Newswise — More than half of the daily commuters to the UC San Diego campus are pedaling bikes, riding shuttle buses or carpooling with fellow students, staff and faculty, an alternative transportation milestone for one of the nation's greenest universities.

"The alternatives allow students to save money and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Brian d'Autremont, director of Transportation and Parking Services.

"We have been wildly successful keeping the cars off campus. It's a part of our deep commitment to sustainability, and we're doing everything we can to help the UC San Diego community during these tough economic times."

The alternative transportation options for commuters not only ease traffic congestion around the campus in La Jolla, but more than 2,000 parking spaces on campus have been idled.

The alternative transportation opportunities include UC San Diego's bike programs. The Triton Bikes program transforms abandoned bikes into convenient, cost-effective forms of transportation. Initiated in February 2004, give students, staff and faculty who sign an agreement get free access to a bike, lock and helmet for up to 48 hours.

UC San Diego's Pedal Club, which is open to both staff and students, offers incentives to participants who commit to riding a bike at least three times per week. The rewards include a free 10-day pass per quarter and a 10 percent discount at the UCSD Bike Shop.

The Pedal Club sponsors free breakfasts and events such as the "World Carfree Day." Charlotte Curtis, an undergraduate student, won the "World Carfree Day" grand prize: a new bike. Curtis, who works in Housing, Dining, Hospitality as an administrative assistant, initially started taking the shuttle to campus to avoid the traffic during the June 2008 U.S. Open and has since canceled her parking pass.

"Not only have I saved money on parking and gas, I've reduced my carbon footprint and met more local neighbors and co-workers," she said.

In addition, the campus offers student and staff commuters free bus service to and from locations in Old Town, Hillcrest, Clairemont and Mira Mesa.

Thousands of students and staff ride in UC San Diego's free shuttles every day. Thirteen shuttles regularly transport thousands of passengers to and from campus, University Town Center and Hillcrest.

Students such as Melanie Zauscher are committed to sustainability and take the shuttle to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Zauscher has been working with several students to help start the university's first shuttle that runs on biodiesel fuel. The "Greenline" shuttle is expected to begin campus operations in 2009.

UC San Diego commuters also have access to the Metropolitan Transit Station (MTS) pass, which costs $44 per month and provides unlimited access to the all the regional buses and trolleys.

Zip cars are available at UC San Diego and can be rented by the hour seven days a week. The trips can take place any time, any day, and don't have to be business-related. "They're convenient because if someone rides their bike to school they can rent the car for a couple of hours if they have a medical appointment," d'Autremont said.

Carpooling and vanpooling are also popular among students and staff. Students are carpooling now more than ever. By using one car they save on the cost of fuel and parking permits. Vanpool participants rent minivans, commuting from areas as far as Temecula