What on earth has the newly unveiled university Mobility Plan to do with information and communications technology? Quite a bit actually. It is another example of how ICT can be an enabler for sustainability elsewhere on campus – the third leg of Sustainable IT.
But let us briefly reflect on the Mobility Plan: it is a response to the growth of university student numbers in a small town with inadequate public transport, in a context where the car culture dominates. Such growth – and even the current situation – in the current configuration of transport options is plainly unsustainable. The plan proposes a comprehensive mix of solutions including increased parking fees, promoting rideshares (or carpooling or lift clubs), parking on the campus periphery, bicycle rentals, the establishment of cycling and pedestrian paths and precincts, shuttle services on campus, and bus and public transport from surrounding towns and suburbs, etc. In short, a re-engineering of transport modes and networks and a mixture of the carrot and the stick.
ICT’s role in the solution mix so far is:
- Students and staff will have to make decisions about preferred transport modes. Each mode will come with a price tag e.g. the cost of parking at academic buildings or on the periphery, bicycle rental, the cost of using a bus service, etc. The resultant costs will either be deducted from staff members’ salaries or charged to students’ accounts. Consequently, the IT Division, in concert with various support divisions, is developing an online application that will enable students and staff to register their selections and approve the charges against salary or account.
- A closed rideshare (carpooling, lift club) scheme for students and staff is an important element of the plan, given that many staff members and an increasing proportion of students commute to campus from surrounding towns and outlying suburbs. In order to provide this solution the university is partnering with a local rideshare cloud service to create a virtual space where those who advertise rides (lifts) can contact those who are looking for rides. The space will be closed to students and staff members, will protect private information and usage will be free of charge.