Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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A Metropolitan Transit System bus drives on a city street in San Diego. (Credit: MTS) A Metropolitan Transit System bus drives on a city street in San Diego. (Credit: MTS)
 


Pitching in on Clean Transportation

SDSU students investigate ways to increase the use of mass transit and electric vehicles.
By Gina Jacobs
 

“It is so exciting to see such talented and driven individuals working on viable solutions to increase the use of clean transportation on their campus and in San Diego.”

With cities looking for new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, inevitably the conversation often turns to transportation, the source of most pollution-causing emissions. San Diego State University students took up the issue during a day-long event at SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad last month.

In partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), approximately 30 students participated in the Clean Transportation Challenge, a pitch contest intended to identify ideas for increased use of green transportation.

Student teams were given one of three prompts involving clean transportation: how to get SDSU students who live in Pacific Beach to campus using alternative transportation; how to encourage SDSU students to use electric vehicles to get to and from campus; and how to enhance the SDSU community’s commitment to clean transportation.

Students spent the first several hours researching the issue. One team took a hands on approach and attempted to use public transportation from Pacific Beach to SDSU.

Once they returned to campus, students were partnered with domain experts from Circulate San Diego, City of San Diego and Southwest Strategies to home in on their proposal and present it to a panel of judges.

“I was very impressed at how thoughtful and reflective the students were in their presentations,” said Megan Rigby, outreach specialist for SDG&E’s Clean Transportation division, who was among the judges. “It is so exciting to see such talented and driven individuals working on viable solutions to increase the use of clean transportation on their campus and in San Diego.”

The first place winner focused on improvements to San Diego’s public transportation system, recommending a shift to electric busses. That proposal also suggested an automated system for loading bikes onto the front of the buses, which can be difficult and sometimes unsafe for cyclists.

The winning team also noted that a new mass transit route from Pacific Beach to SDSU with limited stops may increase use by students.

One of the other participating teams suggested a mobile application that allows users to earn “carbon coins” when they use clean or alternative transportation options, which could be exchanged for coupons with partner businesses. That idea won a prize for being the “most innovative.”

A third proposal suggested the university partner with an organization to establish a vehicle leasing program for hybrid or electric vehicles and provide incentives like free EV charging and parking discounts to students.

SDSU’s ZIP Launchpad hosts several events each year to engage students from across campus and teach them skills needed to be successful entrepreneurs. More information about the center is available at the ZIP Launchpad website.