April 21, 2000
Volume 37, No. 15


University employees enjoy car-free commute
SRAs are an easy way to stretch retirement savings
Keeping a lid on pollution and energy consumption at Iowa
University researcher builds bridge to Earth Day
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University employees enjoy car-free commute

Dennis Charkowski (right) heads for home in one of eight vanpools that travel between the University and Cedar Rapids. Another rider, Bruce Goldstein, stands by. Photo by Helen Spielbauer.

Cost, convenience, and contentment. It’s the mantra of those who get to their jobs at The University of Iowa by bus, vanpool, on foot, or by bike. When asked why they choose these modes of transportation, riders, walkers, and bikers from across the University assured fyi that it was cheaper, less hassle, and it gives them time to read, snooze, chat with friends, and notice the small things in life.

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.

  "Walking to work helps clear my mind," says Ellen Heywood, seen here near her east-side Iowa City home. "And it’s given me a different perspective on the environment. I see things that I wouldn’t in a car." Photo by Helen Spielbauer.

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.

"It’s 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 don’t have the stress of driving," McBride says. "You can read, nap, or talk. And I’ve 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 staff—to 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.

Jan Frerichs takes advantage of the discounted city bus passes offered by UI’s Parking Services. She’s been riding the bus to her work in pathology at UIHC for 18 years. Photo by Rex Bavousett.


One person who’s 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 necessity—it meant that her family only needed to own one vehicle—but she’s 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 drive—if 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.

  Jim Lindberg, whose office is in Jessup Hall, parks his bike on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway in good weather. When rain threatens, he takes advantage of the covered bicycle parking in the IMU ramp. Photo by Rex Bavousett.

"I walk almost every day, all year long," she says.

Heywood began walking for her health.

"I realized that my passions are sedentary—quilting and reading—and more and more studies show the connection between exercise and health," she says. "I feel better knowing that I’m doing the right thing."

Cold temperatures don’t faze her, but when rain or wind put a damper on Heywood’s trek, she takes the bus. In the evenings, she rides home with her husband who works in downtown Iowa City.

Jim Lindberg doesn’t 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 don’t ever put my bike away," Lindberg says. "If it’s icy or slippery I don’t ride, but I’m usually able to ride about half the days in December and January.

"It’s 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.

"It’s 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."


For information on vanpools, car pools, bus passes, and bike registration, contact Commuter Programs at (33)3-5770 or Parking Services at (33)5-1475.


Walkers, bikers, bus riders, and van pool riders admit that their modes of transport have drawbacks —"It’s hard to carry a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi with me," Heywood says of walking, and Frerichs finds getting across town to a doctor’s 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?

Article by Linzee Kull McCray


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