Transportation on university campuses: Laboratory or after-thought
  • Topic notes and messages
  • Good Practices checklist

  • College Campuses: Sustainable Transport Labs
  • VTPI on Campus TDM
  • Transportation and Sustainable Campuses
  • Univ. of Colorado
  • UCal Santa Cruz
  • Australian National Univ.
  • Green Campus Blueprint
  • TRB 2002 report
  • Free fare access
  • Good Transport Practices for Universities
  • Summary:
    Transportation on university campuses? Campuses as transportation laboratories? Campus transport as an afterthought (or no thought at all).

    Here is what we have set out to query here in both a 2005 and internatoinal context. Anything interesting going on in this domain that might be identified as somehow part of a New Mobility Agenda? And if so where? Who? Anything that could usefully be done? By whom? What might we do as an informal pickup group with some capabilities in this area?

    This, for now, is a pot pourri of letters and references on the topic of "Transportation on university campuses" You'll see.

    Note: The list of very useful titles on our topic just to your left are for now presented as simple links -- so you will have to click to explore in each case. If and when time allows we shall try to provide short intro notes on each to save you time. But for now . . .

    Topic notes and messages(in process)

    -----Original Message-----
    Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 8:17 AM
    Subject: Transportation on university campuses? & the New Mobility Agenda?

    As you may have noticed from an indiscrete note traitorously posted to this forum by Dave Brook I have for the last week been the guinea pig for an environmental group e-interview at And since I didn't get hurt, I have to consider it a narrow escape of sorts. But it turned out to be a good learning and reminding experience, and when one young person asked me the following, it spurred a thought for an eventual enquiry or even perhaps group activity of some sort that I would now like to share you all, bearing in mind that a good number of you have close academic links. Here was Chris's question:

    Chris's question:
    "I have been charged with the task of researching ways to make my Big 10 school more sustainable. I've had a few ideas such as converting our bus system to biodiesel, reducing the "food miles" for our many cafeterias, and performing energy audits on all campus buildings. However, I am not sure if these ideas will be the most effective. Do you have any other ideas that I could use or research? Also, any tips for dealing with a conservative administration that is not likely to back any idea based on environmental merit alone?" -- Chris Kurtz, Columbus, Ohio.

    Response - Round 1 (my words in the e-journal)
    "Chris, I really want to help you with this since I consider it an important issue, not only for a more sustainable present but also since it is in the university where we take on so many of the habits and attitudes that shape us for all our lives. I am sure that a sustainable university -- or at least one that gives this a serious, visible, and heavily participatory try -- is going to have a major influence on the students in their future lives, and of course on the surrounding community.

    "Now, my problem in this respect is that I simply am not in the swim on this one. There have to be some kinds of examples around. My first step would be an outreach program to start to identify the winners and losers -- and the why's and how's.

    "I know that one huge headache and budget item for many U.S. universities is that of parking. And if you rationalize parking, you are taking a big step toward rationalizing the entire movement system, which simply has to become more sustainable.

    "So while I have no ready answers for you, I do know a good question when I see one, and you have one there. I hope you will try to answer it for yourself. And I would be pleased to do a bit of background work on this with you if you really wish to pursue this."

    Round 2: - Following shows up in the "News Alerts" on our New Mobility site this morning:

    "UVic faculty, staff and students can choose between several parking and commuting options this fall as UVic continues to work toward its goal of reducing vehicle traffic to campus. Improvements to facilities for cyclists, a new employee bus pass program and a new flexible parking pass are among the more than half-dozen programs being offered as part of the university's transportation demand management (TDM) strategy. Reducing single occupant vehicle traffic to campus is one of the goals of UVic's campus plan.

    "The volume of vehicle traffic to campus has been steadily dropping over the past decade. A 2004 traffic audit showed that traffic to UVic has declined 13 per cent since 2000 while cycling trips have risen by 12 per cent in the same period. The audit showed that, for the first time, less than 50 per cent of the trips to campus were in single-occupancy vehicles.

