The mobility of the canton's "second city" under the microscope

 2011 EPFL
2011 EPFL

No less than 25000 people travel between the University of Lausanne and EPFL in the week, making the two campuses the canton’s second largest city in the daytime. In parallel with Mobility Week, a study based on surveys conducted over eight years is giving a new insight into commuter behavior.

EPFL and the University of Lausanne form an integral part of the Lausanne-Morges urban area, attracting thousands to the campus every day by public transport, by car, on two wheels and even on foot. During term time, no less than 150000 kilometers are travelled by train and 83000 kilometers by car every day for EPFL. The annual mobility survey (Rumba) provides EPFL and the University of Lausanne with a vast repository of data concerning transport users. The urban and regional planning community (CEAT) has analyzed these results to give a new spatial representation of the campus commuting patterns. The maps help to determine the provenance of students and employees, the distances traveled and the modes of transport used, as well as how status, age and gender influence mobility-related behavior.

Both universities have experienced almost unbroken growth in their student populations. This trend has proved particularly strong in the last few years. Between 2005 and 2010, the University of Lausanne’s headcount increased from 10800 to 12200 (13%), while the EPFL headcount rose from 8700 to 10500 (20%). In 2010, 56% of the respondents indicated that they used public transport, while 21% chose a form of soft mobility (6% on foot, 15% by bike) to reach one of the two sites. Seventy percent of the population using these sites lives in the Lausanne agglomeration during the week. An increase in the use of public transport and soft mobility (pedestrians and cyclists) and a reduction in individual motorized transport have also been recorded. This development is observed for all users, irrespective of their status, age or place of residence. Although car use is in decline, it is still largely responsible for the 30 tons of carbon dioxide emitted for EPFL alone: 88% of the CO² burden comes from exhaust.

As the authors indicate, “the two universities’ mobility policy is a success. In a period of strong growth, across all the modes of transport, public transport is on the rise. All the measures taken have enabled the flow of commuters to be contained and managed, in particular using a set of fine measurements”. These measurements include the successful introduction of a quarter-hour time-lag in the start time of courses between the University of Lausanne and EPFL to eliminate the maximum peaks. Similarly, the 4.5% increase in the number of cycle journeys from 2007 to 2010 has been maintained, which is due in particular to the construction of thousands of secure parking spaces, the launch of the first self-service cycle system in Switzerland, the establishment of a cycle station on each campus for repairs and to cycle campaigns such as “Bike to work” and “Mobility weeks”.

Although the elasticity of the existing transport system has so far enabled the strong growth of the campus to be absorbed by many adjustments, it is also observed that a threshold is being reached. Mobility policy questions are therefore a key issue for the universities, the cantonal and regional transport and mobility services and the Lausanne public transport system.

Download the summary of the EPFL-University of Lausanne Commuter Mobility analysis by CEAT—spatial analysis (PDF - French)

Download the full report on EPFL-University of Lausanne Commuter Mobility by CEAT—spatialized analysis (French)