EPFL mobility survey

Campus Piéton © Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
Campus Piéton © Niels Ackermann / Lundi13

Since 2003, a biennial mobility survey has been carried out by Sustainability EPFL within the EPFL community in order to understand the evolution of mobility practices, assess the need for new infrastructures, evaluate satisfaction with the mobility services currently offered, and estimate the environmental impact of commuting.

Key results 2023 

In 2023, some 27% of respondents (33% in 2021) completed the survey, representing some 4,700 people. The study reveals that almost 80% of commuters in the EPFL community use a sustainable mode of transport, i.e. public transport and/or active mobility: 95% among students and 63% among staff.

  • Attendance: Compared to 2021, a year characterized by Covid-19, attendance at the School has increased significantly. Among participants who regularly visited EPFL, 36% (students and staff) visited the campus every day in 2021, while this figure rises to 46% for staff and 73% for students in 2023. Despite the end of the pandemic and a return to a normal situation as in 2019, attendance at the School has fallen, especially for staff who are relying more on flexible working arrangements.
  • Peak hours: More than two-thirds of students (69%) and staff (67%) arrive on campus between 07:45 and 09:00, with peaks between 07:45 and 08:15, at 08:30 and at 09:00. Departures are more spread out than arrivals, particularly for students, where the three times with the most departures are 17:00, 18:00 and 19:00, whereas for staff, they are mostly divided into four peaks, occurring every half-hour between 17:00 and 18:30.
  • Origin-Destination: As in previous surveys, the vast majority of respondents (99% of students and 90% of staff) mention the Lausanne campus as their main destination. The remaining participants are divided between the Biotech campus in Geneva (2%), EPFL Valais/Wallis (2%), Microcity in Neuchâtel (1%), and other destinations such as BlueFACTORY in Fribourg or the Observatoire de Sauverny (< 1%). The most frequent points of departure are close to the EPFL main campus. Thus, 57% of respondents live in Lausanne or in one of the four surrounding communes.
  • Busiest stations: The vast majority of participants who take the train to get to the main campus stop at Renens station (78%). The second station is Lausanne (10%) and the third is the LEB station at Flon (7%).
  • Distance and travel times: The average and median distances travelled per trip were 15.2 km and 6 km respectively. The average and median journey times were 32 and 23 minutes respectively.

Within the EPFL community (students and staff), the most popular transport mode remains public transport (46%), with a significant increase compared to 2021, a year marked by health restrictions. However, in comparison with 2019, this mode is slightly down (-3% points). The second most popular mode of transport in this survey is active mobility (walking and cycling) (33%), followed by individual motorized transport (car, scooter or motorcycle) (21%). Walking and cycling are lower than in 2021 (11% and 22% respectively in 2023, compared with 16% and 26% in 2021), but remain stable compared with 2019. The use of individual motorized transport, particularly the car, has increased compared to 2019 (from 18% to 21%), and slightly increased compared to 2021 (21% vs. 20%).

As in previous editions, the results for 2023 show that, unlike employees, students rarely use individual motorised transport (5%). This proportion remains stable compared to 2021 and 2019. The year 2021 witnessed a rise in active mobility among students, with walking and cycling accounting for more than half of all journeys (22% and 30%). These levels fell in 2023, but remain higher than in 2019 (24% and 17%, compared with 22% and 15%). As for public transport, its use in 2023 (54%) was significantly higher than in 2021 (42%), but lower than in 2019 (57%).

While 95% of the student community uses a sustainable type of transport, only 63% of EPFL staff do so. Staff are more likely to use private motorised vehicles (34% cars and 3% motorised two-wheelers). This share remains more or less stable, but increases slightly from 2019, rising from 32% to 35% in 2021, then to 37% in 2023. The proportion using public transport as a mode of transport is slightly higher than in 2021 (37% compared with 33%), but lower than in 2019 (37% compared with 40%). The proportion of active mobility in 2023 is lower than in 2021 (26% compared with 31%) and slightly smaller than in 2019 (26% compared with 27%).

Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said that they regularly use several modes of transport, a number that is slightly higher than in 2021 (21%) and 2019 (22%). Overall, half of those who reported using several modes of transport use intermodal transport and the other half use multimodal transport. Staff members are more inclined to alternate between modes of transportation, while students are more likely to combine multiple modes for the same trip. The most popular intermodality is walking combined with public transport. The most common multimodality is alternating between cycling and public transport for students, while for employees it is public transport and the car that are most often alternated.

