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U-Pass at the University of British Columbia: Lessons for Effective Demand Management in the Campus Context


Using the new U-Pass Program at the University of British Columbia as a case study, this paper provides an analysis of the conditions and strategies necessary for effective transportation demand management in the university and college campus context. Following several years of incremental changes in travel behaviour, a mandatory universal transit pass (U-Pass) was introduced at UBC in September 2003, generating a fifty percent increase in transit ridership and a twenty percent decrease in single occupant vehicle traffic. Drawing on TDM theory and travel behaviour data from the literature, the paper examines the factors contributing to the success of the U-Pass, including demographic data, transit and transportation facilities, and campus housing and land use. The paper places special emphasis on parking policy and regional planning obligations and objectives. The first section provides a review of the literature on transportation demand management through the analysis of TDM tools and policy approaches and their effect on transportation choice. The analysis is focussed on the effect of transportation cost and pricing policy on travel behaviour, with particular emphasis on the university setting. The second section discusses the factors underlying demand management at UBC, including demographic conditions, transportation and land use patterns, and parking policy. Using transportation mode split data from 1997 to the present, the third section examines the impact of TDM strategies implemented at UBC between 1997 (the beginning of its TDM program) and 2003, when U-Pass was implemented. Finally, the paper provides a comparative analysis of other North American U-Pass programs, including their objectives and TDM impact. Based on this analysis, the paper finds that the most effective TDM strategies are those that both increase the cost of operating a single occupant vehicle (SOV) and provide a practical alternative. These types of strategies are particularly well suited to university and college campuses, where large numbers of commuters flow in and out of a central area, and where mandatory policies and fees can more easily be applied. The lessons learned at UBC have important implications for other universities and post secondary institutions seeking to address the costs of increased traffic congestion and parking requirements. The paper concludes by exploring other opportunities for universal transit pass programs, including applications in community and corporate environments.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Senft, G
Transportation planning