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May 15, 1997

Assembly provides variety of information to staff

The theme of Staff Association Council's (SAC) spring assembly May 8 was "Applications for the Well-rounded Employee." During the two-hour program in the William Pitt Union, speakers offered tips on parking, bus service, vanpools, carpools, stress and responsibility. Speakers included John Wilds, director of the Office of Governmental Relations; Rich Geiger and Kathy Miller, Department of Parking and Transportation, and Mary Heath, Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

Wilds opened the program by praising the efforts of SAC, noting that there are more than 5,000 staff at the University, but SAC functions due to the efforts of only a handful of individuals.

"There have been years of hard work provided by a relatively few people," Wilds said. "But those relatively few people, in my opinion, have produced some significant results." Among those results, Wilds said, have been surveys that have made the administration aware of staff concerns. SAC also has gained representation on governance committees where it has made staff's views known.

To continue and to build on such accomplishments, though, Wilds said it is imperative that more staff assume responsibility and become involved with SAC.

"You need to add people," Wilds said. "There have to be people who are willing to step in, pick up the mantle and move forward with the organization, providing it with some new and fresh ideas." Parking and Transportation's Geiger began his discussion of parking and transportation options at the University by pointing out a few statistics: * Oakland covers approximately two square miles. Within that area pass about 125,000 vehicles and over 1,600 Port Authority Transit (PAT) buses daily. * Oakland has about 1,500 parking meters and eight meter readers, more than any other area of the city. In addition, the University controls about 4,500 parking spaces. But there are about 37,000 faculty, staff, students and visitors vying for those meters and spaces.

* A typical car emits its own weight in exhaust emissions every year.

With those statistics in mind, Geiger noted that it is to the benefit of everybody to reduce traffic in Oakland. The fewer vehicles that enter the area, the cleaner the air, the safer the streets for both drivers and pedestrians, and the better the general quality of life.

To help reduce the amount of traffic in Oakland, Parking and Transportation over the past few years has instituted or expanded a number of programs designed to make it easier to leave the car at home, Geiger noted.

Among the most successful programs has been Pitt's shuttle bus service and U-Zone agreement with PAT. Shuttle buses allow those with a valid Pitt ID to ride all over campus free of charge from about 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pitt faculty, staff and students who need to travel into Shadyside or Squirrel Hill can do so free of charge on PAT buses serving those areas by showing their University ID. Last year, members of the Pitt community accounted for more than 112,000 rides on buses serving those areas.

In addition to the U-Zone, Geiger said, those with a valid ID can ride a PAT bus anywhere within Zone 1, which includes Downtown, weekdays after 7 p.m. and all day weekends and holidays for 50 cents.

For staff and faculty who live too far outside of the city to take a PAT bus, the University operates 15 vanpools. The monthly cost for membership in a vanpool is $50 to $68, depending upon the distance involved, according to Geiger. (See story page 11 for a list of vanpool openings.) Since people generally respond best to a program when they can save money, Parking and Transportation also has put together a number of discount programs to help keep vehicles out of Oakland.

Employees who sign up for Pitt's TransitChek program, which automatically deducts the cost of a PAT monthly bus pass from their paycheck, receive a $7 per month discount on the pass. That means a $40 Zone 1 pass can be had by Pitt employees for $33.

Vanpool participants are eligible for a $20 per quarter or $80 per year savings on their vanpool fare, while members of a registered carpool receive a $5 per rider discount on their monthly parking fee, Geiger said.

TransitChek, vanpool and carpool discount information is available by calling Pitt Ridesharing at 624-0687 or sending e-mail to Pitt Ridesharing at

Heath's portion of the program focused on coping with the stresses of downsizing and added job responsibilities, and the help available through the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

Since the program's start three years ago, it has treated 902 clients, including 32 faculty and 247 staff in the year ending May 1.

Noting that change now is the norm at Pitt and other universities around the country, Heath offered the following suggestions for successfully coping with change:

* Don't panic, allow time for adjustment.

* Find somebody to listen.

* Realize there might be a physical reaction.

* Think about ways to move forward.

* Assess skills.

* Don't expend energy worrying about "what if" or blow up the situation out of proportion.

* Eat properly.

* Learn relaxation methods, even if it is just a deep breathing exercise.

Heath also urged the audience to take fewer things for granted, pace themselves, recognize that they can handle more than they might have thought, and control their response to adverse conditions by weighing options and examining realities.

"Determine if it is worth the fight, the anger, the stress," she said.

More personal help is available free of charge by contacting the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program at 647-3327 or 1-800-647-3327. All calls are confidential, Heath said.

–Mike Sajna

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