Bassam Al-Haddad is waiting for a Metro bus on the UH campus. He moved to Houston from Saudi Arabia five months ago to study petroleum engineering at UH. He lives off-campus on Old Spanish Trail, and he doesn’t have a car yet.
“It takes one hour to reach the university. So, I take two buses.”
Al-Haddad says he wants to buy a car soon but even then he plans on using the new light-rail line Metro is building next to the UH campus.
“Yeah, I will use this train sometimes, because, you know, gas is expensive.”
Al-Haddad is part of a trend among Millennials — those born between roughly the 1980s and 2000 – to drive less. The trend is recorded in a six-report series by the TexPIRG Education Fund.
TexPIRG (Texas Public Interest Research Group) is a consumer advocacy group.
The latest report highlights how universities are adapting to Millennials’ demands.
Thomas Visco is with TexPIRG.
“Universities are really at the forefront for coming up with innovative new ways and new programs to not only highlight this trend but to take advantage of it and leading to better driving habits, more sustainable campuses across the country.”
He says the University of Houston is a good example for this because of its Green Commuter initiatives. That includes carpooling opportunities, an on-campus Hertz car sharing program and a partnership with Metro that gives college students a 50 percent discount on the Q Fare Card.
Emily Messa is the associate vice president for administration at UH and in charge of university services.
“We’ve been pretty focused on transportation because it’s an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s also an easy way to reduce congestion on campus. Myself, when I’m going to different destinations on campus, I either walk or I take the Cougar Line shuttle route.”
With more than 28,000 full-time students but only 8,000 beds on campus, the University of Houston is primarily a commuter school — although it’s working to change that reputation.
“With the recent opening of (the new) Cougar Place and Cougar Village II, we have more students living on campus. We have our cafeterias opening until midnight.”
And she says that not only eliminates the need to commute for many, but students who live on campus do better academically and take more classes.
But not everyone wants to live on campus. Jennifer Nguyen lives in Southwest Houston. She usually drives here but she was in an accident a few weeks ago, so she’s been taking the bus.
She says she would prefer living on or around campus and being able to walk to classes.
“This area around campus is kind of not very safe. That’s why I choose to live a little further but safer.”
While campus safety is a topic for another time, Tom Visco with TexPIRG says the big takeaway from the report is that federal, state and local governments should follow universities’ lead to facilitate the general trend toward less driving.