New Report: University Campuses Are Transportation Trailblazers as Students Lead Shift From Driving

Media Contacts
Dev Gowda

Illinois PIRG Eduation Fund

As Millennials lead a national shift away from driving, universities are giving students new options for getting around and becoming innovators in transportation policy, according to a new report released today. The report, titled, “A New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation Policy,” was released by Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

“Across America, colleges and universities are showing that efforts to meet increased demand for transportation options deliver powerful benefits for their community and surrounding areas,” said Dev Gowda at Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “These efforts are saving money for universities, and improving the quality of life on campus.”

Americans aged 16 to 34 years of age reduced their annual driving miles by 23 percent per person between 2001 and 2009, according to research based on the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration that is included in the study.

“Colleges and universities are showing that efforts aimed at reducing driving deliver powerful benefits for students, staff and the communities near campus,” said Jan Kijowski of Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District which services University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Governments at all levels should look to these examples for ways to meet the Millennial generation’s desire to drive less.  Here at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, MTD provides very high-frequency service on core campus routes that enable riders to get around campus and to easily access community destinations. Routes operating at 10-minute or 15-minute frequencies cover most campus destinations and connect campus and downtowns. The easy access to real-time information via apps, texting, mobile devices, and the MTD website minimizes waiting and maximizes efficiency when traveling.” 

“This report shows that there’s no shortage of good ideas coming from colleges and universities that want to encourage their students to develop transportation habits that are more sustainable and less sedentary,” said Ted Villaire, communications director at the Active Transportation Alliance. “While some colleges and universities in the Chicago region do a good job of getting students out of their cars, there are still many schools that need to think more carefully about integrating biking, walking, transit and carpooling into the lives of their students. It makes economic sense and it’s good for the environment.”

“Most people think of parking as free, but it’s very expensive to build and maintain without a similar benefit,” said Christopher Ziemann of Chicago Bus Rapid Transit. “High quality transit, like Bus Rapid Transit and the train, connects universities and colleges to neighborhoods throughout the City, giving everyone fast and reliable access to education.”

As Baby Boomers grow older, Millennials have become America’s largest generation.  Since government investments in transportation infrastructure often last decades, the question of whether current investment will match the needs of future travelers depends largely on how well Millennials’ preferences will be met.

“University and college campuses are at the forefront of encouraging news ways to get around that don’t depend on personal cars. Public officials who want to stay ahead of the curve should be taking notes,” said Gowda. 

The report describes how universities are improving their communities by providing a wider range of transportation choices. This includes buses, biking, various types of vehicle-sharing that makes it easier not to have a personal car, and convenient apps that make it easier to navigate the options. The report also documents how campuses seek to avoid the steep costs of building additional parking facilities.

“Universities have a lot in common with cities,” added Gowda. “They must get the most value out of limited land, they are acutely aware of problems associated with being overrun by cars; and they need to focus on the tastes and aspirations of young people. It’s no wonder that universities are leaders in finding successful ways to make it easier for people to drive less.”

“The ready availability of transit has resulted in a significant reduction in parking demand from students despite growing enrollment,” added Kijowski. “The ease of travel makes it possible for students to live in near-campus and community residential facilities as opposed to campus housing, often resulting in savings. Transit connects campus and near-campus origins with community entertainment, dining, and working destinations which provide economic benefits to the communities of Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy.”


You can download the report, “New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation Policy,” here

The report is the sixth in a series of studies on the national shift away from driving. The first report, Transportation and the New Generation, documents the dramatic decline of driving among Millennials. The second, A New Direction, examines the causes of declining driving and the implications for future transportation policy. The third, Moving Off the Road, documents state-by-state differences in declining driving, and shows how these differences do not correspond to how hard states were hit by the recession. The fourth, A New Way to Go, explores how new technologies and changing technological habits among Millennials are connected to the nation’s decline in driving and can encourage less car-dependent lifestyles in the future. The firth report, Transportation in Transition, released in early December, examines the data on declining driving and increasing transit and biking in America’s 100 largest cities.

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