Columbia Transportation Survey Results Report a Decrease in Drive-alone Commutes

More Columbia commuters are choosing sustainable travel options to get to and from campus, according to the results of Columbia Transportation’s 2018 Commute and Travel survey. The last time the survey was distributed in 2016, 2.8 percent of students and 16.2 percent of staff answered that they drive alone to campus. In 2018, those numbers decreased to 1.7 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively.

October 22, 2018

Columbia’s Commute and Travel survey is sent periodically to all Columbia affiliates. The most recent survey, sent in April of this year, received 11,147 university-wide responses – 2,912 more responses than the 2016 survey – which will help Columbia track its sustainability progress, report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and improve access to alternative modes of transportation.

Survey highlights include:

  • Fewer Columbia affiliates choosing a drive-alone commute: a 2.5% and 1.1% decrease for employees and students, respectively
  • 8.8% increase in students choosing a walking commute
  • 98.3% of students and 86.3% of employees choose a sustainable commute mode, such as carpooling, taking public transit, biking, or walking
  • Overall reduction in affiliates choosing a solo taxi commute
  • Increase in Columbia affiliates choosing “ride share” as their primary commute mode
  • Overall increase in survey participation from 2016 to 2018

The charts below show how Columbia’s commute mode choice has changed over time.

Columbia commute mode choice chart 1
Columbia commute mode choice chart 2

Columbia’s commitment to reduce GHG emissions associated with commuter travel, as outlined in the University’s Sustainability Plan, has resulted in an expansion of sustainable travel programs in recent years. Thanks, in part, to the participation in the 2016 Commute and Travel Survey, Columbia Transportation now offers bike share and ride share programs, has developed more efficient shuttle routes, and has implemented a more sustainable vehicle fleet.

More transportation programs and incentives are being offered each year, including the following:

  • A Park-and-Ride program at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory campus allows employees living in the car-centric Rockland County area to take a shuttle to campus
  • Financial incentive programs encourage Manhattanville employees to form carpool groups
  • Online resources help employees on other campuses form or join carpools and vanpools. In 2018, a vanpool formed to drive members between Tenafly, NJ and Columbia
  • A guaranteed ride program offered by New York State gives peace of mind to employees who carpool
  • Sheltered and secure bike parking, as well as free bike tune-ups and recognition events, incentivize Columbia affiliates to choose a bicycle commute

The location of Columbia’s campuses in an urban environment with broad access to public transit – as well as Columbia’s efforts to provide housing for affiliates on or near campus, and to implement sustainable travel programs for those who commute – has placed the University ahead of peer institutions in minimizing emissions, traffic congestion, and campus space dedicated to parking. In 2018, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded Columbia the top spot for sustainable transportation in its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report.

To learn more about sustainable travel options, visit Columbia Transportation or check out our programs and initiatives.