February 22, 2023

University Prepares Electric Bus Fleet, Vast Mobility Plans

SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY : Princeton University’s 17-vehicle, free service Tiger Transit fleet will be fully electric by this summer. University representatives presented an update on their transit and mobility programs to Princeton Council last week. (Photo by Princeton University, Denise Applewhite) 

By Donald Gilpin

Emphasizing sustainability and efficiency, Princeton University’s presentation on their transit and mobility programs, delivered to the Princeton Town Council on February 13, provided an array of ideas for initiatives and collaboration.

In their report, Princeton University Director of Transportation and Parking Services Charles Tennyson and Assistant Vice President of Communications and Regional Affairs Kristin Appleget emphasized the ultimate goal of making walking and biking so appealing that few people choose transit, and motorized vehicles are mostly behind the scenes.

The Tiger Transit bus fleet has new routes as of January 30, more frequent and easier to understand, Tennyson said, and all buses will soon be electric. “We’re pleased to see that people are coming back to transit post-pandemic,” he added. “I think we’ll continue to see our new routes grow in ridership with the improved design, and we’re really excited about electrification of the system.”

The University expects to decommission the entire diesel fleet in the coming months so that by summer only electric vehicles will be operating around campus and around town. “When this work is completed the University will be among the very few operations in the country with a fully-electric fleet,” Tennyson said.

He went on to emphasize that “everything on this network is available to every member of the community with free open access for all.” On the side of every bus will be printed “Free Shuttle Service For All,” said Tennyson, “so there’s no mistaking who can ride it.”

The vehicles, which produce zero emissions, will be charged at two sites, a smaller charging station on campus in the parking lot at Elm Drive and Faculty Road and a larger charging facility at a University-owned property on Alexander Road in West Windsor.

Extending far beyond Tiger Transit, the University’s mobility program also includes a 15-vehicle Enterprise carshare fleet, primarily for student rentals, which provides about 700 trips per month for the University community.  There is also a University contract with Zipcar for two vehicles located at Princeton Station and one at Princeton Junction, available for

anyone with a Zipcar membership. ”These are all well used,” said Tennyson, “and we hope we can find more ways to promote these vehicles so the residents of Princeton realize they’re there.”

In its promotion of cycling, the University reclaimed a fleet of about 130 Zagster bikes, after Zagster went out of business early in the pandemic, and the University has contracted with local bike shops to repurpose the bikes as rentals. 

“We’ve been renting them at low cost to students since last year,” said Tennyson. “It’s been a very popular program.” He added that an electric bike program is also in the works, but there is no launch date yet, as the University needs time to make sure supporting infrastructure is in place. 

As far as scooters are concerned, Tennyson acknowledged the potential problems of scooters and pedestrians sharing the same limited spaces. “There are no plans at this time to add scooters to the next generation of the mobility program,” Tennyson said.

Other highlights of Tennyson’s presentation included plans for advisory bike lanes (ABL) on Ivy Lane and possibly William Street, similar to the successful ABLs currently in use on College Road and Lawrence Road; planning a dedicated bike lane on Washington Road; a new 1500-space parking garage on Stadium Drive; and a post-COVID-19 rebound in Revise Your Ride, the University’s program to reduce single-occupancy vehicle commutes, with close to 1,400 current participants.

In the follow-up Q&A session, Princeton Council members applauded the University’s mobility and transit plans and accomplishments. Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros noted
the impact on the town of Princeton.

“It’s really exciting you’re an educational institution that’s educating our community on all of these wonderful sustainability and mobility plans that we can learn from,” she said. “I know that we’ll partner on many things. This is something we can  work on together. There are a lot of lessons here that we can learn from when we’re doing our streetscape design around town.”