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SEPTA: Septa fares about to increase. Credit: Anna Cororaton

The Climate Action Plan — Penn’s long-term plan to become carbon neutral — and the Office of Sustainability are subtly urging Penn commuters to leave cars at home.

The target as outlined in the plan is to reduce the number of commuters driving to campus by 10 percent so that at least one-half of Penn commuters use alternative transportation.

Penn will encourage more sustainable transportation forms, such as public transportation, biking and walking.

A number of Penn employees have already made the choice to take public transportation over walking.

Hispanic Studies professor Stephen Bishop’s daily commute takes about 85 minutes. From Princeton Junction, he takes New Jersey Transit to Trenton, the SEPTA R7 train to 30th Street Station and then a SEPTA trolley to campus.

In all, the difference between taking the train and driving is “a matter of a few minutes,” Bishop said. However, he added, “you can’t beat a half-block commute” from the trolley.

Bishop said he takes the train because it is less stressful than driving, he can work or read on the train and because “it’s probably cheaper,” he said — at least “a little.”

Dan Garofalo, Penn sustainability director, also emphasized the low-stress nature of public transit.

“You can take the train and read a book or drive and come to school in a bad mood” due to driving, he said.

However, Bishop does not take part in the subsidy programs Penn offers for faculty and staff who take the train, which include a 10-percent SEPTA pretax COMPASS program, as well as TransitCheks, which are valid at a host of regional transit systems.

Though Bishop has looked at the options, none are more cost-effective than his SEPTA weekly pass because, he said, he would lose money during the summer when not commuting to campus frequently.

“A flexible subsidy probably would encourage more [people] to take the train,” Bishop said.

At the moment, Penn’s Business Services is working on short-term solutions and Facilities and Real Estate Services are working on long-term solutions.

Though Penn works closely with SEPTA and will explore other long-term options, Garofalo said finding a solution feasible for both parties is hard.

Currently, the University is emphasizing education about transportation options, said Business Services spokeswoman Barbara Lea-Kruger.

According to Garofalo, about 15 percent of Penn commuters already use the SEPTA and TransitChek subsidies, but Business Services is looking to increase that number through commuter fairs and easily-accessible information online.

Lea-Kruger said redesigns of the Parking and Transportation services’ websites will make information easier to find.

In the Climate Action Plan, Penn also considered raising parking rates to discourage driving.

But Bishop noted that the cost of a parking sticker on campus is so high already, those who can afford it will probably continue to drive regardless.

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