    "Information about the new TDM initiatives will be included with parking pass renewal forms and is available on the facilities management website at

    Source and full text:

    My question to you: Should we be sharing information and insight on this I think rather important topic? And if so how?

    I look forward to this. And so too, I am sure, does Chris.

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    -----Original Message-----
    From: Dave Brook []
    Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 9:43 PM


    In case you haven't seen this, you may be interested in this: I just stumbled on it the other day looking for something else.

    And on this side of the ocean, the first dedicated university carsharing program finally started here: santa-barbara.html Flexcar has had partnership with the University of Washington and Portland State University; Zipcar has 4 cars at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Perhaps the most interesting is that Zipcar has had some cars at Wellesley College for a year or so, with the college picking up the insurance tab so 18-21 year olds could also use the service. (All other programs are restricted to 21+.)

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    On Behalf Of Craig Townsend
    Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:45 PM


    I don't know if Chris Kurtz is on this list, so you can pass on my comments if you wish. My answer to the questions you raised is that there is a lot going on that could be described as part of the New Mobility Agenda at Canadian universities. In Vancouver, discounted transit passes for university students (a programme inspired in part by successes south of the border in the USA) were introduced a couple of years back and are credited with contributing significantly to a 13% rise in public transit use across metropolitan Vancouver in 2003-4 and increases of 35% and 53% to the two largest universities. You can learn more from the University of British Columbia's Trek Programme website ( Similar projects are going on at most universities in Canada.

    At my institution, Concordia University in Montreal, students have completed a sustainability assessment of the university ( At Concordia, I am now involved with a project being coordinated by the metropolitan transportation agency to introduce Travel Demand Management measures to encourage modal shifts away from Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOV) by employees/students at large employers located in the downtown area. You can find some information about this project, called Allego, from the regional transportation authority in French ( or from an organization carrying out much of the work in English ( We recently undertook a survey of our university's students and staff to begin an assessment of what programmes could be introduced to reduce SOV trips. Compared with many North American universities we are in relatively good shape to begin with because about 50% of our students are arriving by public transit (most through a subway station below our downtown campus) and about 25% are walking or cycling. A new 17-storey building is opening this month and has been fitted with sustainable building features ( and has no parking provision but an underground connection to the Metro station so this will encourage more use of public transit.

    For more university transport ideas see Todd Litman's VTPI Campus Transport Management strategies (, the book Transportation and Sustainable Campus Communities: Issues, Examples, Solutions by Will Toor and Spenser W. Havlick (, and a recent TRB report on universities and public transit (sorry but I don't have the reference handy (ref. supplied here)).

    There is much that can be done so don't be discouraged by conservative administrators!


    Craig Townsend, Ph.D.
    Concordia University, Department of Geography, Planning and Environment
    1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1M8
    Tel.: (514) 848-2424 ext. 5191 Fax: (514) 848-2032

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    From: Carlos Balsas []
    Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2005 8:50 PM

    Dear Eric,

    Thanks for your email. I am familiar with your work/website and have to congratulate you on many jobs well done.

    I did publish a longer version of that paper in the journal of Transport Policy. Please find it on the web at: tionPlanningonCollegeCampuses.pdf

    If you go the following webpage you can get access to the powerpoints for my sustainable transportation planning graduate class: and for other publications and background info on what I have been doing, please go to:

    Please keep me in mind for any collaboration on these topics. Best wishes,


    Carlos J. L. Balsas, PhD, AICP Assistant Professor - School of Planning
    Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2005, USA
    T: 480-727-7336

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    -----Original Message-----
    Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2005 6:59 AM

    If you go to and then go to "TCRP Publications" you will find a list of free publications. One of them is a synthesis of university/college transportation programs. Also Don Shoup, wrote an article called either "Unlimited Access" or "Universal Access" which talks about how university towns get much better than average transit than other US towns thanks to the presence of a university. Sorry that I can't give the exact citation since I am not at home, but you can probably find it by looking up Shoup at UCLA's website.

    (Note: That's Free Pbulic Transport at Universities, now on the side menu here.)

