During a student’s time at GW, it is inevitable that they will visit the Mount Vernon Campus. Whether they live there or travel to the campus weekly for their required University Writing class, getting to the Vern involves taking a trip on the Vern Express.
While the Vex is essential, it is also a huge contributor to GW’s carbon footprint and pushes back against GW’s sustainability efforts. If GW wants to reduce the school’s environmental impact, we must reform the way we use the Vex by altering the schedule to reflect student needs.
GW has prioritized sustainability and there are numerous programs aimed at reducing our carbon footprint by focusing on goals like renewable energy, with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2040 and a 40 percent reduction by 2025.
But GW’s sustainability goals seem far-fetched when one considers just how many emissions the Vex alone creates. GW created 130,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2009 and approximately 17 percent or 22,000 metric tons of carbon emissions come from transportation alone.
The Vex runs every five minutes between the Mount Vernon Campus and the Foggy Bottom Campus during the weekdays and runs every 30 minutes at night. While this schedule does benefit students because it creates a reliable service, the regular trips create waste.
The gas mileage for 24-passenger vehicles like the Vex is about 15 miles per gallon. Traveling a route of about three miles between the two campuses a couple hundred times a day adds up to many gallons of gasoline, and depending on the type of gasoline used, just 1 gallon can amount to 20 pounds of carbon emissions, which means the Vex is likely contributing significantly to carbon emissions from GW.
To be more energy efficient, GW must address issues with the Vex. A concrete step GW should take is to reduce the rate at which the Vex runs altogether. The Vex’s main traffic each day comes from students traveling to classes on the Vern. One of the most popular courses, which is only taught on the Vern, is the University Writing course.
Every student must take this course during their first year at GW, but when I visit the Vern for this course, at least once a week I am the only rider on the Vex, which is ridiculous considering the schedule of these courses. Many UW classes are dismissed at the same time. For example, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, seven sections of the course are dismissed at 11:15 a.m. After class is dismissed, dozens of students crowd the Vex as it makes trips every five minutes.
The Vex’s schedule should reflect the high and low periods of ridership. By basing the Vex’s schedule on popular or common class times, the Vex can be saved from making low rider trips and wasting resources in providing those trips. The University already has access to the dismissal times of various courses, so administrators should utilize that information to cater the Vex’s schedule to student needs to be more sustainable.
Taking the Vex is a burden for most students. Having to commute several times a week to a mandatory class is a hassle. But if we must travel to the Vern during our career at GW, the University should provide a means of transportation that is clean and efficient. In order to achieve our sustainability goals, reforming the Vex will be a needed and substantial first step.
Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.
Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.