At EPFL, walking and cycling make headway, overtaking cars

Bike racks © 2023 EPFL / Niels Ackermann, Lundi13

Bike racks © 2023 EPFL / Niels Ackermann, Lundi13

The EPFL community has retained its good pre-pandemic habits, but more effort is needed to achieve the School’s climate targets.

Is EPFL on course to achieve the commuting targets in its Climate & Sustainability Strategy? The results of our 2023 mobility survey suggest there’s still some way go. But historical trends show that EPFL commuters make greener travel choices today then they did in 2003, when the first such survey was held. Walking and cycling have overtaken individual motorized transport and are now the second most popular commuting method behind public transport, which has seen its share remain relatively stable over time.

In the previous biennial survey, conducted in 2021, the percentage of EPFL commuters taking public transport dipped sharply – an expected consequence of the pandemic. The 2023 results mark a return to pre-pandemic habits, albeit with a slight increase in the use of individual vehicles. But the big change is that drivers are bringing their cars to campus less often than in the past, likely because working from home is now common practice. There’s also been a notable increase in the share of commuters combining or switching between different modes of transport, with intermodality and multimodality up 19 points since 2003, including a sharp uptick between 2016 and 2019.

The framework conditions and mobility services offered on campus take into account and reinforce the tendency to combine or use different modes of transport on different days.

Luca Fontana, Sustainable Mobility and Travel Manager

These long-term behavioral changes could stem from the introduction of pay-as-you-go parking in 2017 and the School’s efforts to encourage more people to cycle – an option that’s especially popular in warm weather. The 2023 survey shows that electric bikes are continuing to gain ground, and that community members particularly appreciate EPFL’s Point Vélo sale and repair workshop.

Today, we're one of the few campuses that can boast more bikes than cars!

Some 73% of respondents said they made use of the public transport subsidies offered by the School, although 8% were unaware that these subsidies existed. Another significant finding is that community members are making shorter journeys overall than in the past, probably because student accommodation is now available closer to campus. Little has changed in terms of carpooling though, with only 2% of employees sharing their commute with someone other than a family member.

Scaling back the use of motorized vehicles

EPFL’s Climate & Sustainability Strategy targets an over-30% reduction in commuting-related carbon emissions by 2030 relative to 2019 levels. Achieving this goal will require scaling back the use of motorized vehicles. Given that it’s currently cheaper to park on campus than to commute by public transport, community members have little financial incentive to leave their car at home.

Overall, EPFL’s efforts to promote walking, cycling and public transport are paying off. Now, the School will be able to build two new teaching and research facilities without having to add parking capacity and give up 600 existing spaces without creating a shortage.

Much remains to be done, but promoting sustainable mobility will ultimately deliver a return on investment, both economically and environmentally.

Luca Fontana, Sustainable Mobility and Travel Manager

Author: Emmanuelle Marendaz Colle

Source: Sustainability

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