EPFL Mobility Survey

Since 2003, EPFL carries out an annual mobility survey on students and staff. This survey aims to observe and understand the evolution of EPFL students and staff mobility practices, and to assess the environmental footprint generated by commuting to and from the campus.

Moving around the EPFL campus © Alain Herzog

The results of the 2021 survey of EPFL mobility practices* reveal that almost 80% of commuters use public transport or green and active mobility (walk, bike), a figure down from 2019 but promising when the impact of the Covid-19 health crisis is taken into account.

Public transport is, as in 2019, the most used mode of transport, although it has registered a sharp decline. This decrease is probably strongly related to the health crisis of Covid-19. However, taking into account the people’s will to use public transport once the crisis gone, the proportion of people using it remains lower than in 2019. The downward trend in car use, which was visible in recent years, especially among staff, has been reversed in 2021 (increase of 3 points for staff). However, the modal share of the car seems to return to the 2019 value when looking at behavioral intention once the health policies are lifted. Walking and biking saw a marked increase in 2021, especially among students (7 and 8 point increases, respectively).

Translation: Evolution of the modal split between 2005 and 2021 (in red, Public transportation; in orange, Cars&motorbikes; in blue, green active transportation modes: biking in light blue and walking in black)

Participation, provenance, arrival and departure

Approximately 33% of the respondents answered the survey, i.e. some 5’600 persons (34% of the staff and 32% of the students). A pleasing increase of 3.6 points compared to the last survey in 2019.

We learn that 64% of people come to the Ecublens campus from Lausanne or one of the four surrounding communes. Arrival times in 2021 were less concentrated than in 2019, with 39% of respondents arriving between 7:45 and 8:30 a.m. (versus 54% in 2019). Departures were, as in 2019, more spread out than arrivals, with the majority falling between 5:00 and 7:00 pm.

Modal split in 2021

What is the preferred means of transportation for campus users remains the central question justifying this mobility survey. The answer seems to slightly change depending on the status. Public transport remains at the top of the list, although this mode has seen a clear decline in 2021. This decrease is observed for both staff and students, with 33% and 42% of use respectively.

Students are 4% to use the car, compared to 33% of staff, in favor of sustainable mobility (94% vs 64%). Staff also used cars more in 2021 compared to 2019 (33% vs. 30%). Between 2003 and 2021, there was a gradual increase in walking (4% to 16%) and biking (13% to 26%), particularly among students.

Translation: Modal split in 2021 – Real behaviour – Students (in red, Public transportation; in orange, motorbikes; in blue, cars; in light blue, biking; in black, walking; in bordeaux, other)

Changes in transportation mode

When looking at the reasons for changing the mode of transportation used from 2019, the most frequently cited reasons are Covid-19, flexibility (schedules and routes), wellness/health, and moving. For the expected change between behavior once the measures are lifted and 2019, wellness/health comes out on top, ahead of flexibility and moving. Covid-19 is mentioned less frequently. For reasons specific to Covid-19, avoiding spreading the virus (71% actual, 72% hypothetical) and fear of catching the virus (57% actual, 61% hypothetical) were or would be the main reasons for changing behavior. Frequency of travel was mentioned by only one in five respondents.

Use of mobility services

Of the mobility services offered on campus, PubliBike is the most used, especially by students who are 46% using it compared to 27% of staff members. However, the proportion using PubliBike has decreased significantly compared to 2019 (66% and 34%). Conversely, Mobility is used more often by staff (26% versus 13%). The BikeCenter services, which were used by a slightly higher proportion than in 2019 (17% to 20%), show a high level of satisfaction, whether for the services offered, the quality of the service or the range of products offered (respectively 8.9, 8.8 and 7.4 average).

Intermodality/multimodality and carpooling

More than one in five respondents (21%) report traveling to campus using multiple modes of transportation and 23% plan to do so once the measures are lifted. Most of them combine walking with public transportation (intermodality), or alternate between cycling and public transportation (multimodality). Carpooling, on the other hand, is still not very attractive, since the majority (78%) of people who drive to EPFL are single drivers in their vehicles; this is particularly true for staff, since this proportion is as high as 81%.

* Survey conducted in collaboration with the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS).

Previous results, 2003-2019

A public database, with all the results of the EPFL mobility surveys between 2003 and 2019, has been established by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS)

The files are available for download:

Information and citations: [email protected]


[email protected]

EPFL Sustainability
BS 101 (BS building)
Station 4
CH-1015 Lausanne