New Report: Universities Like NC State Are Transportation Trailblazers as Students Lead Shift From Driving

Media Contacts

NCPIRG Education Fund

Contact: Kalila Zunes-Wolfe, Program Associate NCPIRG
[email protected]  (831) 345-7295

Raleigh, February 5th – As Millennials lead a national shift away from driving, universities like NC State 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, was released by NCPIRG 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 Kalila Zunes-Wolfe, program associate with NCPIRG 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.

“In Raleigh, 70 percent of our population is made up of millenials,” said City Councilor at large Mary-Ann Baldwin. “These young people want transportation options ranging from rail to buses to bikes. Having our universities lead the way in transportation innovation makes sense. The next step is for cities to partner with universities to improve mobility and connectivity.”

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 Zunes-Wolfe.

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.

“High use of the Wolfline by students, employees and the community reflects a growing demand and need for public transit in Raleigh and surrounding towns.  Young people especially increasingly understand the benefits of transit, which is another reason the Wake County Commissioners should get moving on a county-wide transit plan,” said Karen Rindge, executive director of WakeUP Wake County. You can learn more about the county-wide transit plan at

David Eatman, Transit Administrator for the city of Raleigh, also sees campuses as helpful models: “College campuses are usually great examples of mixed use walkable environments; transit systems thrive in these conditions.  There are approximately 40,000 unlinked transit passenger trips every weekday in the City of Raleigh; North Carolina State University’s Wolfline bus system represents over 40 percent of this daily total.  Alternative transportation modes will be critical as we compete to keep these young professionals in our communities.  Transportation alternatives are not what they aspire for, it is what they increasingly have and will expect as they enter the labor force.”

“Universities have a lot in common with cities,” added Zunes-Wolfe. “They must get the most value out of limited land, decrease traffic congestion, and 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.”

“There is a growing demand for multi-modal transportation options across the country and here in Raleigh.  The demand is driven by multiple factors including growth and congestion but also changing demographics and lifestyle choices of the community.  The City of Raleigh has been actively expanding and developing future plans to provide a more diverse portfolio of multi-modal transportation options, not only in Raleigh but across the Triangle,” said Mayor Nancy McFarlane. “One way the city has done that has been to partner with NC State University on a number of programs including GoPass, Carsharing, and Lighten Up, Raleigh to expand transportation options not only for students but also city residents.  If we are to successfully address the growing and changing transportation needs and demands of the community, it will be important to continue to develop strong partnerships with regional partners and to remain innovative and creative in developing multi-modal transportation options.”

You can download the report, “A 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 fifth 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.

# # #

NCPIRG Education Fund
 works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.

Note: Brian O’Sullivan, assistant director for planning & operations at the NC State Transportation department, is happy to take calls from reporters. He can be reached at (919) 515-1605.