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Four Ways River Hawks Can Beat Sky-high Gas Prices

UML Offers Several Money-saving Commuting Options — That Also Help the Planet

A gas station sign showing the price of $4.51 per gallon Photo by Ed Brennen
Gas was up to $4.51 a gallon on a recent Friday afternoon at the Shell station near South Campus.

03/14/2022
By Ed Brennen

With gas prices hitting record highs, drivers everywhere are reaching deeper into their pockets at the pump.

The typical American household will spend $2,000 more on gasoline this year, according to experts.

Fortunately for students, faculty and staff who commute to campus, UMass Lowell has several options to save money — and reduce carbon emissions.

Here’s how:

Carpooling: Want to save money, help the environment AND get a premium parking space? UML’s On-Campus Carpool Program does all three. When two or more people share a car ride to campus, they’re not only slashing fuel consumption, but the cost of their car pool parking permit is divided equally among them. Plus, they get a hangtag entitling them to reserved parking spaces on North and South campuses. And if you occasionally need to drive alone, participants receive 16 one-day commuter permits per semester.

There are currently 88 people in 43 car pooling groups taking advantage of the program, according to Jon Victorine, executive director of UCAPS and integrated security. While that’s down about 25% from before the pandemic, Victorine hopes to see participation increase in the coming year.
 
A carpool parking sign reflected in a windshield, which has a parking decal on it Photo by Ed Brennen
A sign for a reserved carpool parking spot on North Campus is reflected in a car windshield.
If you need help finding someone to carpool with, the eCommuter program offers a convenient ride-matching tool. Members of the UML community can sign up for the free program thanks to the university’s partnership with the Middlesex 3 Transportation Management Association, which serves Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough and Westford.

Public transit: Did you know that you can ride any Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA) bus for free with your UCard? There are LRTA stops across campus, and buses run throughout greater Lowell, including to the Burlington Mall, Drum Hill Shopping Plaza and Gallagher Terminal — where you can catch the MBTA commuter rail to Boston.

The Merrimack Valley Transportation Authority (MVRTA), which provides bus service between Lowell and Lawrence, is also free to all riders under a two-year fair-free pilot program.

And of course, getting around campus is free and easy with the River Hawk Roadster shuttle service. Shuttles run from 7 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and noon to midnight on Sundays during the academic year.

Bicycling: Instead of hopping in your car to get across campus, why not use pedal power? Students, faculty and staff can check out a bicycle for free through the FreeWheelers Bike Share program.

If you’re able to commute to campus by bicycle a few times a week, you can receive a discount on your car’s parking permit. “It Pays to Ride Your Bike,” a pilot program started with a $5,000 grant from UML’s Sustainability Encouragement & Enrichment Development (S.E.E.D.) Fund, provides students with a $125 discount on their parking pass ($75 for faculty and staff) if they complete 24 round-trip commutes to campus during the semester.

Electric vehicles: If your car runs on electricity instead of gas, you’re in luck: There are now 40 EV charging stations on campus, including 10 that came online in January at the reconfigured Ames Lot on East Campus.

According to Victorine, charging stations are used by an average of 16 unique drivers on a typical weekday, up from 11 before the pandemic.

If the sky-high gas prices continue, you can bet that more drivers will be switching to EVs and plugging into those charging stations.