Survey: Driving alone doesn’t suit Ducks

Many Ducks get to campus by walking or biking (photo: Tim Christie)
Many Ducks get to campus by walking or biking (photo: Tim Christie)

Ducks flock to campus any number of ways – walk, bike, bus, carpool – but a new commuter survey suggests they increasingly do not rely on the single-person car trip.

A survey earlier this year of students, faculty and staff showed that only 18 percent of the campus drives alone to work, with bicycling the top commute choice (21 percent). The finding comes as the UO community gears up for the annual Business Commute Challenge, a weeklong promotion of active and healthy transportation options.

“The UO does really well – there are about 30,000 students, faculty and staff and the survey shows that most of us don’t drive alone as our primary mode of transportation,” said Emily Eng, a planning associate in Campus Planning and Real Estate. “It’s a great accomplishment and something to celebrate and build upon as we take on the Challenge.”

Audio: Survey overview with Briana Orr, UO Bike Program coordinator

The Challenge, which runs May 11-17, is an annual, friendly competition to see which Eugene-Springfield business or organization can save the most drive-alone trips in one week.

Employers and workplace teams turn the daily commute into anything other than a solo automobile trip by walking, biking, busing, carpooling or working from home. Participants sign up with their employer’s team; teams compete against those of similar size and winners are determined by the highest ratio of alternative-trip days per team member.

In 2012, more than 2,100 employees from 100 business teams participated. In one week, participants cut single-person car travel by 68,784 miles, reducing 55,695 pounds of carbon dioxide and saving about $13,000 in gas.

The Challenge is sponsored by KEZI 9 News, the cities of Springfield and Eugene, Lane Transit District and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

More than a dozen university teams have signed up, including those representing housing, the health center, campus operations and the athletic department. There are daily prize drawings for anyone who logs a trip; prizes include Ryder sunglasses, Clif Mojo bars, WeCar annual memberships, Bike Friday jerseys and more.

As university employees prepare for a week of alternative transportation, the survey suggests that single-person car trips aren’t scoring points with faculty, staff and students. The survey found:

  • Only 12 percent of students drive alone, and less than half of faculty and staff do so (45 percent). In comparison, about 68 percent of Eugene residents drive alone to work, according to the American Community Survey (US Census Bureau) in 2011.
  • About 62 percent of students and 72 percent of faculty and staff have bikes.
  • Almost half of students (49 percent) live within one mile of campus, significantly reducing the need to drive or even own a car.

The percentage of UO students who drive alone compares favorably with the numbers from schools with bigger, well-funded transportation programs such as Stanford (12 percent of students drive alone) and Portland State University (19 percent).

The university does a number of things to encourage alternative transportation. Consider, for example, that the UO provides about 3,700 car parking spaces – but more than 6,600 bike parking spaces.

Students who drive alone cited “convenience” as the top reason, while faculty and staff pointed to the need “to make regular trips before/after work.” Along gender lines, males were more often to report driving out of convenience, while women tended to drive due to needing to make regular trips before/after work or school.

Respondents said more frequent and convenient bus service would get them out of their cars and the survey also suggests that the UO community could take better advantage of LTD park-and-ride options.

This year’s survey was made possible through collaboration between UO Campus Planning and Real Estate, the Office of Sustainability and the Oregon Leadership in Sustainability (OLIS) program.

It was developed to inform decision-making on transportation planning, commuter options and parking; to develop a template for an annual survey that would allow the university to collect travel behavior information in a systematic way; and to collect data that the sustainability office can use to calculate greenhouse gas emissions, a requirement of the UO Climate Action Plan.

Participants in survey development included Parking and Transportation and the Bike Program.

“Even without including our on-campus residents’ commute, our bicycling and walking mode shares are among the highest in the country,” said UO Bike Program Coordinator Briana Orr. “These numbers are indicative of our investment and reflect a national trend of the younger generations (16-34) driving less and choosing to live in places where they can easily walk, bike and take transit.”

“By continuing to invest in walking, bicycling, and transit,” Orr added, “UO will maintain our national reputation as a vibrant, livable campus and we will attract the best and brightest to work and study here.”

- by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications