This is the second installment in Streetsblog’s series on transportation demand management at American colleges and universities. Part one gave an overview of TDM techniques that schools employ. This post looks at how Stanford University has used TDM to reduce driving and realize huge savings in the process.
Stanford graduate engineering student Matthew Haith made the switch to bike commuting after his wife had a baby, and the family needed to tighten their belts. For Andrea Corney, a faculty member in the school of business, it was parking shortages caused by construction that convinced her to try transit.
Stanford's shuttle system, the Marguerite, serves 160 stops on 13 routes. Image: Stanford
At Stanford, encouraging people to switch from solo driving to biking, transit, and carpooling is a science the university has been perfecting for more than a decade. Transportation demand management at Stanford is a multi-pronged effort that includes everything from free bus passes to actual cash payments for ditching the single-occupancy vehicle commute.
The program is paying off, both financially and in less tangible ways — not the least of which is employee and student health and satisfaction, school officials say. The university’s “Commute Club” even keeps a record of stories, like Haith’s and Corney’s, explaining how non-automotive commuting has improved the lives of students and employees.
“It made financial sense to save money on gas, car insurance, and maintenance for me to bike the 16-mile round trip to campus,” said Haith. “Plus, it’s nearly a $600 net gain to avoid the parking fee, and I receive incentives from being in the Commute Club.”
“I bike on beautiful residential streets and across campus, rather than sitting in traffic on El Camino,” Corney said, referring to the car-choked transportation artery of Santa Clara County. “It clears my head on the ride home. I’ve lost weight. I can go days without driving my car. I save money on gas and parking and get Clean Air Cash.”
Stanford began its TDM programs with a push Santa Clara County in 2000, when the county offered the university a general use permit to expand the campus significantly — but only if the school could keep rush-hour car commuting rates at the current levels. The county also gave Stanford the option to pay for redesigns to some 15 nearby intersections instead.
Stanford chose to get a handle on driving. The university started out by researching what kept people from taking transit or riding a bike to campus. Then, the university designed its programs around the responses.
“We tried to put together a program that dealt with as many of the barriers as possible,” said says Brodie Hamilton, the school’s director of parking and transportation services. “What were the excuses out there? The reasons people have: ‘I would use alternative transportation but …’”
Since then, Stanford has made great strides, reducing the share of its faculty and staff that car commute alone from 72 percent to 47 percent. (Since almost all undergraduates live on campus, along with 60 percent of grad students, most of the programs are focused on the staff and faculty.)