Mobility

Mobility is an important theme for Utrecht University. In the context of education and research, staff and students travel daily to one or more university locations and regularly to events abroad. Mobility therefore accounts for a quarter of the university’s carbon footprint. The university wants to continue to facilitate travel for education and research as much as possible, but also wants to work on minimising emissions. In the Utrecht Science Park Ambition Document (see chapter 4), the organisation has formulated goals for sustainable mobility. The most important points:

  • Bicycle, pedestrian and public transport come first. That is why the university works to provide good and safe cycle paths and sufficient parking facilities for bikes.

  • Fewer and cleaner cars, parking on the edges of campus and good facilities for electric cars, such as charging stations.

With the Anders Reizen project, the university is reducing emissions from air travel.

Indicators

Together, the chosen indicators provide a picture of sustainable mobility at the university. This concerns both mobility in the context of business operations and commuting of employees to and from work. To gain an insight into emissions from commuting, car use in the Utrecht Science Park (USP) is counted annually. The university wants car use to account for no more than 20% of all commuting between home and work in 2020. In addition, the number of charging stations for electric cars is counted. Both the university’s company cars and employees’ cars can be charged here.

As far as business operations are concerned, the CO² strategy target for Utrecht University’s vehicle fleet is to be emission-free in 2020. This is tracked using the ‘emission-free cars’ indicator: cars that do not emit greenhouse gases in the use phase. In subsequent editions, data on air travel will be added.

KPIs for measuring sustainable mobility

8.1 Emission-free cars

In 2019, seven new electric cars were added to the university’s leased car fleet. These are all cars that the University’s Facility Service Centre (FSC) rents from a leasing company. At the end of 2019, eight of the twelve cars (67%) in the leased car fleet were fully electric. In 2018, the figure was 8%. The aim is to have only emission-free cars in the university’s fleet by 2020 (as laid down in the CO2 strategy 2017-2020). The indicator measures how many cars the FSC leases and what proportion of them are 100% electric. The FSC will replace current cars with electric cars when the lease contract expires. Almost all non-electric car contracts expire in 2020.

For the time being, vehicles managed by faculties and De Tolakker farm (part of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) fall outside the scope of this indicator. In 2019, there were a total of another 24 vehicles (2018: 26). Because these are vehicles that perform heavier (farm) work, these vehicles are generally difficult to electrify. However, the fuel used by these work and farm vehicles is included in the university’s carbon footprint.

8.2 Number of employees travelling to Utrecht University by car

22% of the employees in the USP travel to work by car. This is an increase from the 20% in 2018, with the reason that more complete data is available this year. This data comes from the parking management system of the UU and P+R Utrecht Science Park. On the busiest day of the year more than 1,300 of the 6,042 UU employees park their cars in the USP. There seems to be no decline. Student car use is not included because it is a negligible proportion of the total (2% of students according to the mobility study, 2017).

The percentage corresponds with the outcome of the mobility survey of DTV Consultants from 2017, i.e. 23% of the employees. Another research agency (&Morgen) carried out a similar survey in 2017 into what percentage of employees in the city centre and University College (UCU) travel by car. This was 6%. No parking data is available for the city centre and UCU.

8.3 Charging points for electric cars in the USP

The university installs charging stations for electric cars to facilitate and promote the use of electric cars (by the UU and its employees). In 2019, 32 smart charging stations were added. These smart charging stations can both charge and discharge cars. These charging stations are part of the Smart Solar Charging project (see below under ‘Activities 2019’). The user data of these charging stations will be added as an indicator in the 2020 Sustainability Report. There are also 28 charging stations in the public P+R and 4 at Utrecht University Medical Centre (UMCU). At present, the UU has not yet formulated a target for the number of charge points in the coming years

Activities 2019:

1) Reduction of business air travel

  • The UU launched the Anders Reizen campaign on 5 November 2019. The goal: 50% less flying by 2030 by actively encouraging employees to make more use of digital resources for collaboration and education.

2) Activities regarding commuter traffic

  • Together with UMCU, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, the Princess Maxima Centre and Nutricia Danone, the UU developed a carpool app for the USP in 2019. Unfortunately, the app did not pass the test phase and was not taken into use. In 2020, the parties still want to set up a ‘USP carpool community’.
  • The university organised promotional campaigns for (electric) bicycles: on the national Bicycle to Work Day on 23 May 2019 various suppliers offered bicycles at a discount in the USP. During Low Car Diet, 30 employees tried an e-bike for free for two weeks for their commute to work. One of the participants describes her experience:

On your bike to work, who wouldn't want that? Although 23 kilometres from Amersfoort is quite a distance on my ramshackle city bike... I was glad that during the Low Car Diet campaign I had the opportunity to try out an e-bike for two weeks, to see if this would be something for me. And it was definitely for me. To my great joy, I was then able to buy the bike for an attractive price. With the wind in my hair, accompanied by whistling birds, an hour of electric cycling isn't that long at all. And on the way back I take a small detour through the Soestduinen, to be able to leave the hustle and bustle of work behind me. I recommend it to everyone.

Sigrid Dekker, Communication officer University of Utrecht
  • In 2019 the tram (also known as ‘the Uithoflijn’) started to run. This improved travel convenience for employees travelling from Utrecht Central Station to the USP. Bus line 12, the busiest bus connection in the country, was removed from the timetable.
  • All UU employees receive a regular allowance for commuting expenses, regardless of the mode of transport used. This allowance has been increased from €0.06 to €0.10 per kilometre since 1 October 2019. This measure is more favourable for cyclists and public transport users, as motorists will pay a parking fee.

3) Emission-free cars and charging infrastructure

  • UU employees have been able to use WeDriveSolar electric shared cars for business trips since October 2019. The aim of this is that employees do not come to work in their own car because they need a car for a business appointment during the working day. The first business trips were made in 2019. The pilot will get more promotion in 2020. The Smart Solar Charging stations were officially opened on 16 October 2019. See also the press release.

Outlook 2020

1) Reduction of business air travel

  • A pilot is starting in which two travel agencies offer their services to employees of the university. The aim of this pilot is to learn how travel agencies can relieve employees of their worries when booking business travel and accommodation. Another important reason to work with a permanent travel agency is to gain better insight into travel movements of employees. Through the travel agency, the university can make sustainable travel the norm, for example by setting the train as the standard. This pilot will last a year and a half, with the aim of determining how and whether a European tender for a travel agency will be set up.
  • The Anders Reizen campaign continues. A lot of audiovisual equipment will be installed in 2020. This will enable researchers and lecturers to better communicate online with colleagues and contacts worldwide, reducing the need to physically visit each other. The Anders Reizen campaign focuses on reaching students and staff.
  • The university is starting to issue the Travel Green Grant to UU students who go on exchange. The green travel grant is a compensation scheme for the costs of sustainable travel to their destination.

 2) Commuting activities

  • As of 1 January 2020, the bicycle allowance has been increased from €1000 to €1500. This scheme allows employees to buy an (electric) bicycle tax-free. This bicycle scheme has been increased to give employees an extra incentive to come to work by (electric) bicycle.
  • ‘I cycle’ is a campaign that ran for three months from March 2020. Employees and students can save points in the ‘Ik fiets’ app by making bike rides. Due to the corona crisis (spring 2020), this campaign will be extended until October. Through this campaign, participants can also temporarily visit bicycle dealers to try out an e-bike free of charge for a number of weeks.

3) Emission-free cars and charging infrastructure

  • In the longer term, it is important to consider whether and how the charging infrastructure can be expanded.
  • The electric car sharing project will continue to be promoted and continued.