Sustainability

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Transportation accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse-gas emissions in Washington.


With the Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector (BGMC), the University of Washington (UW) and region are building upon a legacy of forward-thinking sustainability initiatives that have resulted in significant reductions in energy use and provided a multitude of environmental benefits.

The BGMC reduces our footprint

- 64,633,300 VMT avoided or reduced by 2033
- Annual average reduction of 3,231,665 VMT.
- Emissions reduced by 2033:
• 52,579,400 lbs. CO2e
• 1,766,900 lbs. CO.
• 135,500 lbs. nitrous oxides
• 193,000 lbs. hydrocarbons

Reducing energy use

The BGMC is one of the single most significant transportation investments left to be made on the UW Seattle campus to reduce energy use, air pollution and water pollution associated with vehicle transportation. This project builds on a long legacy of nationally recognized environmental leadership by the UW and out of Seattle, including commitments by both to aggressive Climate Action Plans focused on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Since 1989, single occupancy vehicle travel mode share for UW’s population of nearly 70,000 people has declined from 33% to 20% due to student and employee shifts to transit, walking and bicycling. UW Seattle commuters emit 7,318 fewer metric tons of CO2e per year as a result of UW’s transportation demand management programs. Since 2008, UW has reduced the vehicle miles traveled per employee from 5.54 miles/day to 4.03 miles/day – eliminating more than 40,000 daily vehicle-miles traveled by UW employees alone. Moreover, the average UW Seattle commuter emits 56% less CO2e than commuters of other large employers in King County, contributing to a decrease in CO2e emissions by more than 7% from 2008 to 2010.

Since 2000, the number of individuals commuting to UW by bicycle has more than doubled and pedestrian commuting has increased by 20%. In 2012, nearly 20,000 daily commuters walked or bicycled to campus. However, additional increases in walking and bicycling trips – including those linked to transit trips – cannot be accommodated on today’s Burke-Gilman Trail unless the BGMC is rapidly implemented.

The project responds to increased demand for more sustainable transportation choices with an accessible, quality, low carbon multimodal corridor within one of the largest urban centers in Seattle. The BGMC will further stimulate growth in travel modes that generate fewer or no greenhouse gas emissions and can reduce vehicle miles traveled by shortening travel distances and better connecting the places we live, work and play.

VMT and GHG reductions

  • - Facilitates mode shift required for the success of Sound Transit’s University of Washington (2016) and U-District (2020) light rail stations.
  • - Removes a major existing bottleneck in the regional bikeway network, allowing planned and projected mode shift to bicycling and walking to be realized.
  • - Enables the current trends in mode shift to bicycling and walking to continue by providing capcity for future non-motorized trips to and through the University Community Urban Center (UCUC).
  • - Provides a critical tool for the City and UW’s aggressive TDM and Climate Action Plans, which aim to change the transportation behavior of the region.
  • - Supports redevelopment and increased density of the UCUC, supporting land-use patterns known to reduce drive-alone trips and VMT.

Delivering environmental benefits

The Burke-Gilman Trail passes through several distinct habitats during its 1.7 mile journey through campus, including an arching native tree canopy, eddies of open space and lush public gardens, and more industrial open spaces. Bicycling or walking on the trail provides users with an opportunity to experience nature amidst an urban enclave.

The UW is committed to environmentally sustainable landscapes throughout its campus and the Burke-Gilman Trail corridor. In February 2011, the UW was certified as salmon-safe, becoming the largest salmon-safe certified institution in the state and recognizing our many years of hard work to put in place practices that contribute to salmon protection, including a campus-wide stormwater management program, innovative irrigation systems, and commitments to drought tolerant landscaping and integrated pest management.

As part of the BGMC, the UW will preserve mature and specimen trees wherever possible. Corridor planting design will be rooted in the particulars of the Pacific Northwest landscape, with site-specific, regionally appropriate and climate-adaptive plantings that require minimal maintenance and pose no risk to pedestrians and bicyclists. Invasive plants will be purged, allowing native pioneer species to thrive. Trail-adjacent open space will be embraced in an environmentally sensitive design that maintains significant trees while thinning the dense understory to improve sightlines for pedestrians and bicyclists on the trail.

By enabling more people to commute by green transportation modes, UW has avoided building 7,200 new parking spaces, which has saved as much as $280 million dollars in avoided construction costs and eliminated the need for more pavement.