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Campus Controls

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Planning February 2012

Campus Controls
Necessity is the mother of [sustainable] transportation systems.
By Holly Parker and David Fields, AICP Imagine a city where everyone works for the municipality. The city provides housing for anyone who wants to live nearby, a bus system, and parking for anyone who chooses to drive. It embraces all three aspects of sustainability economics, environment, and equity and it favors growth. But with major financial limitations, air quality issues, and shrinking land availability, how is all this possible? This is the position in which many U.S. universities have found themselves in the last 10 years. Intentions to grow, but nowhere to go. Acres of parking where cars are stored all day (and demands for more), but no room for classrooms, offices, athletic fields, or the active uses that define education and research institutions. Plus a mission to "be green" without a plan for getting there. As universities grow, they are limited by the amount of available land close to their campus core. This makes surface parking lots prime real estate for development. But if you build on a surface parking lot, where do you park the cars, especially when that building generates more demand for access? To this question there are two answers: Provide more supply (by building parking underground or consolidating it in an above-ground structure) or reduce demand. Because the option to build structured parking is an extraordinarily expensive answer with costs exceeding $100,000 per space in many markets reducing parking demand provides a direct route to addressing all three Es of sustainability. Creating an environment in which people can make rational choices between driving, biking, walking, carpooling, and using transit requires that these modes of transportation be efficient and intuitive to use, and that they are "priced to sell" on an equal footing between all modes. Options that account for not just personal preference but also for what is sustainable for the community are possible, but they require planners to step up and offer a mixture of policies, physical design, incentives, and disincentives. With all their constraints, plus populations (especially students) supporting sustainability, campuses are the ideal place to offer this balanced blend.

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Yale starts with a plan The two dominant factors in transportation planning are land use and distance. When mixed land uses and short distances meet, people have viable opportunities to live, work, and play without relying on an automobile. Yale University's Central and Medical campuses exemplify these factors. Situated in the heart of New Haven, Connecticut, the Yale community is embedded in the city. The intermixed campus and downtown create an ideal environment for a variety of transportation choices. In fact, almost a third of the city's population gets to work by foot or bike. More Yale community members walk, bike, carpool, or use transit than drive alone to campus (nationally, 76 percent of commuters drive alone). "Within this context, it seemed possible for the parking and transportation infrastructure to sustain university growth in a way that would continue to serve all users, reduce the university's carbon footprint, and cost significantly less than building more parking garages," says Janet Lindner, the university's associate vice president for administration. In 2010 the university committed to establishing a transportation master plan as part of its broader Sustainability Strategic Plan. Before a direction could be outlined for the transportation plan, the university needed to define, and bring decision makers to a position of supporting, the fundamentals of sustainable transportation. The broad support of policy makers also would be necessary to shift behavior on Yale's campus. The first step was to establish sustainable transportation principles, then tie those principles to best practices, and ultimately to create tactics that could be implemented within the specific context of Yale's (and New Haven's) infrastructure and culture. Yale's Sustainable Transportation Principles were adapted from those of the independent, nonprofit think tank Global Development Research Center and Canada's National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy. Yale condensed them: Access: Provide easy and safe access from outside and within the campus for all members of the Yale community and its visitors. Health and safety: Design and operate systems to protect the health and safety of the Yale and New Haven communities and enhance the quality of life on campus and in its surroundings. Individual responsibility: Facilitate behavioral change to shift from driving alone to more sustainable transportation choices. Integrated planning/land and resource use: Coordinate decisions with New Haven and regional systems, maintain Yale's urban character, and adhere to sound land-use policies and practices. Pollution prevention: Favor nonmotorized and multiperson transport within and between Yale's campuses, as well as to and from them (commuter trips). Fuller cost accounting: Consider long-term costs, life cycle, and best practices to compare and
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assess the economic viability of various transportation infrastructure options. The university then identified best practices and translated them into Yale-specific strategies, which were prioritized to favor those that address the greatest number of sustainable transportation principles. For example, the cost to build 500 future parking spaces was analyzed through the lens of how that cost could be reappropriated to more sustainable transportation options.

