University Campuses, Like the University of MI, Are Transportation Trailblazers as Students Lead Shift from Driving

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PIRGIM Education Fund


Contact: Megan Lord, PIRGIM Campaign director, 734-662-6587, [email protected]


ANN ARBOR, February 12th – As Millennials lead a national shift away from driving, universities like the University of Michigan 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.”

“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 Megan Lord, Campaign Director with PIRGIM. “These efforts are saving money for universities, and improving the quality of life on campus.”

The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is one such university that is making great strides towards offering alternative forms of transportation to its students, staff, and the community.

“The League of American Bicyclists designated the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly University, in recognition of their efforts to provide a safe, convenient, and welcoming environment for bicyclists,” said Amelia Neptune, Bicycle Friendly University Program Specialist with the League of American Bicyclists.  “The University’s ongoing efforts to become a great place for bicycling is commendable, and can serve as a model for other campuses and communities across the country.”

The University of Michigan offers what is called the Blue Bike rental program.  “The University’s Blue Bike rental program has found success in offering semester-long rentals to university students,” said John Swerdlow, Senior Assistant Director of Rec Sports at the University of Michigan.  “Many of our renters are here for just a year or two, so buying a bike doesn’t make sense, and traveling with bikes has become very expensive.”  

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.

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 Megan Lord. 

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 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 Megan Lord. “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.”

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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