UC Davis has a long history of leadership on transportation. Early world-class investments in campus bike facilities and the citywide Unitrans bus system have led to impressive rates of bicycling and transit use, particularly among undergraduates. Today, only one in four members of the UC Davis community drive alone to campus – a remarkably low rate. Many institutions would be satisfied with that figure. To their credit, however, UC Davis leaders look at the 25 percent drive-alone mode share and see an opportunity. To seize this opportunity, UC Davis is committed to designing new strategies that improve the travel experience for the campus community that fit with the campus culture, while also striving to reduce daily congestion, impacted parking, vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.

UC Davis is undergoing a transportation planning process called Transportation Tomorrow to understand the needs of the community and the possibilities for positive change within the system. The Transportation Tomorrow plan will serve as a roadmap for how UC Davis structures their transportation programming, policy, and infrastructure.

What is the goal?

The goal is to support healthy commutes, as defined below:

  • Healthy for People: Transportation Tomorrow will promote walking, bicycling, and transit over single occupancy travel; use of these modes correlates with physical health, mental health, and financial health for individuals.
  • Healthy for the Environment: Transportation Tomorrow will reduce harmful emissions and greenhouse gasses, and contribute to productive uses of prime campus real estate aligned with the institution’s learning and research goals.
  • Healthy for the Institution: Transportation Tomorrow will reduce capital expenses and debt service related to parking to reduce fiscal risk and prepare the institution to respond to potentially different transportation patterns in the future.

Why is it important?

Two trends are converging to change UC Davis commute patterns. First, is the reality of growth. With a growing state population, and state mandates to admit top-achieving students and qualified community college transfer students, the student population continues to increase. More students necessitates more staff and faculty. The UC Davis Long Range Development Plan seeks to prepare for this growth, including housing more students on campus. Additional staff and faculty, though, will not live on campus. Projections show that if their drive-alone commute ratio remains the same as today – or if it in fact increases – then more parking facilities would be needed to accommodate those private vehicles.

Meanwhile, housing costs have increased dramatically in the City of Davis. Where faculty and staff could once count on being able to buy or rent a home in town if they so desired, they now are more likely to find housing in the greater region – in many cases, not accessible by bicycle or transit. If no other action is taken, housing prices are likely to lead to longer commutes that likely would be taken more often than not by car.

This convergence has resulted in campus parking infrastructure nearly reaching capacity. Accommodating so many new vehicles will eventually compromise the financial and environmental sustainability goals of the campus.

How does this improve people’s lives?

As a major economic hub in the region, UC Davis long term planning has far-reaching effects. Creating systems to serve UC Davis affiliates contributes to transportation, economic, and quality of life investments throughout the region. UC Davis is ambitious in its environmental sustainability goals. One of the core goals of the Transportation Tomorrow planning is to meet robust environmental and GHG reduction goals. Those who commute to UC Davis from across the region are usually those who cannot afford housing in Davis. By listening to those affiliates, planning for their needs, and increasing transportation options, UC Davis is contributing to their economic and health needs. This is an important equity issues within the UC Davis community.

What is Valley Vision’s role?

UC Davis has prioritized community engagement as their guiding star for moving through the Transportation Tomorrow planning process. Valley Vision is facilitating the community engagement process, ensuring that the campus community has the opportunity, through a variety of means, to learn about the initiative and weigh in on their needs and priorities. So far, engagement activities have ranged from stakeholder workshops to participatory research in classrooms, to pop up events and more. Valley Vision will continue to facilitate engagement as the planning progresses to test ideas, reach new audiences, and communicate about plans and activities.

What is our desired impact?

Valley Vision and UC Davis are shepherding an engagement and communication strategy with the following goals in mind:

  • Educate and inform: Ensure that the UC Davis community is aware of both the efforts being made and the reason for the work.
  • Inform strategies and goals: Build our transportation system to meet the needs of the users by understanding the community’s needs and desires.


Planning started in January 2017 and work will continue through 2018.

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