    Eric Bruun, Delta Services Group
    Philadelphia, PA

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    College Campuses: Sustainable Transportation Laboratories

    Author: Carlos Balsas. -
    Características: Artigo da revista "Planners Network - the Magazine of Progressive Planning", 2002, nº.153 (em inglês).
    Tema de discussão: Transporte sustentável. Data da Elaboração: 2002.

    The United States has an extremely high automobile dependence. Automobiles are the focus of transportation systems and they very often govern planning and decision making processes.

    It is widely accepted that trends in motorization on college campuses are the same as those experienced by society at large. In the last decade, campus planners have struggled to provide access and mobility without destroying campus qualities as distinct communities. Many universities are exploring a range of environmentally appealing solutions to alleviate congestion and improve safety due to federal requirements concerning air quality, increasing congestion, lack of land for parking, the high cost of constructing parking structures, pressures to reduce traffic’s impact on surrounding neighborhoods, and constraints on financial resources.

    How have college campuses encouraged a modal shift from cars to other modes, in particular to bicycling and walking? What opportunities are there to create sustainable campuses with bicycle and pedestrian planning? To answer these questions I will evaluate the results of a survey of eight bicycle and pedestrian friendly campuses. This survey shows that college administrators rarely consider bicycle and pedestrian planning to its full extent, and more can be done to integrate nonmotorized modes in the alternative transportation package. However, due to their pro-active educational milieu, college campuses are privileged places to communicate sustainability and to help reshape society’s transportation patterns.


    College campuses are very distinct communities. They are places where people of different backgrounds, incomes, lifestyles and attitudes come together to live, study, work, and recreate. College campuses build societies that are at once transitory and lasting, and have an ideal human scale. The traditional campus adheres to the basic principles of the neotraditional town, since it concentrates a variety of functions within reach of pedestrians. Campuses are usually self-contained neighborhoods where classrooms, offices apartments, student centers, child care facilities, performance halls, art galleries, gymnasiums, swimming pools, sports arenas and shopping places are all in close proximity. They have their own streets, squares and open spaces, where people can stroll and get together. Rural campuses are normally more auto dependent than urban ones. Although most campuses do not totally exclude the automobile, walking is the expected way to get around.

    College campuses are a good example of a ‘people’s place’. In many communities, college campuses are very often among the area’s largest employers. They have their own energy plants and water treatment facilities. Besides energy, water and waste, college campuses are also major traffic generators, which require extensive parking areas.

    Universities also impact neighboring communities in many ways, such as parking, traffic, service access and off-campus housing. While communities deal with these impacts through the implementation of neighborhood residential parking permits and prohibition of nonresident parking during school hours, colleges also are minimizing their own impacts in order to become more sustainable communities. This is in fact the result of a legal requirement that employers of 100 or more people implement employer trip reduction programs.

    A sustainable transportation system has been defined as one that satisfies current transport and mobility needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. Sustainable transportation planning on campuses can prove incentives for walking, bicycling, taking mass transit, ridesharing, discouraging the use of single-occupancy cars by passing on the full costs of parking to drivers, and linking transportation planning to land-use planning. University campuses can constitute a laboratory for testing and implementing various alternative transportation strategies, reducing infrastructure costs and minimizing their impacts on surrounding areas. One aspect often overlooked by campus administrators and planners is the college’s potential to affect not only the transportation behavior of the campus population in the present but also the transportation habits and the environmental awareness that students can develop in the long term.

    One of the main problems is that campus planners and administrators were trained when the auto was king and are reluctant to change. However, since students are more open-minded and have the potential to become “movers and shakers” if properly motivated, they can become powerful forces for the establishment of bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities.


    Transportation Demand Management (TDM) can be defined as a package of planning strategies, incentives and disincentives that emphasize alternatives to single occupant vehicle traveling. TDM includes not only traffic engineering such as traffic-calming schemes, but also multimodal solutions. The most widely implemented solutions are parking management, carsharing, park and ride schemes, mass transit, vehicle technology and alternative fuels, and the use of the internet and video to provide online classes and transportation information.

