Policymakers should look to UC Davis’ goClub program as one of the innovative ways universities are expanding the range of transportation options for their communities, according to a new report from the California Public Interest Research Group.
The report urges government leaders to encourage local partnerships that expand transportation options; support transit, bicycling and walking infrastructure; support ride- and car-sharing programs; offer incentive programs; and reassess car-oriented planning.
The authors details ways in which colleges and universities have adopted the goal of reducing driving because it benefits the environment; reduces the need for costly, space-consuming parking; improves town-gown relationships; and better meets the needs of young people who prefer communities in which they have more transportation choices.
The report could have highlighted the unique position of UCD and the city of Davis as the only campus-city combination in the county to earn platinum-level recognition for bike-friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. About 40 percent of students bike to class here.
Instead, the authors spotlighted van- and car-pooling components of goShare, the university’s comprehensive transportation program, which also seeks to incentivize biking, walking and riding the bus or train.
First launched in 2009, and operated by Transportation and Parking Services, goShare provides rewards for students, faculty and staff who commit to using alternative transportation for a majority of their trips to campus.
Membership benefits include reserved spaces for regular car-poolers, parking permits discounted by up to 60 percent, pre-tax payroll deduction benefits for faculty and staff, a ride-matching service, limited free parking permits for days when sharing a ride isn’t possible, and emergency rides home.
Members also can receive one complimentary car rental voucher per quarter and are eligible for prize drawings.
UCD credits the program with increasing faculty ride-sharing from 6.7 to 8.9 percent and staff ride-sharing from 10.1 to 12.7 percent. Since 2007, graduate student ride-sharing has more than doubled, from 3.4 to 7.8 percent.
In 2012, 11 percent of students living outside of Davis shared a ride to campus — 17 percent among grad students.
“Since the goClub launched in 2009 we have witnessed a steady increase in participation in all modes of transportation, including bus, bike, walk, train, car-pool by students and employees alike,” said Leslie Mancebo, UCD’s transportation demand coordinator, in a news release accompanying the report.
“As the campus population grows, we will continue efforts to encourage members of the UC Davis community to make sustainable transportation choices.”
Among the other efforts by colleges and universities included in the report include fare-free transit, bike-share programs, improving bike infrastructure, car-share programs and making distance learning part of the campus transportation plan.
Some other success stories included in the report:
* The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides fare-free local transit, resulting in an increase in student usage from 21 to 53 percent between 1997 and 2011;
* The University of Wisconsin’s support for Madison’s bike-sharing program, as well as adding more bike racks and providing free or reduced-price repairs on campus, has seen student biking by 8 percent since 2006, up to 22 percent;
* The University of Colorado has invested in Boulder’s bike infrastructure, which now includes 58 miles of pathways and 78 underpasses. Since 1990, the percentage of trips made by bike or foot has shot up from 9 percent to 60 percent in 2012.
Campuses are providing a model for others to follow and responding to the desires of younger Americans, the authors write.
Americans ages 16 to 34 reduced their annual driving miles by 23 percent per person between 2001 and 2009, according Federal Highway Administration data cited in the study.
A National Association of Realtors survey, also cited in the report, found that 59 percent of people under 50 believe it should be a “high priority” of government to provide driving alternatives.
The authors suggest cities and states should take note, if they want to attract and keep young talent. A May 2013 survey conducted by the car-share company Zipcar found 49 percent of the graduating class of 2013 did not plan to take a car with them to their next endeavor.
“I’m a senior here, and I ride my bike to campus every day,” UCD student Donna Farvard said in the news release. “When I can’t ride my bike, I take the bus. I love the fact that I rarely have to use my car to get around, and I definitely plan on continuing to bike and use public transportation after I leave Davis.”
— Reach Cory Golden at email@example.com or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden