A Look at Transportation Week Through the Rearview Mirror

Transportation Week taught students and faculty about climate-friendly transit options.

Loyola celebrated Transportation Week from Sept. 18-21 and allowed students and faculty to learn more about sustainability at the university while becoming familiarized with climate-friendly transit. 

The week was organized by Loyola’s Office of Sustainability and highlighted sustainable transit options through an array of daily educational and engaging activities.

The events included the Zero Emissions Challenge, the Transit Justice Letter Writing Event, the EMERGE Training: Intro to Sustainability at Loyola for staff, the Chainlinks Bikes 101 and Bike Tour, and the Active Transportation Alliance: Des Plaines River Trail Plan event. 

Zero Emissions Challenge

In celebration of national Zero Emissions Day Sept. 21, one of the events organized within Transportation Week was the Zero Emissions Challenge. The day’s intention is to raise awareness for the impact our daily emissions have on the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy

The challenge was a social media competition to find the best sustainable ride, encouraging participants to post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #LUCGoZero. 

Loyola’s Director of Sustainability Aaron Durnbaugh said although transportation is a large part of sustainability, many people forget to include it in their green efforts. In the United States, the transportation industry accounts for over two-thirds of all petroleum consumption and 29% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. 

“Transportation doesn’t always come first to mind for some people,” Durnbaugh said to The Phoenix while interviewing on his bike ride home from work. “If you think about food or waste, those are pretty popular ones. We don’t want any topics to slip through the cracks — we want to make sure transportational issues are getting attention.”

Ixchel Barraza Zapata, an intern at the Office of Sustainability who was assigned the organization of Transportation Week as well as a board member of the Student Environmental Alliance, said it’s important to pay attention to transportation when it comes to sustainability. 

Barraza Zapata said there is an increased accessibility to other forms of transportation in an urban setting like Chicago.

“At Loyola, we have the 8-RIDE as an option for students to use, we have the shuttle bus and the U-Pass program,” Barraza Zapata said. “Our campus infrastructure is set up in such a nice way that makes it really walkable. We have a lot of sidewalks and great green areas, which makes it a lot more sustainable for you to not use a car on campus.”

The U-Pass program is included in tuition and allows students access to the CTA rails and buses, according to Loyola’s website

The shuttle bus takes students between the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses and runs on biodiesel, which is a more renewable and clean fuel alternative according to Loyola’s website.

Transit Justice Letter Writing Event

The Transit Justice Letter Writing Event, which was co-hosted by the Student Environmental

Alliance, was held Sept. 18 from 7 to 8 p.m. 

Thomas Crabtree, board member of the Student Environmental Alliance and intern at the Office of Sustainability, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness on climate justice issues, act on them and advocate for them.  

“We were writing letters to elected officials in Illinois, specifically, but we also helped students who wanted to write letters to their hometown,” Crabtree said. “We want a big, bold investment in public transit and infrastructure in 2024.”

The event aimed to inform legislators on the opinions of students regarding investment into public transit in Northeastern Illinois, specifically before the next Illinois legislative session in 2024, according to Crabtree 

Barraza Zapata and Crabtree both said the event had a great turnout of approximately 25 students and that it was empowering to hold the stack of letters at the end of the day. 

EMERGE Training: Intro to Sustainability at Loyola

The EMERGE Training: Intro to Sustainability at Loyola event took place over Zoom on Sept. 20 from 10 to 11 a.m. and was a program introducing staff and faculty to ways they can be more involved with sustainability by using the human resource training program EMERGE. 

EMERGE is a series of training programs provided by the Human Resource department to aid in the development of professional and personal lives of staff and faculty, according to the Loyola website. These training programs are made up of modules like the Intro to Sustainability training, and are provided at no cost to participants.

“It had maybe twenty people, was really fun and I think the attendees enjoyed it,” Durnbaugh said. “I want everybody that’s associated with Loyola and wants to get involved with sustainability to feel like they know how to do that and take action.”

Active Transportation Alliance: Des Plaines River Trail Plan

The Des Plaines River Trail Plan was a virtual presentation by Alex Perez from the Active Transportation Alliance. Perez discussed a new plan to provide pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as new safety improvements, to the Loyola Health Science Campus via the connection of a 2.5-mile gap in the Des Plaines River Trail between Forest Park, Maywood and North Riverside. 

The Zoom call discussed the proposed improvements for the Des Plaines River Trail and the progress the Active Transportation Alliance has had in applying the results of the Des Plaines River Trail Study, which utilized public input to better understand desired routes and amenities, concerns about the area and barriers which prevent access to the trail. 

Chainlinks Bikes 101 and Bike Tour

Chainlinks is a student-run bike rental and repair business at Loyola. This event was intended to teach students how to tune up and care for their bike, followed by a free 3 mile bike tour down the Lakefront Trail.

Colin Yarbrough, a first-year and an employee at Chainlinks said he appreciates the options for sustainable travel Chainlinks provides to students and staff.  

“Chainlinks makes it possible for students, faculty and people in the area to have access to a bike so they can avoid using a car for transportation,” Yarbrough said. “It’s eco-friendly, and Loyola Transportation Week is all about the alternative forms of transportation.”

Loyola’s website lists Chainlinks as one of the many sustainable resources for transportation at the university. Other transportation sustainability options include CTA buses and trains, the charging stations for electric vehicles in Loyola’s parking garage, the ride-share program, the campus shuttle and Divvy bikes placed around campus by external companies. 

Barraza Zapata said Transportation Week was inspired by discussing what would be a topic relevant to students. She said it also aimed to highlight how Loyola makes alternative transportation affordable and environmentally friendly for people to commute.

Students who are looking for ways to become further involved with sustainability on campus should look to the office of sustainability and other environmental clubs offered at Loyola, Barraza Zapata said.

Crabtree said the best way for students to get involved is to pay attention to sustainability events happening on campus.

“Keep an eye out for events that we post — a lot of them are a mix of education and action,” Crabtree said. “Getting subscribed to the SustainLoyola newsletter is the best way to keep your eye out for new incentives.” 

According to Durnbrough, there will be more environmentally-themed weeks in the future to highlight different aspects of sustainability each month.

“We do Energy Week in October, we do Food Week in November, and then in the spring we have Waste Week, Water Week and Earth Week,” Durnbrough said.

These weeks are different each year and serve to better organize workshops, programs and speakers for the students and faculty at Loyola to learn more about sustainability, according to Durnbrough. 

Transportation Week, the many other sustainably focused week-long events, and campus wide sustainable incentives like biosoap or composting programs are all resources that the school provides to students to get involved, according to Barraza Zappata. 

“I feel like Loyola does a good job giving us resources to give back to the community,” Yarbrough said. “They make it noticeable and give us reminders about sustainable practices.” 

Featured image by Sinèad Bane / The Phoenix

Clare Morrissey

Clare Morrissey