[Published: June 8, 2021]
Stanford has long been a leader in transportation demand management (TDM), meeting the university’s peak-trip-reduction commitments under its General Use Permit (GUP) every year for the past 20 years. In previous years, 10,000 Stanford commuters a year opted for sustainable commutes for a number of reasons, including the severity of Bay Area traffic, personal wellness, financial rewards and a commitment to protecting the environment.
Much of that changed with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Freeways and roadways emptied during the early months. Most employees switched to full-time telecommuting during shelter-in-place, while essential workers and researchers who were required to be on campus often decided to drive alone.
Stanford’s commute programs weather the storm
While some programs and services were reduced or suspended in response to evolving circumstances, critical transportation services remained in place for those still commuting, and they continue to be available as more commuters return to campus:
- Free transit passes for eligible commuters, including Caltrain, VTA, AC Transit, and SamTrans
- Free Marguerite shuttle service and free East Bay transit service
- Free bike webinars, including one-hour webinars that are eligible for BeWell Berries
- Free vanpool lease for Stanford’s existing vanpool program
- Free DisGo program for those on campus with disabilities who need on-campus transportation
- Free Emergency Ride Home program for those who have a personal emergency on a day they use a sustainable commute to campus
- Pre-tax payroll deduction for eligible employees for tax savings on commute expenses
Refer to our Status of Transportation Programs and Services page for a convenient way to check the current status of our programs and services.
Returning to a sustainable commute
With COVID-19 vaccinations on the rise and an easing of restrictions, Stanford is moving toward a fall that is as close to normal as possible for teaching and research, with modifications as necessary, and with more flexible work opportunities for staff employees. Spring and summer quarters will introduce flexible work models for staff, testing a hybrid workplace that incorporates flexibility of time and place, on-site work, telecommuting, and fully remote work options.
The prospect of returning to a sustainable commute has raised important questions, including whether it is safe to return to public transit and whether Stanford’s free transit passes are still valid. Commuters can find answers to these and other questions on our Stanford Transportation COVID-19: Featured Topics page.
If you are considering a sustainable commute, these highlights may be helpful:
- Stanford-issued free transit passes continue to be valid through Dec. 31, 2021, including the Caltrain Go Pass, VTA SmartPass, and AC Transit EasyPass. To check the status of transit passes, visit our Transit Pass Eligibility and Status Checker.
- For public transit safety at a regional level, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is coordinating an effort to provide safe and equitable transit through the Bay Area Healthy Transit Plan. The plan identifies consistent health and safety standards that Bay Area transit agencies have committed to implement as the Bay Area emerges from shelter-in-place orders.
- While a formal Stanford carpool program is currently unavailable, those who are comfortable carpooling can share the cost of commuter permits and expenses informally. One person could purchase the Stanford permit, while carpool partners split the cost of the permit and related commuting costs among themselves.
- Bike commuting has always been a popular choice among Stanford commuters and is a bright spot in the COVID-19 commute landscape. As one of the safer options during the pandemic, more people turned to biking for errands, commuting, and exercise. Stanford’s Bicycle Program offers Bicycle Resources During COVID-19 to help new and returning riders enjoy the ride and prioritize bike safety.
Commuters are encouraged to choose the mode that best meets their needs, including health and safety. For an update on Stanford’s Commute Club, visit What’s Ahead for Stanford’s Commute Club and Marguerite Shuttle Service.
Daily parking options
Some commuters may find that they need to drive alone some or all of the time. Among those planning to commute periodically, the thought of paying for a monthly permit when using it only part time has prompted requests for discounted parking rates.
What commuters may not realize is that there are daily permit options and that parking rates reflect Bay Area affordability concerns. By minimizing rate increases to ‘C’ parking permits in recent years and maintaining 2019-20 rates for the current fiscal year, Stanford offers commuters a lower-cost parking option. They can choose whether to prioritize cost savings, with a ‘C’ permit, or prioritize convenience, with an ‘A’ permit, which is closer to destinations and more likely to be available throughout the day.
- At $35 per month, the cost of a ‘C’ permit is $1.67 per day, or 21 cents per hour, compared to the daily rate of $5.45.
- Commuters can park six times at the daily rate before it makes more sense to purchase a monthly permit.
- If they park 10 times, roughly half the month and purchase a monthly ‘C’ permit, they are paying a daily rate of $3.50, which is $0.43 an hour, compared to the daily ‘C’ permit rate of $5.45 a day, or $0.68 per hour.
To make it easier to decide which permit to choose, we have developed these permit-rate tables:
- Short-term Daily vs. Long-term Commuter Permit table: See how many days purchasing daily permits make financial sense instead of monthly permits (i.e., six days a month for ‘C’ permits and seven days a month for ‘A’ permits).
- Permit Cost Based on Days Commuting: See the daily equivalent rate of a monthly permit based on the number of days commuting.
Those who are able to telecommute part-time may also want to factor in how much they are saving in time, cost, and stress by not commuting to campus full-time. We offer a Commute Cost and Carbon Emissions Calculator to help commuters determine the hidden costs (or savings) of their commutes, both financial and environmental.
As of early April 2021, Bay Area transit operators were providing 60 percent of pre-pandemic service levels, with only 20 percent of ridership levels.