or catch a ride with someone going anywhere in Richmond.

“Students were asking for it. There’s been a push for a ride-sharing program for some time, and I think students are excited to take advantage of the new options offered,” Spain said.

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