Change Agent:
20 Years of Sustainability at UBC

Treading lightly

The transportation sector carries more than people and cargo — it also delivers a heavy dose of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for a quarter of worldwide and two-fifths of B.C.’s GHG emissions. Cleaner modes of transport are integral to ensuring a sustainable and healthy future in the face of increased urbanization; with nearly 140,000 trips made to and from UBC’s Vancouver campus each day, we are embracing a variety of sustainable transportation options.

UBC’s 2014 Transportation Plan set a bold target of having two-thirds (66 per cent) of trips to and from campus be made by walking, cycling or transit by 2040. We’re already on our way to reaching that goal: last year, 54 per cent of those commutes were made by foot, bike or bus. Our contributions to research and innovation beyond our campus are helping create a future where cities are livable, connected and mobile.

Future Travel

The transportation sector in B.C. is currently the single largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the province (39 per cent of all GHG in 2013). But we’ve got some of the country’s best minds working on changing that. The five-year Transportation Futures project, launched in May 2015, brings together an interdisciplinary research team to help identify pathways for cleaner air, land and domestic marine transportation in B.C. and Canada.

Hosted at our Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), and supported by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, the project engages researchers from UBC, alongside colleagues at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University. Together, these investigators are exploring how to build cleaner transportation through market and public policy, low and zero-carbon emissions infrastructures, and electric vehicles. By tackling this sector from all sides, the project is already creating new knowledge and technologies that will help revolutionize the way we move ourselves, and our goods, around the province.

Farther afield, rural communities across the globe are benefiting from new technologies being developed at UBC. In 2016, civil engineering professor Nemkumar Banthia led a project that piloted self-repairing smart-road technology along a 650-metre road in Thondebavi, a community near Bangalore, India. The technology, which has a 50-per-cent smaller carbon footprint and is more sustainable, helped Thondebavi gain its first paved connection to the country’s highway network.

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Smart, self-healing road connects rural communities

Smart, self-healing road connects rural communities

The wheels on the bus

Getting thousands of university students to and from campus, and doing so both efficiently and sustainably, has long been a priority for UBC. Enter the U-Pass program, in which a portion of student fees provides all undergrads and graduate scholars with a transit pass. U-Pass lightens their carbon footprints with unlimited transit trips throughout Metro Vancouver and discounts on the West Coast Express train.

Today, it’s a province-wide initiative, but the first U-Pass program started right here at UBC, alongside SFU, in 2003. Later, the program was expanded to high schools, colleges and universities across B.C. Since the adoption of the U-Pass program in 1997, daily transit trips to UBC’s Vancouver campus have quadrupled, from 19,000 per year to nearly 75,000.

There are currently four different car-shares available on the UBC Vancouver campus.





Sharing is caring

Thanks to the multitude of car-share options at UBC, environmentally conscious campus commuters don’t have to choose between convenience and conscience. There are currently four different car-shares available on campus, some of which have been around for decades. Students, staff, faculty and campus residents have an array of car-share options, including low-emissions Smart cars and hybrid cars. Currently, there are six Modo cars and two Zipcars available for roundtrips, and more than 20 campus parking lots where Car2Go and Evo cars can be found for one-way trips. In the Okanagan, an OGO car-share vehicle has been available at our UBC Okanagan campus since 2015.

Saddling Up

Emissions-free, fast and dependable — it’s no wonder that Vancouverites, and UBC community members, have embraced the trusty bicycle with a passion. For six years running, UBC’s participation in HUB Cycling’s annual Bike-to-Work Week has earned top honours for most kilometres cycled, the highest participation rate for a large organization and first place in the “Higher Education” category.

On campus, cyclists commune at the AMS Bike Co-op, founded in the spring of 1998 with help from the AMS Innovations Projects Fund and financial and staff support from Campus and Community Planning. The Co-op’s first goal was to create a fleet of 100 colourful yellow-and-purple bikes, available for use on campus in exchange for either a membership fee or six hours of volunteer time.

Jump in the pool

For commuters who prefer to make their trips to campus from behind the wheel, joining a carpool is one way to lighten their GHG load and reduce traffic congestion.

To make it easier for carpoolers, UBC allows multiple vehicles to be registered on the same parking pass, so friends can take turns at the wheel and save on parking costs. Commuters are also encouraged to join The Jack Bell Foundation’s UBC ride-share program, where drivers and riders in the region can connect to share rides to campus or join existing van pools.

As for our own operational fleet, which represents 46 per cent of UBC-owned vehicles on campus, we’re proud to have been awarded the first ever Platinum rating from E3 — a nation-wide program that helps organizations “green up” their fleets. Between 2011 and 2013, we cut our fleet’s GHG emissions by a quarter (217 tonnes) and increased our fuel efficiency by 16 per cent. Our Building Operations department, which runs 340 vehicles and motorized equipment, includes 16 electric smart cars, and we’re inspiring others to go electric. In 2013, through a partnership with Plug In BC, we debuted the first level-2 electric-vehicle charging stations in the province. These 18 charging stations, available to the general public, are capable of delivering about 20 kilometres of range per hour of charge.

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On the road at UBC: Smart Car Conversations — Adam McCluskey and Caroline Wong

On the road at UBC: Smart Car Conversations — Adam McCluskey and Caroline Wong

UBC is working to lighten your transportation footprint on campus and beyond.

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Story Credits

Special thanks to our story partners: The UBC Sustainability Initiative and Campus and Community Planning and the many units, departments, and faculties at UBC that helped contribute invaluable information on sustainability for this story.

Story team: UBC Communications & Marketing — Cindy Connor, online producer; Cynthia Deng, web developer assistant; Margaret Doyle, digital storyteller; Paul Joseph, UBC photographer; Michael Kam, web developer; Adrian Liem, manager, digital communications; Mark Pilon, communication designer; Jamil Rhajiak, digital communications specialist; Laura Stobbe, communication designer; Matt Warburton, manager, graphic design; Aida Viziru, web interaction designer. Content writer — Jessica Werb. Copy editor — David Leidl.

Published: May 2017