Hybrid and telework schedules had a positive impact on Bruins’ commutes and the overall campus environment in 2021, according to the annual State of the Commute report, published by UCLA Transportation.
Even accounting for the return to in-person instruction in the fall, UCLA recorded its lowest-ever rate of commutes by solo drivers — just 28%. That helped keep greenhouse gas emission levels at UCLA at historically low levels, supporting a cleaner, healthier campus and community.
“While a 28% drive-alone rate is a significant achievement, that figure will undoubtedly increase as the daily campus population recovers,” said Lisa Koerbling, interim executive director of UCLA Events and Transportation. “But we feel confident it will remain below pre-pandemic levels as Bruins embrace telework and hybrid schedules, and continue taking advantage of sustainable transportation options.”
During the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the telework rate among UCLA employees reached a high of 79%. That figure dropped below 50% after the start of fall quarter 2021, with most remote employees splitting time between working remotely and coming to campus.
But more students, staff and faculty than ever became “multimodal commuters” in 2021, as UCLA Transportation made it easier for Bruins to combine telework with driving and occasional carpools or bus rides when they needed to work on campus. There were 14,000 multimodal commuters in 2021, up from just over 4,000 prior to the pandemic.
According to the report, research suggests that those who have a commute choice wind up driving less. At UCLA, those commuters drive 70% less than their colleagues who have long-term parking permits.
“UCLA Transportation worked diligently to meet the evolving needs of the campus community, including those of frontline employees working on campus and hybrid employees needing more flexibility in their commute options,” Koerbling said.
For example, recognizing that many Bruins no longer wanted or needed to be tied to a full-time parking permit, UCLA offered discounted daily parking through the Bruin ePermit system. That enabled commuters to make decisions on a daily basis, instead of committing financially to permits they might only need on occasion, Koerbling said.
Among those who most benefit from the trend toward hybrid and telework arrangements are UCLA’s so-called extreme commuters. As of fall quarter 2021, there were 910 students and employees who held a UCLA parking permit and who either lived 50 to 120 miles away or who drove at least 90 minutes each way, to and from the campus.
The 2021 report is the first State of the Commute to be published as a 100% digital document. Besides enhancing UCLA’s ongoing sustainability efforts, the fully online report includes more compelling and easily understandable graphics and charts, and more current information than previous editions.