The University of Illinois Chicago, located just west of downtown, is served by multiple CTA buses and trains, including the CTA Blue and Pink Lines. The East Campus is located three quarters of a mile from the two Metra West Loop commuter rail stations.
UIC participates in the U-PASS Program, which, for a modest fee, provides full-time students with unlimited access to CTA. For Metra riders, the UPASS program provides a LinkUp pass so they can transfer to a CTA bus for free. The university also provides annual Divvy bikeshare memberships discounted to $75 for all UIC students, faculty, and staff to facilitate transit connections, and offers pre-tax transit benefits to all employees.
UIC worked closely with transportation agencies on improving the nearby transit stations to make them more appealing to riders. For example, at the Peoria Street station UIC collaborated on design; to increase the station’s attractiveness, UIC added green landscaping, and increased safety of pedestrian road crossings. Campus leaders also worked to increase room for the Divvy station to reduce consumption of sidewalk real estate. Part of the improvement to an Interchange Project required IDOT to plant trees in the project area. UIC worked with IDOT to identify sites on campus to plant approximately 80 trees per year over the course of the five-year project, which will increase the appeal of walking to transit.
UIC is one of 600 colleges and universities that have committed to making their campuses carbon neutral. The university has added climate resilience planning to its efforts, and is one of two schools in the Chicago region with that level of commitment. To guide its actions UIC developed a Climate Action Implementation Plan, and one of six core strategies is: Reduced Transportation-Related Emissions.
UIC periodically conducts transportation studies, partly to document greenhouse gas emissions, which the campus has reported publicly since 2008. The only way to document the emissions footprint for transportation is to survey students, faculty, and staff on commute patterns. A study completed in May 2018 showed that while most students use transit, the majority of faculty and staff drive alone. Commuters driving to UIC are responsible for 27,166 metric tons of CO2 emissions from automobiles, which comprises 77 percent of the university’s transportation emissions from commuting.
To achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, UIC is committed to increasing the share of non-polluting modes. UIC conducted a commuting study that identified strategies for improving the climate profile of student and employee travel modes. While the rates at which survey respondents take public transportation is relatively higher than the average rate of Chicago residents, the school still seeks to increase use of transit, biking and walking further to reach sustainability goals. This may include adjusting parking costs, which are currently below market values, and not adding to or replacing its parking stock.
While the University does not have much jurisdiction over issues such as expanding CTA and Metra train lines, it can encourage partnerships with transit agencies to make riding transit easier and cost competitive. Many survey respondents indicated their high satisfaction with the CTA/UIC transit pass partnership and would like to see a similar partnership with Metra to expand transit options. To facilitate increased bicycle use, including last-mile rides from transit stations, the university will increase its bike rack capacity, including allocating space for indoor bicycle parking.