University employees enjoy car-free commute
There are plenty of people who drive alone to work. Parking Services issued 8,950 parking permits to faculty and staff this year. Some UI employees find that their work schedules, family responsibilities, or geographic location make driving a necessity. But there are others who have found that the presumed inconvenience of sharing the trip pays off.
In 1978, the first vanpools, all four of them, made their appearance at Iowa. Today 55 vans transport about 700 University employees between the University and surrounding communities, according to Michelle Ribble, UI commuter transportation coordinator. Most vanpools serve day workers, but there are four night- shift vans as well.
Van riders split a fee that covers fuel, insurance, maintenance, and replacement costs for the van. Drivers fees are forgiven in exchange for their chauffeuring services.
"Its much cheaper than driving a car," says Dennis Charkowski, a research assistant in the molecular analysis facility in the College of Medicine. "We figure it costs about $1.70 a day, which is what we charge alternate riders."
Charkowski was carpooling to work when the first Cedar Rapids vanpool was formed in 1980.
He and fellow carpooler Mary McBride, currently a secretary in the Department of Radiology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, signed on. Twenty years later, despite some passenger and driver changes, their vanpool is still going strong.
"The beauty of it is that you dont have the stress of driving," McBride says. "You can read, nap, or talk. And Ive made some good friends."
Hopping on a bus is another favored mode of transport. In January, Parking Services began offering a discounted Iowa City Transit pass to faculty and staffto date 99 passes have been purchased. The pass is good for a full year, but can be cancelled and then reactivated if, for example, a bus rider wishes to bike to work in the summer.
One person whos taken advantage of the pass is east side Iowa City resident Jan Frerichs, operations coordinator of pathology in the hematology and chemistry laboratories at UIHC.
"After a stressful day I read a book or newspaper instead of fighting traffic," Frerichs says. She originally began riding the bus as a necessityit meant that her family only needed to own one vehiclebut shes now a strong supporter of public transportation.
"I hire a lot of employees who complain about parking, and I tell them about the bus and the passes," Frerichs says. "There are so many people coming to the hospital from outside Iowa City who have to driveif more of us rode the bus, biked, or walked, it would really cut down on congestion."
There are some people who walk. Ellen Heywood is one of them.
Heywood, currently an assistant to the Registrar and a UI employee since 1979, has been making the half-hour walk from her east-side Iowa City home to Jessup Hall for nearly three years.
"I walk almost every day, all year long," she says.
Heywood began walking for her health.
"I realized that my passions are sedentaryquilting and readingand more and more studies show the connection between exercise and health," she says. "I feel better knowing that Im doing the right thing."
Cold temperatures dont faze her, but when rain or wind put a damper on Heywoods trek, she takes the bus. In the evenings, she rides home with her husband who works in downtown Iowa City.
Jim Lindberg doesnt let frigid weather faze him either. Lindberg, a professor of geography, has been riding his bike to work since he joined the UI faculty in September 1960.
"I dont ever put my bike away," Lindberg says. "If its icy or slippery I dont ride, but Im usually able to ride about half the days in December and January.
"Its ten minutes by bike from the time I leave my front door, until I lock my bike up," he says of the trip from his Manville Heights home to work.
"Its very enjoyable," Lindberg says. "I can ride along quietly and think about an upcoming class presentation or meeting. It gives me time to get my mind fixed on my job."
Walkers, bikers, bus riders, and van pool riders admit that their modes of transport have drawbacks "Its hard to carry a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi with me," Heywood says of walking, and Frerichs finds getting across town to a doctors appointment mid-day, when buses run less frequently, nearly impossible. But the "down time" that their commute provides can make the journey as important as the destination.
"When the weather is nice, I sometimes take the long way home," Lindberg says.
How many people driving through traffic would say that?
by Linzee Kull McCray