Transportation plays a key role in making UNC a more sustainable campus by reducing the impacts of both staff and student commutes and campus operations. In 2014, UNC was awarded the Best Workplace for Commuters designation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to a 2013 transportation survey, 49 percent of University and Hospital employees and 84 percent of off-campus students arrive on campus via a means other than a single-occupant vehicle. Employees commute an average of 14 miles to campus and students an average of seven miles. The 9,000 students who live on campus avoid the need to commute altogether.
Since fare-free transit for the entire community was implemented in 2002, bus ridership has more than doubled from 3 million to 6 million trips annually. Per capita bus ridership is among the highest in the country. In 2009, the Town of Chapel Hill was recognized as the Most Livable Small City in the country by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in large part because of the bus system. The University contributes more than $6 million annually, or 60 percent of total local costs, to support Chapel Hill Transit in partnership with the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Chapel Hill Transit is the second largest transit system in North Carolina, serving a 160-square-mile service territory.
UNC has committed to making Carolina North accessible as well. Plans have been completed for a 3.25 mile campus-to-campus connector, selected for its low cost, flat topography, and convenient location. The Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen have added the project to their priority lists for the 2014-2020 NCDOT Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
Commuter Alternatives Program
Participation in UNC’s Commuter Alternatives Program (CAP), increased to 7,602 members in FY 2009, more than double the number enrolled in FY 2004. Members pledge to arrive on campus via a means other than a single-occupancy vehicle. Ten park and ride lots provide 3,800 free parking spaces conveniently located along bus routes approaching campus from all directions. Chapel Hill Transit buses are equipped with bike racks for those who want wheels at their destination.
CAP participants are eligible to receive emergency rides home, complimentary annual bus passes from Triangle Transit, discounts from local merchants, and a voucher to park on campus once a month. CAP members also receive subsidies for participating in vanpools, preferential parking for carpools, and discounted hourly parking in the Rams Head parking deck.CAP members save at least $500 annually by purchasing a CAP membership. The University also benefits, avoiding the cost of constructing new parking spaces that start at a minimum of $20,000 per space.
Two Bike Master Plans are being developed concurrently. The same designer is under contract to the University and the Town of Chapel Hill. The UNC effort, led by Facilities Planning in partnership with Public Safety, is focused on improving bike circulation, infrastructure, and parking on campus. The Town plan seeks to create a more connected bicycle network and make biking safer throughout the community.
New bike infrastructure on campus already includes bike racks, lockers, and showers accessible from the courtyard of the Genome Sciences Building. Bike racks are located within 50 feet of all residence halls, libraries, and classroom and administrative buildings. In addition, during the 2012-2013 school year, 37 new bike racks were installed on campus, bringing total bike parking capacity to 5,464. An interactive map of bike racks, showers, bike lanes, and bike pumps is available through Engineering Information Services.
The University’s first bicycle share program, Tar Heel Bikes, was launched by students in August 2012. Tar Heel Bikes provides 30 bicycles for free, short-term loan to residents of Hinton James, Ehringhaus, and Craige. During the first semester, 3,400 total check-outs demonstrated an enthusiastic response. After a two-year pilot, the program will be evaluated for potential experience.