With 59,000 commuters at UCLA, encouraging alternative transportation makes a big impact on West L.A. traffic. This year the university’s annual commuter report finds that its footprint is smaller than ever, with only 36 percent of commuters driving alone.
That figure is half the countywide rate, and down from 38 percent last year, according to Monday’s State of the Commute (PDF) report. Of UCLA’s daily population of more than 73,000 students and employees, 13,000 students live on campus and almost 60,000 Bruins commute. Of those commuters, 25 percent walk to campus, 22 percent use public transit, 11 percent carpool or vanpool, and 4 percent bike.
“We keep growing as a campus, yet our traffic volume is nearly flat,” said Dave Karwaski, a senior associate director of UCLA Transportation. “Traffic is an issue in Westwood, but not at UCLA, as traffic volumes today are almost 25 percent lower than they were in 1990.”
That decline is no accident. UCLA Transportation invests $6.6 million annually in sustainable transportation programs that benefit commuters who ditch their cars. Bruins get half-price transit passes on six major bus lines, discounted membership in a car-sharing program, support services such as emergency rides home, free campus shuttles for traversing the campus and getting to nearby bus stops, discounted parking permits for carpoolers, access to the UCLA vanpool program and more.
“These options are good enough for almost half of employees to eschew driving alone to campus,” Karwaski said.
The decline in UCLA’s drive-alone rate is thanks to commuter students, only 20 percent of whom drive alone compared to 25 percent last year. While 52 percent of employees drive alone — up a fraction of a percent since last year — UCLA employees’ drive-alone rate remains low compared to the countywide rate of 73 percent. It’s hard to know for sure why UCLA’s rates changed, but Karwaski offered theories.
“For employees, the economy has largely recovered and gasoline costs are down, and income, gas prices and trip making are pretty tightly correlated,” he said. “For students, it may be the ongoing paradigm shift where teens are driving less and obtaining licenses at lower rates.”
On average, there are 100,491 daily car trips to and from UCLA by students, employees and visitors. That number is down 7 percent compared to five years ago, thanks to UCLA’s emphasis on encouraging commuters to use alternative transportation and providing programs benefits that make it easier to do so, Karwaski said.