The result was $11.5 million in savings that could fund non-car transportation incentive programs or services. This strategy supports both the "access" and "fuller cost accounting" principles. Finally, the list of strategies was analyzed through the filters of cost, time line, and impact. Strategies with lowest cost and highest impact rose to the top. These included: Develop a plan in cooperation with New Haven for safe sidewalk and crosswalk infrastructure and maintenance. Improve connectivity between external transit options and the campus-sponsored Yale Shuttle to enable more robust, reliable use of these resources. Avoid building any additional car parking, consistent with local planning requirements. Integrate sustainable transportation priorities into the Yale University Framework for Campus Planning; ensure that sustainable transportation standards are incorporated into all decision making processes. Identify and plan for multimodal transportation hubs. Initiate a working group with the appropriate city departments to encourage and support implementation of city projects impacting infrastructure for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders, taking safety and comfort into account (e.g. improved lighting, curb cuts, and crosswalks). Yale has already made great strides in changing its community's transportation behavior. Its free campus shuttle system provided 1.6 million day and nighttime shuttle trips in 20102011, and it boasts one of the most successful campus Zipcar programs, with 35 cars on campus and more than 3,200 members. Additionally, Yale has assisted more than 1,000 employees (since 1994) in buying homes in New Haven, most of which are a short walk, bike, or free shuttle ride away. Not all programs are expensive. The university also supports sustainable transportation through discounted parking permits for carpoolers and a staff-run commuter counseling program. Built on the principles of social marketing, in which a consumer receives information tailored to his or her specific needs, the program helps participants learn about transportation options. In a survey, 45 percent of people who received commuter counseling reported that it influenced their commute. Yale also offers a bike-share program, a practice that costs less than constructing one above-ground parking garage space. It started with bike purchases for departments that committed to using them for campus travel, with the goal of getting people to see a bike as a viable means of transportation rather than a childhood toy. Since the program began in May 2008, users have logged more than 7,200 miles on the university's Y-bikes.

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Harvard maximizes its assets Harvard University took a different approach. Some of its notable programs have been in place for a dozen years. With a high-capacity public transit system already serving the campus, Harvard's demand management was effectively a supply management project. Harvard decided to reduce the number of vehicles commuting to campus by offering a 50 percent discount on all monthly passes for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Each month the university subsidizes the purchase of about 7,000 passes at an annual cost of some $3.5 million. This financial strategy was seen as a way to reduce the need to build more parking spaces, because Harvard saw its goal as providing access, not just parking. Taking advantage of an existing resource like the MBTA's subway, bus, commuter rail, and ferry services was a great starting point, but Harvard knew public transit works best when coupled with supportive systems that provide for all modes without requiring every person to have a car. These supportive efforts use innovations in carsharing, carpooling, bicycling, sustainable fuels, and the free campus shuttle system, among others.

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Harvard's partnership with Zipcar was among the first. Now with 25 shared cars on campus and about 9,000 members, Harvard's Zipcar program also leverages the power of Zimride (an online ridematching tool) to fill empty seats in Zipcars creating yet more efficiency for the Harvard community. The university also has a pilot plug-in hybrid vehicle program and has received a grant from the EPA to construct a 1,200 gallon roof rainwater recovery system to wash the university fleet. Harvard has long worked with the cities of Cambridge and Boston to support the growth of local and regional bike networks, as well as offering safe cycling classes and sponsoring five of the Boston area's new Hubway Bike public bike-share stations. To help pay for the capital costs of garages when they must be built, Harvard created a 30-year cash flow financial model that incorporates both the operational and capital costs of its parking department. In this three-tiered model, revenue comes from parking fees, the university's fringe benefit pool (a small percentage), and a straight dollar tax assessed to all construction projects based on additional gross square footage.

