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Staff Travel Planning - Steps to Success: A Case Study - The University of Dundee by Merry Scott, Travel Plan Co-ordinator, Dundee City Council & Alan Tough and Allan Watson, Estates and Buildings, University of Dundee - Dundee Meeting of 21st February 2006

Merry began this joint presentation with an explanation of the concept of travel planning and the travel planning process. Travel planning has been introduced against a background of an ever-growing car-dependent culture resulting in increasing traffic, increasing cost to businesses and society and a less attractive environment. Dundee City Council has initiated Travel Plans in partnership with the University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital, and Scottish Enterprise Tayside. The Plans aim to provide a pro-active response to today's transport problems by promoting travel choices - public transport, walking, car sharing, cycling and working from home.

So why should an organization adopt a travel plan? Typical carrot and stick issues may include parking constraints, accessibility issues, costs, employee benefits, development opportunity and enhancement of the organization's image. Travel plans have the potential to benefit employees, employers and the environment.

The travel plan process consists of researching the problems and opportunities, writing the travel plan, implementing the agreed measures, marketing the idea, monitoring the outcome and evaluating success. Research may include a site survey and a travel habits survey. Action may include a mix of hard measures (e.g. increased parking charges or restrictions) and soft measures (e.g. the introduction of flexi-time or homeworking, the provision of showers and changing facilities). All of these need to be adequately resourced through the provision of staff time and funding, to support both the introduction and the ongoing facilitation of the initiatives. Realistic targets and timescales should be set for future evaluation.

Following on from Merry's enthusiastic presentation, Alan Tough and Allan Watson (who both sit on the Travel Plan Steering Group, which includes staff and students) gave their impressions of the Travel Plan from the perspective of the university. Both acknowledged the invaluable assistance provided by Dundee City Council, and Merry in particular, and gave their wholehearted support to the Council in this venture.

The university has approximately 18,000 students and 3,500 staff, and the main campus is located close to Dundee city centre, resulting in traffic and parking problems. The university was attracted to the concept of a Travel Plan to complement its Environmental Policy and Campus Development Plan (involving the construction of new buildings on the main campus). Alan outlined the process involved, spanning from the formation of a working group in December 2003, to the approval and introduction of the plan in 2004/05, to the implementation of a spot survey in February 2006.

The Travel Plan aimed to: reduce the number of single occupant car journeys by 10%; increase the commuter walking in postcode areas DD1,2 and 3 by 20% and cycle journeys by 10%; reduce car use for University business trips by10%; and increase use of Public Transport by 15%.

Focussing on Dundee, a travel habits survey conducted before the plan was written showed that 53% of staff drove to work on their own, whilst the most popular mode of travel for students was walking (33%). Of the staff interviewed: 21% would consider car sharing, 22% would consider public transport, 19% would consider cycling to work, 10% would consider walking, and 68% of staff would welcome working from home. Of the students interviewed: 26% would consider car sharing, 22% would consider public transport, 35% would consider cycling, 15% would consider walking, and 38% of students would welcome distance learning.

Once the University's Campus Services Committee approved the plan, Merry was heavily involved in the marketing and promotion of the plan to raise awareness amongst staff and students. Newsletters, posters and leaflets were produced, a Travel Plan Roadshow was run, the plan was linked into national promotions, and Lorraine Kelly was persuaded to champion the cause.

The university is heavily committed to the Plan, contributing staff time and providing finance to support promotional activities etc. Initiatives have included: the "Urban Ramblers" walking groups, developed by the Institute of Sports and Exercise to develop structured health walks for staff and students; joining www.dundeeliftshare.com; promoting the use of public transport through better information on bus services; establishing a Bicycle Users' Group (BUG), providing showering and bike storage facilities and safer cycle routes; and amending parking charges and availability.

So has it worked? A spot check on staff has provided evidence of modal shift - the percentage of staff travelling alone by car had reduced from 53% to 42% and the number walking had increased from 8% to 14%. Similar changes (a reduction from 24% to 16%, and an increase from 33% to 44% respectively) were recorded in those students surveyed. However, whereas there had been no change in the percentage of staff travelling by public transport (16%), disconcertingly, the number of students had decreased from 25% to 16%. This may be because a higher percentage of the students surveyed, compared to the previous year, lived within comfortable walking distance of the campus. Regrettably Travel Plan developments at the university's other campus at Ninewells Hospital have been less successful to date.

The Plan has brought benefits to the main campus - individuals are benefitting from cost savings and improved health by walking and cycling; more car parking spaces are available (although there may be some displacement onto neighbouring streets; and there are environmental benefits through reduced emissions. However, those involved with the Travel Plan are not resting on their laurels, with proposals to continue to monitor and develop the University's Travel Plan, and to roll out the model to other sites across Dundee.

Report by Marion Mackay .

 

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