Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 77.43
Liaison Daimon Eklund
Submission Date Oct. 14, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of Washington, Seattle
IN-4: Innovation 4

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Josh Kavanagh
Transportation Services
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Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
University of Washington Commuter Emissions Reductions Initiatives

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

Since fall of 2013, the University of Washington has made significant efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from campus commuting. At that time, 80 percent of commuters arrived by non-drive alone modes, yet emissions from commuting still contributed more than one-quarter of the university’s total emissions. As a result, Transportation Services knew it needed to take a proactive, research-based approach to be able to help the university achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In fall 2013, the department hired a Climate Action Plan Specialist for a ten-month period to conduct best practices research, behavior change research, and carbon calculations. This blueprint, grounded in both practical and theoretical knowledge, now guides Transportation Services staff in making informed, tactical, timely decisions around effectively encouraging more commuters more of the time to choose lower-carbon modes.

At the same time as the Climate Action Strategy for Transportation (the CAST) was being completed in spring 2014, the largest local transit agency announced that it would be making drastic cuts in service in the coming year. As a result of its proactive work, Transportation Services was able to turn to the CAST for strategies to quickly and aptly respond to this crisis situation. Within months the department launched its response, sending targeted email messages and establishing a brand new program called Commute Concierge. The Commute Concierge program provides commuters with individualized assistance to cut through the complexity of commute options and offer a single point for comprehensive and personal help. The program offers personalized commute plans based on the customer’s starting and ending times and locations, provides customers with informational materials that they specifically request, and answers commuter questions, in person, over the phone, and via email. This program provides the personalized help commuters need to consider their many commute options and make it easier to choose non-drive alone modes. The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, with the program helping over 700 customers in five months.

The CAST also enabled Transportation Services to take advantage of an opportunity to partner with a start-up company called Luum. Together they are piloting a commuter web portal called the Husky Commuter Club in which members can log their trips, track their parking charges, earn rewards for their lower-carbon commutes, enroll in team challenges, and receive commute statements. In addition to being a powerful feedback tool for members, it also provides Transportation Services’ staff with valuable data on commuting behavior. This data enables staff to better evaluate programs and better utilize resources through targeted marketing.

In addition to the CAST, Transportation Services adopted a tool called Experience Design to better understand the commuter experience. As an entire department, Transportation Services began the process of mapping the series of steps commuters using different types of transportation go through, from the time commuters decide to come to campus for the first time, to researching their options, to stepping out their front door, traveling, arriving at campus, and returning back home. The department collected customer feedback to more fully understand the positive and negative aspects of these experiences. Transportation Services is now working to improve as many aspects of the commuter experience as it can. By making lower-carbon commuting a more enjoyable experience, Transportation Services is better able to encourage commuters to utilize sustainable modes of transport, now and into the future.

Transportation Services is not alone in championing sustainability in transportation at the university. In the fall of 2012, through a partnership with the Office of Student Life, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, and support of key campus partners the Commuter Commons opened in the Husky Union Building. The Commuter Commons provides undergraduates with a space to focus on academic enrichment and develop and foster small communities. In addition to these learning outcomes the Commuter Commons also has a focus on sustainability. The Commuter Commons collaborates with Transportation Services’ Commute Concierge to offer personalized transportation assistance to students. The Commuter Commons also partners with Metro to offer real time transit information for the bus stop closest to the Commuter Commons space. The program offers commuter students free tea, cider or hot cocoa if they bring in a travel mug, plates and utensils in the kitchen are compostable and the microwave and refrigerator encourage and allow students to bring their own meals with them to campus. The Commuter Commons space also has a changing room and lockers large enough to accommodate our biking student’s helmets and other gear.

Through continuous improvement and innovation, the University of Washington has been able to reduce the university’s drive alone rate to an all-time low of 17.4 percent as of fall 2014. Comparing this figure to a national average of over 76 percent and a region average of over 58 percent for large employers , the University of Washington is proud to be at the forefront of transportation demand management and is working hard to continue to further reduce emissions from commuting.

A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of five):
Yes or No
Curriculum No
Research No
Campus Engagement Yes
Public Engagement No
Air & Climate Yes
Buildings No
Dining Services No
Energy No
Grounds No
Purchasing No
Transportation Yes
Waste No
Water No
Coordination, Planning & Governance Yes
Diversity & Affordability No
Health, Wellbeing & Work No
Investment No

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:

The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.