Stanford opts for management When Stanford University wanted to expand, Santa Clara County offered a choice: Fund mitigation of traffic impacts on local intersections or avoid causing the traffic impacts in the first place. The former offered Stanford an immediate, financially quantifiable approach since the university could project the initial costs and would have minimal responsibility for the built projects. But mitigating traffic didn't match Stanford's own goals, which include prioritizing environmental quality and supporting positive relations with local residents. The choice was easy: Pursue campus expansion while managing auto commute trips. Since Stanford chose the "no net new commute trips" approach, the university has agreed to adhere to the measured number of vehicles entering and exiting the campus during peak periods in 2001. With this goal, the university counts traffic at 16 access points every fall and spring. It's important to recognize the two conditions that are generally considered to conflict in transportation planning: a growing population with fixed allowable peak-hour commute trips. The only solution is to manage transportation demand proactively. The challenge was to accommodate the demand of Stanford's 2001 population of 11,000 employees (faculty and staff), 15,000 students, and various other people on campus, all while maintaining the same number of auto trips. Unlike many locations where the percent share of total trips is capped (so that existing patterns could continue), Stanford set an absolute trip cap goal. "When the university decided to take on the challenge of growing and a trip cap, it was totally up to the campus to develop a program to make it work," says Brodie Hamilton, director of the parking and
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the campus to develop a program to make it work," says Brodie Hamilton, director of the parking and transportation services department, which managed the effort. Stanford wasn't starting from scratch. It has long been a transportation demand management proponent, offering a package of commuter benefits, including Clean Air Cash (a program to pay commuters not to drive alone), free shuttle service, free parking permits for carpoolers, reserved spaces for carpools and vanpools, an emergency ride home program (for full and part-time alternative transportation users), a freshman emergency ride home program (for freshmen abiding by the "freshmen no cars" policy), and an extensive infrastructure serving the bicycling community. In addition, the university charges for parking.

