UCI Master of Public Health Practicum Project: Factors and Barriers Affecting Use of Active and Sustainable Transportation Among UC Irvine Students

by Samer Khan, 2018-2019 CNI Student Engagement Fellow

The University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) aims to achieve UC-wide carbon neutrality by 2025. With this, UC campuses and medical centers are implementing infrastructural changes and promoting a sustainability culture to advance this initiative. UC Irvine (UCI) is often recognized for its efforts to become carbon neutral through LEED Certified buildings, reduced food waste in the dining halls, and a zero-emissions campus shuttle system. Although, an increasing amount of traffic at UCI was attributed to students using on-demand ride-share services, such as Lyft or Uber, to travel to campus. However, these students often live short distances from campus and have options to use alternative modes of transportation that are active and/or are more sustainable than gasoline vehicles. Active transportation involves using manual labor, such as bicycling and walking, to travel. Sustainable transportation is defined as methods of travel with low carbon emissions. Carpooling, the Anteater Express (AE), and active transportation all have lower carbon footprints than driving gasoline vehicles and using on-demand ride-services.

Focus groups with undergraduate students living either near or far from UCI were conducted to understand what factors influence transportation methods. Participants also completed surveys covering transportation habits and demographics. Focus group and survey questions were designed with materials from the UCI Transportation Center. Students were recruited through campus organizations associated with UCI’s Sustainability Resource Center (SRC). Convenience, Time, and Cost were among the major factors that influenced transportation decisions. Students living on/near campus could easily use active/sustainable transportation and reported that driving was unnecessary. Students living in UCI housing recommended that the AE and campus bicycle/skateboard policies need improvements. Students living farther from campus reported that public transportation was unreliable, inefficient, and that UCI could better accommodate students with longer commutes. Findings from the focus groups and surveys can potentially inform programs offered by both the SRC and Transportation Center to encourage students to maintain sustainable and/or active forms of transportation.