    Car-based transportation has many hidden costs. It is expensive and inefficient over short distances and is a major contributor to global warming. The major problem with automobility, however, is the amount of parking it requires. On college campuses parking is a common problem. Under-priced parking subsidizes students who drive to campus, while students who walk, bike, or ride transit to campus rarely receive any subsidy. These different treatments are being recognized by a growing number of campuses that are restricting parking in the campus core and implementing parking management programs which charge higher fees and are coupled with innovative ways to promote alternative modes–transit, bicycle and walking.

    Universities are also working in collaboration with transit agencies across the country to provide innovative transit pass programs. For instance, free transit passes may be funded with student fees or through innovative partnerships with local municipalities. This has become known as “Unlimited Access.” It reduces the demand for parking, increases student access to housing and employment, helps universities recruit and retain students, reduces the cost of attending college, and increases transportation equity. In order to reverse transit’s negative image, transportation agencies are decreasing headways and increasing service amenities such as providing passengers with real time schedule information through Intelligent Transportation Systems.

    The partial replacement of university fleets with alternative fuel vehicles and technologies such as compressed natural gas and electricity is also being attempted by a growing number of universities, as well as the recycling of operation fluids. Telecommuting, flextime and distance learning are “soft” approaches that may positively impact the campus environment and reduce congestion. Telecommuting is a technique that allows an employee to work at home one or more days a week. Flextime can decrease rush hour congestion. Distance learning and the use of new technologies can decrease the need for additional parking.

    A truly integrated TDM program may bring many environmental and societal benefits by enhancing the use of existing transportation systems. If fewer cars are traveling to campus, then fewer parking spaces are required, lower maintenance costs are incurred, and the land currently used for parking can be converted to other, more rewarding uses such as open space or new environmentally sound research buildings. This can only happen if there is a comprehensive approach promoting alternative transportation modes, and car use is restrained or charged at full cost, with the funds redistributed to improve the alternative options.


    Walking and bicycling are complementary modes of transportation to get to and around campus. At many colleges a high percentage of students live on campus, and another considerable percentage of students and staff live within a reasonable walking and cycling distance. The bicycle offers riders speed and flexibility over short distances. It produces no pollution, uses no energy, is silent, can be accommodated with relatively little space, is fast and cheap, and is also accessible to many people who cannot drive, especially the young. On some campuses biking is deeply rooted in local culture. On the other hand, walking is the primary mode of transportation for many people, although few of us may realize how it is a big part of our daily trips. Walking is fast, direct, and has no costs involved. In addition, these two modes have many health benefits.

    It is well known that college students cycle at much higher rates than the general population. Students are usually more environmentally conscious and receptive to new ideas. They are physically more fit, have restricted budgets, live close to campus and already own a bicycle. Staff and faculty members share some of these characteristics and many are influential members of the local community, as potential bicycle advocates, they can help persuade city officials and campus administrators to implement policy geared towards cycling.

    On campus, walking is affected by safety concerns at intersections. Comfort can encourage more walking:  examples range from protection from the weather and good illumination to visual appearance and amenities (litter containers, benches, etc.). Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the disabled still have problems with stairs, narrow passageways, long distances, slippery surfaces and poorly illuminated areas.

    Many college campuses lack bicycle paths and lanes, intersection treatments, signage and parking. Many times bicycling on campus can be dangerous. Accidents can occur because of speeding, mixing types of traffic, poor right-of-way design, and the propensity to ride outside the routes designated for bicycles and ignore traffic rules and regulations. Because bicycles are not considered “design vehicles,” in many cases engineers and campus planners have not considered the special needs of bicyclists. The lack of secure bicycle parking increases the posssiblities for theft, which acts as a major deterrent to bicycle use.


    After screening more than 3,000 campuses nationwide I found the following campuses have undertaken many actions to provide safe cycling and walking conditions to their campus communities: Cornell University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California at Santa Barbara, Sanford University, University of California at Davis, University of Oregon at Eugene, and University of Washington at Seattle. All eight campuses have TDM strategies in place.

