In 1995, the Seattle University Transportation Management Program (TMP) was established in accordance with city requirements to help alleviate traffic associated with increased growth. A survey of commuting habits was conducted for the Seattle University community. In 2001 and 2007, campus-wide surveys were completed to understand how transportation habits may have changed since the implementation of the TMP.
Since the 2007 survey, Seattle has experienced rapid population and economic growth, which has been accompanied by increasing traffic congestion as well as new public transportation options.
A new follow-up survey was conducted in November 2016 in order to (1) gather an idea of how these factors may have changed the commuting habits of Seattle University community members; (2) obtain data to estimate SU’s carbon footprint for commuters; (3) identify new sustainability initiatives on campus related to commuting; and (4) support the Department of Transportation in its planning.
The overall response rate of the November 2016 survey was 33% of the SU population (compared to a 12% response rate for the 2007 survey). Respondents primarily lived on campus or in central Seattle (29%), a trend that has remained consistent among all three surveys. According to Institutional Research, there has been a 5% increase of students living on campus over past 5 years. According to the survey results, there has been an increase of 14% of students living 1-5.9 miles from campus (28% in 2016). Faculty and staff trends for distance from campus have remained relatively consistent over the last 15 years, with the largest population (39%) living 6-15.9 miles from campus.
The travel duration to campus was between 11-20 minutes for 21% of students, followed by 17% of students traveling less than 10 minutes (this number includes all students living on campus) and 14% of student respondents travel more than one hour. The highest percentage of employees (21%) travel between 21-30 minutes; 16% of employee respondents travel more than one hour to reach campus.
The most utilized commute mode by students was ‘drive alone’ (40%), which has seen a 10% decrease since 2007 and a 23% decrease since 1995. Twenty-three percent of the student population reported that they walk to campus, which is a 5% increase since the 2007 survey. Employees also reported to primarily ‘drive alone’ (38.5%), but also had a high number using ‘transit’ (29%). ‘Drive alone’ has seen a 10% reduction among employee respondents since 2001, while ‘transit’ has seen a 6% increase. The primary reasons given for driving from both the student and employees were ‘fastest way to get to campus’ and ‘ability to run errands.’ The primary reasons given by students for not driving by car or motorcycle to campus were ‘distance to campus close enough to walk or bike’ and ‘affordability’; for employees, the primary reasons for not driving alone were: ‘the environmental impact,’ ‘difficulty or stress related to using a vehicle,’ ‘affordability,’ and ‘public transit options and timing.’ Both groups (students and employees) indicated that improved public transit and better incentives from SU would encourage them to take an alternative form of transportation to campus.
Fifty-eight percent of faculty/staff respondents in the 2016 survey have an ORCA card subsidized by SU and 53% of students reported having an ORCA card, with 26% being subsidized by Seattle University. Sixty-five percent of students stated a subsidized unlimited-use ORCA card would change their commuting habits.
With regard to increasing sustainability practices on campus, students and employees emphasized energy efficient building design/retrofit and appliances/lighting; transportation benefits; sustainable purchasing policies; and the expansion of gardens.
The new commuting data revealed a 5% reduction of SU's greenhouse gas emissions from commuting since 2009. See SU's Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory here.