Year in Transit: Yale University 2015 Sustainable Transportation Survey

January 22, 2016

Results are in from Yale’s 2015 transportation survey, and we’re hard at work analyzing the data to determine which resources could best help our community get to and from Yale efficiently.

The goal of offering these resources is to minimize the number of people driving alone, or using single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs). Alternate transportation methods, from walking and biking, to public transit and carpooling, offer massive savings on many levels. Intuitively, there are health benefits from biking or walking, but even using public transit can impact health by encouraging more walking. From a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, any option is better than SOV use, meaning alternative transit improves air quality and helps curb climate change. Personal cars are also expensive to maintain and fuel, and any shift towards other options will save commuters significant amounts of money over time. The list of reasons to use other transportation options goes on and on.

By performing our biennial transportation survey, we can determine what resources are needed to reduce SOV use among Yale commuters. Over 1,500 members of the Yale community took the survey, a record high. The sample represented graduate students, faculty, postdocs, and all categories of staff, providing feedback and hard data on how people are getting around. We’ve been conducting the survey since 2007 to help inform our transportation programming.

Looking forward, the data give us useful ideas on how to improve the Yale community’s commuting experience.

  • A large number of people commute in SOVs from nearby towns, especially from Hamden. Knowing this, we can focus on tailoring alternative transportation resources for specific commuter groups.
  • Many commuters said that more flexible work hours would enable alternative transportation. Promoting our resources for working variable schedules, compressed work weeks, and telecommuting could help improve our commuting and work experiences.
  • Unfortunately, the number of people choosing to drive alone from their home to Yale has increased by about 2% since 2013. While this evidence is initially disheartening, it’s worth considering that gas prices have dropped by nearly half over the same time period.
  • Both walking and Yale shuttle use have increased in the past two years. This reflects a trend of people generally living closer to Yale, making these options more viable. Resources like Yale’s  Homebuyer Program have likely helped catalyze this change, making these shorter-distance options more appealing.
  • Most importantly and excitingly, commuter satisfaction is highest among groups that use alternative transportation. The data clearly show that Yale employees using SOVs to get to work tend to be the least satisfied with their commute.

Transportation resources are offered as a service to the Yale community to improve quality of life, decrease commuting expenses, and help reduce our environmental impact. In addition to offering health and ecological benefits, the data show that we are happier when we avoid SOVs and use alternative transportation.

Learn more about transportation options at Yale, or read the full report.

We sincerely appreciate the time that survey respondents took to complete the survey. With this information, we can better serve your transportation needs and develop long-term strategies to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

- By Max Knapp, Woodbridge Fellow, Yale Office of Sustainability