2003-2023 trend 

The mobility survey has been conducted at EPFL for the past 20 years, providing insight into mobility habits which have evolved significantly over the last few decades.

Note: 2017 has been excluded from some figures due to the different nature of the questions.

Between 2003 and 2023, the share of active mobility (cycling and walking) as a key mode of transport almost doubled (from 17% to 33%), with a modal share in 2003 of 4% for walking and 13% for cycling, compared with 11% and 22% respectively in 2023. Since then, the number of bicycles has exceeded the number of cars (3,929 compared with 3,402). However, there has been a slight drop in these means of transport compared with 2021 (26% for bicycles and 16% for walking), which was very popular during the pandemic. This overall increase in active mobility over the previous two decades has been supported by EPFL’s promotion of cycling, with more than 1,100 new cycle racks added between 2017 and 2023. In addition, the revision of the parking policy in 2017 and the construction of student residences close to the campus have also helped to encourage the transition to sustainable modes of transport.

The modal share of public transport as a means of travelling to the campus increased between 2003 and 2013 (when the highest proportion of its use was 58%) and has fallen gradually since then, reaching 46% in 2023. This decline is more pronounced for students (from 63% to 57% between 2017 and 2019) than for staff. This decrease can be attributed to the saturation of public transportation and the growing popularity of active modes of transport.

Over the last two decades, the use of individual motorised transport at EPFL has fallen sharply, from 38% to 21%. This shift in behaviors is most striking among employees, who reduced their number of car trips from 50% to 34% between 2003 and 2023. Among students, the proportion declined dramatically, from 17% to 3% throughout the same period.

It is also important to note that the proportion of the population using several means of transport (multimodality or intermodality) has increased significantly (up 19 points in 20 years, from 4% to 23%) and now represents the second most frequent mode of transport, after public transport as the single mode of travel (34%).

Mobility services on campus

The Mobility Survey has conducted a satisfaction survey among the mobility services offered at EPFL.

Among the mobility services offered by EPFL, the proportion of respondents using the Point Vélo increased significantly in 2023 compared with 2021 (26% compared with 20%) and exceeded that for PubliBike (22% compared with 37%). Point Vélo is the service most used not only by students but also by staff. The majority of respondents used the repair services offered by the Point Vélo (77%), with a high level of satisfaction with the advice and expertise provided by the people working in the service (83% of respondents had a satisfaction level of between 8 and 10).

The other mobility services associated with bikes, namely PubliBike and the EPFL’s cargobikes, are more popular among students than among staff (29% versus 15% and 5% versus 1%), who are more likely to use car-related services: Mobility car-sharing (12%) and the GO FAST or Eaton (formerly GreenMotion) charging stations. Another mobility service is the Lausanne transport (tl) sales point: 12% of respondents said they had used it, mainly to buy regional season tickets (68%), making it the third most popular mobility service.

  • In terms of bike and motorbike parking, respondents were most satisfied with the proximity of the spaces to the buildings, the accessibility of the spaces and their quality (lighting, size, etc.). On the other hand, most responders feel unsatisfied with theft and bad weather protection, as well as the number of accessible places.
  • For green car parks, the highest levels of satisfaction are with payment methods, the convenience of the purchasing platforms and the purchasing procedure. The occupancy rate is the element with the lowest level of satisfaction.

Among the 407 people who said they had or had had restricted mobility, 37% said they had encountered one or more obstacles when travelling around the campus. Stairs, the lack of access ramps or lifts, difficulties accessing buildings or lifts and unsuitable floor coverings were the obstacles encountered by the greatest number of people with reduced mobility, indicating that future improvements are required.

Carpooling appears difficult to gain popularity, with the vast majority of people (75%) driving to EPFL alone. This trend is more pronounced among employees (77%) than students (54%). 2% of employees carpool with someone other than their family, compared to 3% of students in 2023. In 2021, the proportion was substantially higher at 11%, up from 3% of students.

*Surveys conducted in association with the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS).

Results 2003-2023

The Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS) has created a public database with the results of every EPFL transportation survey from 2003 to 2023.

The following data files are available for download:


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