By Mishu Pham-Whipple
Nearly all of Tacoma’s energy comes from renewable hydroelectric power, making the UW Tacoma campus a relatively green one. However, the overwhelming majority of students commute to campus, making transportation the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. To target the largest source of emissions, a team of researchers at the Tacoma campus received funding from the Green Seed Fund to understand the barriers to student use of public transportation. The Husky Lines team - comprised of Dr. Britta Ricker, Surtida Shelton, Alexa Brockamp, Elizabeth Leaf, Greg Lund and Dr. Jim Gawel - initially wanted to research the feasibility of creating or adapting an existing bus route to best serve students. By conducting surveys and doing GIS analysis of student commutes and bus routes, the team found that there would not be a single route that would make the bus route cost effective.
The next step in their research was to conduct a qualitative survey to find out why students are not utilizing the bus service since many students live within a half mile of a bus stop and commute to a campus conveniently located in downtown Tacoma. The survey is still open but it seems that there is a lack of knowledge regarding how to most effectively use the bus services. To overcome this, the research team has several suggestions, including potentially altering existing bus routes, adding more stops, and more frequent service. Ultimately the team suggests that steps be taken to have better communication between transit and students. There is great potential in UW Tacoma and Pierce Transit collaborating on marketing and educating students of the public transportation services available to them. The team also aims to make the U-Pass something that could be well-utilized by students, by making transit in the area good enough that use of the pass is an efficient option for students. The research team is continuing their research to establish recommendations tailored to the Tacoma campus and surrounding neighborhoods in which students live. Visit the project website for more information about the project, surveys and updates.
You can also see the slides here from the Husky Lines project's presentation to the Environmental Stewardship Committee.