With so many TDM practices in place, what would an expanded program look like? Modal choice was important, but it wasn't the whole story. To make a true difference, the university sought to reward the people who chose not to drive. Its Commute Club offers new and existing alternative transportation users a sense of community and identity, a greater awareness of options, and an incentive to remain loyal to the program. To join, commuters agree not to drive alone to campus and give up their parking permit (which costs $300 to $768). Members save money, receive Clean Air Cash, and get information about the alternative transportation program elements available to them, including the availability of Caltrain (commuter rail) passes for eligible employees. Stanford invested in transit service, bicycle access, and a variety of other incentives and services to dramatically enhance its TDM program. Its free 15-route shuttle system, the Marguerite, is the major link between regional bus and rail services and the university. Additionally, the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District's Line U/Stanford Express provides free boarding to all university employees, hospital employees, and students on express buses (highway coaches) from the East Bay (east of the San Francisco Bay), and connects with East Bay transit systems and commuter rail from California's Central Valley. Partnerships with Caltrain and Valley Transportation Authority also led to free boarding privileges on regional commuter rail, bus, and light rail services. To serve its 13,000 daily cyclists, the university employs a full-time bicycle program coordinator and offers more than 18,000 bike rack spaces, plus lockers, bike storage rentals, and showers. Stanford also has raised its parking prices, varying the cost of parking permits depending on location. Since 2001, fees for the most convenient parking spots have increased by $377, while farther out parking fees have increased by $192. Stanford University's TDM program has accomplished exactly what it set out to do: manage transportation demand so that the university generates no more peak hour auto trips than it did in 2001. In fact, the number of peak hour auto trips has actually decreased by more than 100 trips in the p.m. period and more than 500 trips in the a.m. period. Further, the employee drive-alone rate has dropped from 72 percent in 2002 to 46 percent in 2011. Of course, all of these programs required funding, which could not simply be added to tuition or charged to employees. Stanford dedicated a portion of parking permit revenue and assessed a special fee on schools and departments for increases in their gross square footage built. Think long term Every institution that proposes sustainable transportation initiatives has to be mindful of its institutional culture and local transportation infrastructure. This explains why so many different
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approaches exist. What successful sustainability initiatives all have in common is that they provide a viable means of overcoming existing limitations. Often, one of the biggest barriers is user behavior, but other limitations include lack of land to expand, limited funding, or overburdened transportation systems. Many universities are finding, however, that improving the transportation system so that it can last indefinitely makes for a better system for everyone. Yale University's Janet Lindner agrees: "Our Transportation Framework Plan won't solve every problem today, but it has the vision to put us on the right track for the future." Holly Parker is the Yale University director of sustainable transportation. David Fields is a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates and chair of APA's Transportation Planning Division. No Need to Reinvent the Wheel Talking about sustainability is easy, but many institutions have a difficult time putting their good intentions into action because the goal can be so vast. Fortunately, sustainability is not a static condition, but a spectrum. Here are some key lessons from successful university transportation programs. Identify what you're trying to accomplish and how you're going to measure it. The goal of many transportation plans is to accommodate growth while preserving the university (and natural) environment and remaining a good neighbor to the surrounding community. The performance measure could be "mode share for all campus-bound trips." Count. Once you've determined what you're going to count, use online surveys (such as Survey Monkey) coupled with social media to announce the effort and collect data from users. Figure out what is going on today and you can figure out how much of a change you want to achieve. Identify short-term and long-term goals. Transportation and sustainability improvements are iterative processes. Establishing two timelines for what can be accomplished acknowledges different political conditions, so meeting a goal of a five percent reduction in single occupant vehicle trips in two years can be as valuable as meeting a goal of a 25 percent reduction over 10 years. Calculate the costs. Tell decision makers how much your current transportation system (including capital, operations, amortization, the opportunity cost of land, and greenhouse gas emissions, if possible) costs, plus how many trips the system needs to accommodate. Then determine other transportation services that could accommodate the same number of people, using the current costs as your cap. Provide the options you want people to use. In the 20th century, the U.S. gave priority to roads and parking over public transportation infrastructure, so it's no surprise that driving became our dominant mode. Level the playing field across all modes, with equitable costs, easy-to-access information, and support for participation in a multimodal system. Count again. It's imperative to regularly survey transportation system users to see how patterns have changed. For universities, annual surveys are recommended when classes are in session, during a non-holiday period, and after the drop-add period is complete. Set or reset goals and approaches. Are we meeting our goals? Great maybe it's time to aim higher. If we're not meeting our goals, look at which elements are working, which aren't, and what conditions have changed since our initial plan. There's no shame in not hitting every target, but it's much more valuable to adjust the effort midcourse than waiting until the end to decide. Resources Images: Top At Yale, walking and biking are part of the culture. Combined, foot-and pedalpowered commuters outnumber single drivers. Photo by Michael Marsland, Yale University. Middle Harvard sponsors five of the Boston area's new Hubway public bike sharing stations, like this one in Allston. The university also partners with the transit authority, the car-sharing outfit Zipcar, and Zimride, a ride-matching service. Bottom Stanford's 15-route shuttle system, the Marguerite, links up with regional bus and rail service, helping to meet the university's goal of expanding the campus while producing no net new commute trips. Photo by Linda A. Cicero, Stanford News Service. In print.Transportation and Sustainable Campus Communities: Issues, Examples, Solutions, by Will Toor and Spenser Havlick. Online. A link to Yale's Sustainability Strategic Plan is at http://sustainability.yale.edu. Stanford's TDM program: http://transportation.stanford.edu/ alt_transportation/Programs.shtml. Harvard's program: www.commuterchoice.harvard.edu. The Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida (www.cutr.usf.edu) maintains a TDM e-mail list and clearinghouse. Global Development Research Center: www.gdrc.org.
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