    It is estimated that approximately 14,000 people commute to UC Santa Barbara by bicycle on any give school day. In Davis, a small city 12 miles from Sacramento with more than 50 miles of bicycle paths, an estimated 15-18,000 bicycles are used on a daily basis.

    The University of Washington/Seattle’s UPASS program has been a national model in transportation management. In fact, the UW Seattle has seen its population increase by 7% since 1991 while vehicle trips to and from campus have decreased by 5%. At UC Boulder a new fleet of buses and the “Ecopass” program allows employers to buy passes for employees and pass holders ride the buses for free. Total transit use in the City of Boulder and the UC campus has increased 400% in the last 5 years. At UW Madison, the Campus Transportation Committee approved free rides for a one-year trial period effective September 2001.

    Some college campuses are providing limited free parking while strongly enforcing parking rules. UO Eugene has the lowest number of parking spaces per thousand people. Stanford, on the other hand, has the highest number but, based on economic feasibility considerations, it has stopped providing more parking. Economic incentives are also being used to discourage driving. For instance, Stanford pays 2,500 employees who do not purchase a parking permit through its “Clean Air Cash” program.


    Six of the eight campuses have bicycle and pedestrian committees. The other two only have transportation advisory committees. Four campuses currently have a full time bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. These campuses tend to conduct surveys more often and to attract more funding.

    Three campuses have bicycle plans. UC Boulder has a plan called “Blueprint for a Green Campus,” and the UW Seattle has a “Campus Master Plan” for 2002-2012 that strongly encourages nonmotorized transportation. It is important to institutionalize TDM policies in the planning routines of the university and to incorporate campus-wide nonmotorized urban design guidelines with site and master planning. It is also important to integrate and coordinate planning efforts with surrounding communities.

    The components of a successful bikeway system on campus include:
    - Bicycle paths;
    - Bicycle lanes;
    - Bicycle routes;
    - Dismount zones;
    - Bicycle racks;
    - Bicycle lockers;
    - Other bicycle parking structures;
    - (Re) designed intersections and crossings;
    - Traffic-calming measures;
    - Signage and markings;
    - Showers –changing rooms.


    Many promotional measures are used to advertise alternative transportation. These include:
    - Bicycle maps;
    - Brochures, news in the media and on line;
    - Special events;
    - On-campus bicycle shop;
    - Tire inflation centers;
    - Business discounts;
    - Conferences;
    - Involvement with bicycling clubs and environmental groups.


    Some argue that the campuses that est accommodate bicyclists also enforce some of the most stringent bicycle regulations. In extreme cases fines and tickets for incorretly parked bicycles and for those who fail to comply with the bicycle dismount policy are applied. Several campuses impound bicycles and only release them after the payment of a release fee. The program at UC Davis requires that every bicycle on campus be registered. This helps to locate the bicycle owners in cases of theft and helps to fund the program. There is also a bicycle traffic school for violators. Pedestrian safety, especially at night, is a growing concern on many campuses.


    The results of these measures can be seen on Figure 1, which illustrates a much more balanced and equitable modal share on the 8 campuses when compared with the national average. The key message is that some college campuses are clearly de-marketing automobile commuting and actively promoting alternative transportation modes. In order to create more bicycle and walking friendly campuses efforts need to focus on the following seven measures: TDM strategies, organization, planning, facilities, promotion, education, and enforcement. Although these measures need to be tailored to local conditions, they should not be implemented alone because only the development of highly integrated strategies have the potential to improve sustainability. Universities can take a leadership role and promote environmentally sound programs. The need and opportunities for additional improvements on nonmotorized travel are countless. They are bounded only by our creativity and willingness to take risks and improve our way of living. The overriding issue is the way of thinking and the need to change routine decisions, levels of commitment and our own behavior.

    As David Weerts noted when writing about the UC Davis experience:

    Those looking for solutions to worsening air quality, traffic, and parking problems, may well find the resources, expertise and enthusiasm to establish workable bicycle programs right in the midst—at their local institutions of higher learning.

  • A complete copy of this paper is available at: tionPlanningonCollegeCampuses.pdf

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