Transitioning to a Smart Commute

Transitioning from driving alone to a smart commute can seem like a major commitment. 

We're here to help you get rolling. The “what ifs” are bound to cross your mind as you rethink your ride. Don't let these be a barrier—we've got solutions.  

“What if…”

"...I need to leave work to handle an emergency."

The Commuter Connections Guaranteed Ride Home program provides faculty and staff who regularly (twice-a-week) commute sustainably with a free and reliable ride home when life happens.

" carpool partner and I need to drive separately today."

If you live near a good transit connection, take transit for the day. Or, if you register for a carpool permit, you’ll receive a number of daily permits for just this situation. Daily permits allow you to park separately from your carpool for the day. Daily permits are also available for purchase in packs of 5 for $60.

" carpool doesn’t work out."

If your carpool dissolves, you’ll switch back to your previous permit and retain your original parking assignment.

"...I need to pick up my kids a few days a week."

New 2-day and 3-day per week permits make it much easier to fit sustainable commuing into your routine. On the days when you need a car, drive to campus and park. On the days you don't, make a sustainable transportation choice.  

"...I don't even know how to get started."

Sign up for the Smart Commute digital platform. It works like a trip planner, showing you sustainable commute alternatives such as local transit (including Shuttle-UM), university carpool partners, bike routes and walking paths.  By logging your sustainable trips in the Smart Commute platform, you can earn rewards that are redeemable for prizes! 

Creating a sustainable commute routine

We want your new commute to be truly sustainable: it should be both friendly for the environment and feasible for you most days of the week. These tips will set you up for success.

Talk logistics

Most people find that conversations about logistics are critical to the success of their new commute. If you’re carpooling, do you have any flexibility with departure times? Will you and your carpool partners share the cost of gas? If you’re taking transit, speak with your supervision about your new commute schedule. If necessary, see if working on the bus or train can count toward your daily hours.

Ease in to your commute

Start commuting sustainably just once or twice a week. We think you'll like letting someone else drive or feeling the breeze in your hair when you bike to work. 

Pack for the weather

Your new commute might involve time outdoors. If your commute involves a walk, leave your work shoes at work and wear sneakers when you leave the house. Consider keeping an extra umbrella or rain poncho in your work bag or at your desk.

Make Sure You're Getting Your Rewards

DOTS offers many incentives for smart commuters, including pre-tax payroll deduction for transit costs, bike commuter parking and shower access and half-price permits for registered carpoolers. Log your sustainable trips in the Smart Commute digital platform to earn rewards that are redeemable for prizes.

Smart Commute Success Stories

Many members of the UMD community are enjoying a new, sustainable commute experience. Find out how they made the switch.


Sustainability has always been near and dear to Allison Tjaden’s heart, especially while working on sustainability programs with Dining Services. So when the opportunity arose to switch up her commute, she decided to practice what she preached and start carpooling. Read more. 

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Trading Traffic for the Train

How a UMD staff Smart Commuter saved $3,000 and regained work-life balance by switching her commute from the car to the MARC Train. Read more.  

Marc Train

Biking to Work, Oh Deer!

Cate Barger's drive from Mt. Rainier to UMD was only about six miles, but traffic made her commute feel much longer. In August 2018, Cate got the jumpstart she needed to switch to biking full time—burning 56,400 calories, saving more than $1,500 and seeing more deer than she expected in the process! Read more