UCSF Sustainability Stories

Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann: Finding a Green Way to Start Her Day

chancellor on shuttle

UCSF students and employees have a unique leader— someone they might catch a glimpse of while commuting to work on public transportation.

“I think it is really important for a health sciences campus to not just focus on the short term and the patient in front of you, but to also think about our own habits and lifestyle,” said UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH. “The upside of commuting by public transit is that it can improve your quality of life and provide the opportunity to interact with people in a different way.”

The chancellor is an avid biker who got her first taste of commuting by public transportation when she was working at Genentech.  Desmond-Hellmann is passionate about public transportation and praises its benefits. “While I give up some control, I enjoy not driving and I enjoy reading. I can use the time to throttle down and relax after work.”

“Some of the most inspiring things for me are simple things, like walking instead of taking your car, or taking public transportation and not having to worry about parking and circling the block to find a space. It’s so much better for your psyche.”  She acknowledges, however, that turning a one-hour commute into a three-hour one is a barrier for her busy, hardworking staff. “I’m into sustainability, but there is a limit.”

The single most important impediment is time. “People who work at UCSF don’t have a lot of wiggle room in their day.”

Making It Easy to Do the Right Thing

shuttles in a row
More than 22,000 employees commute to UCSF’s six campuses each day. According to Kevin Cox, associate director of UCSF’s Transportation Services, 35 percent of all staff, faculty and students drive alone to work or school, each driver producing 6,000 pounds of CO2.

Using public transit reduces these harmful emissions by more than 95 percent and also minimizes the campus’  impact on neighborhood traffic and parking. “Compared with other UC campuses, we do a good job of getting people out of their single occupancy vehicles by providing a wide array of options,” said Cox.

Transportation Services has implemented an impressive array of programs to make it easier for staff and students to get out of their cars, including:

• A pretax transit program
• An online carpool organizer (Zimride)
• Preferred parking for carpools
• Vanpools
• Commute Club
• City CarShare
• Intercampus shuttle services

Employee Perk:  Save Money Using Public Transit

“We have a pretax transit program that allows people to pay for their public transit fees with pretax dollars,” explained Cox.  The program is a great perk for all staff and faculty. Employees save about 30 cents of each dollar they spend on commuting costs. And between now and February 2011, UCSF is waiving the $3.39 monthly pretax transit participant fee. The sooner employees join, the more they can save. Click here to learn more and enroll.

The program works by allowing UCSF employees to deduct up to $230 per month from their paycheck without paying payroll taxes on this income. Annual savings can be as much as $828 (actual savings will vary based on tax rates). Participation in the program for a year generates benefits equal to more than three months of free public transit each year.  UCSF employees save $210,000 annually in transit costs as a result of the program, according to Cox.

For more information, contact UCSF Pretax Transit Coordinator Kevin Cuevas (415/514-4871 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or Campus Rideshare Coordinator Robert Wong (415/476-1513 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

Learn More:

UCSF Transportation Services

Story: Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
Photo: Susan Merrell