UCSF Sustainability Stories

Lyandra Dias, September 2016

The 2016 Commute Survey Results Are In!

Since 2011, the UCSF Office of Sustainability has partnered with UCSF Transportation Services on its annual commuter survey to understand how the university population commutes to and from campus. The 2016 commuter survey was conducted online and asked faculty, staff and students about the different modes of transportation they used to travel to campus. At the time of the survey in April 2016, UCSF’s employee and graduate population was 24,940. With over 5,161 respondents to the survey, response rate was approximately 21%, which represents a 95% confidence level with a 2% margin of error.  UCSF has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which includes Scope 3 emissions from staff, faculty and student commuting.  Results from this survey can thus help highlight commute trends and provide direction on what is needed to shift the UCSF community from driving alone to alternative transportation modes such as ridesharing (vanpools/carpools), bicycling, walking and teleworking, which produce significantly lower GHG emissions.

Commuter Mode Split

The above mode-split chart illustrates trends since 2013. Commuting patterns have changed slightly since then. In the most recent survey, many UCSF commuters (57%) used sustainable transportation methods – ridesharing, transit, walking, bicycling and telecommuting (Figure 2). Of particular note is the decrease in driving Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs), which went down by 4% over 3 years, while transit use increased by the same amount.

Increased adoption rate of Electric Vehicles (EV) and Hybrids
2016 survey results show an increase in the number of all-electric vehicle drivers going from seven in every 10,000 in 2011 to 237 in every 10,000 in 2016. If we include hybrid vehicles (both Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) that number grows to 1,508 in 2016 from 985 in 2011, a 53% overall increase. Electric vehicles and hybrids are not only energy efficient and low-emitting, but are also a great way to save money. UCSF is continuously working to reduce GHG emissions and increase sustainable transportation. Part of this effort includes incentivizing low-emitting, fuel efficient vehicles by promoting access to priority-parking. UCSF has also partnered with Bay Area SunShares to bring employees and their family and friends discounts on solar installations for homes and zero-emission vehicles. Eight new EV chargers will be installed across campus and 15 new all-electric shuttles will be added to UCSF’s fleet in the next year.

UCSF Shuttle
The UCSF Shuttle is the primary mode of travel between campus locations with over 80% of the university population using the shuttle service to get from one campus to the other.  Approximately 8,000 riders board the shuttle network on a daily basis, which equates to over 2 million boardings per year, removing over 2,700 vehicles from San Francisco roads.

There has been a slight increase in the number of people who telework, up 1.1% from 0.7% in 2014. Teleworking has been shown to boost employee productivity and depending on how far you live from work, how you get there and how often you telecommute, can significantly lower your carbon footprint from commuting. Telecommuting just one day a week reduces CO2 emissions by 400 pounds a year. To make teleworking accessible, the Office of Sustainability provides monitors to employees looking to set up a work space at home.

Sustainability Influence
Using the survey as an opportunity to assess the influence of sustainability activities on behavior, the final survey question asked respondents - “In the past year, has UCSF’s green efforts influenced you to change your behavior in any of the eight areas: conserving energy, conserving water, reducing waste, taking alternative transportation, teleworking, reducing use of toxic chemicals, eating more sustainable foods and buying greener products?” Initiatives to reducing waste across campus have had the highest influence (over 60% in years 2013 through 2016) and water conservation initiatives are on a steady rise.

In collaboration with UCSF Transportation Services, future surveys may include more specific questions on sustainability, for example, questions on vehicle make, type and model to be able to mine accurate GHG emissions data from SOVs. The transportation survey gives UCSF the opportunity to find out if transportation services are meeting community needs and provides valuable insight on transportation trends and ways to reduce commute carbon footprint.