With the participation of more than 500 members of the community, Georgetown won the Car Free Day College Campus Challenge, a competition between five universities in the Washington, D.C. region designed to encourage students, faculty and administrators to reduce their automobile use.
In its seventh year, the Car Free Day event, which is coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, encourages participants to take the metro, walk, bike or carpool in lieu of driving to campus.
Georgetown won the challenge Tuesday by amassing ten times as many pledges than last year’s competition which the university also won.
Five other universities, including George Mason University, The University of Maryland, American University, The George Washington University and the University of the District of Columbia, also participated in the challenge.
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini invited members of the community to sign the pledge in a university-wide email on Sept. 21, one day before the challenge.
In the email, Augostini encouraged students to use the bicycle racks in front of Lauinger Library and Red Square which were installed three weeks ago.
Director of the Office of Sustainability Audrey Stewart said that the event aligns with Georgetown’s sustainability programs.
“What’s really great about Car Free Day is that it provides a simple and effective way to raise awareness and engagement on sustainable transportation options,” Stewart wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Its goals closely align with Georgetown’s sustainability values and with the university’s ongoing efforts to maximize sustainable transportation choices for the campus community.”
According to Stewart, multiple administrative offices collaborated with the Office of Sustainability to increase the number of pledges from students.
“Georgetown’s participation in Car Free Day is a team effort between many offices and departments across campus who come together to help raise awareness and get the word out to members of the campus community,” Stewart wrote.
Stewart also said that the program provides many benefits for D.C. residents.
“Car Free Day … encourages people to get around by more sustainable modes of transportation,” Stewart wrote. “[This helps] to reduce traffic congestion, decrease air pollution and support healthier communities.”
Georgetown University Student Association Secretary of Sustainability Caroline James (COL ’16) said that although the challenge did not involve most undergraduates, who do not commute, it effectively helped to promote sustainable modes of transportation.
“I can imagine that students’ main reaction when seeing that Georgetown had the most pledges for the car free challenge is the irony that undergraduates are not allowed to have cars on campus,” James said. “However, we have to remember that Car Free Day was not about winning a competition or going car -ree for just a day. Clearly, its mission is to have us examine our own transit situation and habits.”
Gregory Miller (SFS ’14), an office manager in the School of Foreign Service Dean’s Office who participated in the challenge, said that the win shows that Georgetown has made progress in its sustainability efforts.
“Georgetown has made a lot of progress in recent years to encourage alternative and active forms of commuting by steadily improving on-campus infrastructure and resources,” Miller said.
However, Miller said that the late promotion of the event may have led to a lower participation rate.
“[The] lack of concrete day-of programming to help commuters switch from single-occupancy car trips to transit or active commuting gives the impression that the university does not care about creating real change,” Miller said.
Miller recommended that for future Car Free days, Georgetown should begin publicizing the event earlier.
“Georgetown needs to provide more resources for people to plan to go car-free, instead of sending out an email the night before when commuters don’t have time to make the arrangements to change their commuting habits,” Miller said.
Miller said that the university should further increase its efforts to create a more sustainable campus.
“I think that the next step is for Georgetown to start being proactive and thinking outside its gates to improve the safety and accessibility of the surrounding transportation infrastructure,” Miller said.
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