UBC’s multi-modal transportation systems

Transportation represents one of the most pressing challenges facing municipalities as they seek to achieve climate change goals. The Urban Data Lab (UDL) is contributing to solutions on transportation by developing a multimodal travel demand model for the University of British Columbia (UBC) Vancouver Campus.


UBC has nearly 80,000 students, faculty, staff, and residents.  It has been chosen due to its very unique context as an urban center as much as it is a place of study. The University is one of the largest in North America by building stock and population, and the only university in Canada that is administratively managed as its own municipality. It is also one of few universities in North America that has set out to develop its own permanent residential community which operates independently from the university’s academic units. By 2020, it is expected that the permanent residential population living in UBC-operated properties will exceed 20,000, with further growth expected by 2025. In addition, UBC’s Campus as a Living Lab platform is a structured programme that allows academic researchers to directly study and influence the development of the campus’ buildings, transport, energy systems and masterplan. UBC is one of few universities globally where researchers can undertake applied studies of urban development with few barriers to entry and a reliable pathway to impact. It is a perfect testing ground for developing and testing new data-driven climate adaptation solutions before translating them to the larger municipalities of the province. 


Transportation related congestion is one of the primary challenges faced by growing municipalities, and UBC is no exception. In discussions with policymakers, planners, faculty, staff and students, the time required to get to campus is increasing – the “externalities” associated with congestion are growing. Waiting times at bus stops, time spent in a vehicle, and increasing costs of parking are some of the growing issues we see and hear anecdotally at the UBC campus. 

To begin to explore the issues of congestion on campus the UDL, through the use of UBC-collected and open-sourced spatial and non-spatial transportation data, is developing the ability to examine “what-if” scenarios of UBC’s multi-modal transportation systems. Some of the initial “what if” scenarios include but are not limited to:  

  1. 1. What if we linked the UBC campus with the Canada Line? 

  1. 2. What if we increased the Rapid Bus program? 

  1. 3. What if we increase the cost of parking on campus? 

The UBC transportation model will consider the future transportation needs of the UBC campus, and support decision-making regarding campus transport solutions and reducing negative transportation-related environmental, social and economic externalities. In our modelling work, the next steps are to develop UBC’s travel model, based on the Translink General Transit Feed Specification, Campus and Community Planning Annual Transportation Survey and UBC parking data.   



We are actively seeking research participants among the UBC Faculty, Staff, Students and Visitors to help us fill critical data gaps about transportation on campus. If you are part of the UBC Vancouver campus stakeholders, please leave your what-if scenario(s) or any comment about our work. 

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