Focus Group Report


Seven focus groups were conducted between October 25, 2023 and November 3, 2023. The discussions took place virtually over Zoom. Each focus group was moderated by a facilitator. A separate person from the CSR took notes during each session. All sessions were recorded and transcribed.

During each session the facilitator introduced the study, described its goals and procedures and recorded consent from each participant. Participants were encouraged to turn their cameras on and contribute as much as they were willing. Each session was structured around the same questions that addressed the current modes of transportation participants use, their awareness of alternative or sustainable modes of transportation (ASMT) on campus, their attitudes toward them as well as the barriers and incentives of using alternative or sustainable modes of transportation.

The notes and transcriptions were later analyzed by a CSR analyst. Each notes document was read closely and coded for salient themes. The themes were later grouped into eight categories: definitions of ASMT, current methods of transportation and reasons for using them, awareness of ASMT around campus, benefits of using ASMT, barriers to using ASMT, attitudes toward ASMT, issues and pain points, and incentives and suggestions. The key findings for each theme for three participant groups, students, staff, and faculty, are presented in Table 1 below. Additionally, the table contains general comments about the participants’ activity levels and contributions.


Table 1: Key Findings

General CommentsThe students were the most active during discussions, contributing their opinions to each question and making substantive comments and suggestions.

They also most actively discussed a balance between their individual needs and societal and environmental goals.
Staff discussions were the shortest, participants tended to talk less and skip answering questions. They seemed to be more set in their travel routines and less open to changing them or thinking about alternatives.Faculty were more specific in their answers, sharing their experiences, but engaging less in the topics of sustainability. They found questions somewhat repetitive and sometimes chose not to answer if they already commented on something similar before.
Definitions of ASMTASMT includes economic and social aspects, something more affordable, which can transport more than one person and is good for the environment, involving no gas, less gas, or ways that do not contribute to emissions (e.g., walking or biking).ASMT means getting somewhere without using one’s individual car and having less environmental impact.ASMT includes buses, shuttles, electric cars, e-bikes, but not walking or scooters.
Exemplary quotes for definitions“I hear the phrase sustainable transportation, I think of it as economically… like budget wise if fitting into people's budgets more or less. And it's impacting the environment. So more electrical use, more physical demand instead of using cars and transportation.”

“… when we talk about sustainable transportation, I think … mass transit, … but then also biking and walking in a way that does not contribute emissions.”
“I think of biking, or walking, or anything, any mode that doesn't involve using some sort of fuel…” “It mostly makes me think, how do I get somewhere, not in a car by myself. How do I move against the culture of there's only one way to get around in this country.”

“When I think sustainable, I typically think thinking about in an environmental sense, and how I can minimize my environmental impact.”
“… buses and not just big buses, big passenger buses like we have with like 80 capacity, but like small shuttles”

“Electric cars, electric shuttles, electric buses. … scooters do not come to mind when I think about electric, even though they are, and even ebikes”
Current methods of transportation and reasons for using themMethods vary from day to day; they depend on the schedule and need to be flexible. Students reported switching between using a car, buses, biking, and walking. Car was viewed as a necessary mode that provides reliability in addition to all other methods.Staff uses personal cars and walking for commuting to campus. Several participants live close enough for walking or bicycling to work. Walking is also common for intra-campus movement.Faculty often use personal cars, but also bicycling and walking. E-bikes were mentioned by four participants. Driving was viewed as more convenient because it provides flexibility to move during the day, do chores, get places quickly.
Exemplary quotes for current methods“For me, it depends. This semester, since I'm not teaching I don't have to go to campus as regularly, and I would only go there whenever I have, like, meetings and stuff. So in that case, I would be more likely to take the car, because I'm more ready to pay for parking, like here and there. But when I used to teach, I would try to either take the bus or walk just because I didn't buy a parking permit. And then there's also a problem with space available as well.”

“It's a mix between driving and bussing. … when I work in the evenings, which I do most days of the week, at an on campus job … I will drive to that. Because I prefer not to take the evening bus. … I don't always feel safe taking it. … During the day, however, when I have class on campus, and when my evening pass would not allow them to park, that's when I do take the bus. And on the rare occasion that I can carpool, like if a friend can give me a ride… .”
“I typically drive to work every day. I live on the East Side. It's just easier for me that way, usually with our daughter, too. I have to ferry her in the morning to class and school.”

“I walk to campus. So once I get here, I walk, and I keep thinking that I need to learn how to use the bus system, but I've never tried it.”

“I also drive to campus. I used to use a bus in my first year of work because I didn't own a car, and it got steadily more difficult, especially because I wasn’t a student since 2019, and I've flipped through the Covid period of not having enough buses or drivers or just any transportation to get to campus.”
“I bike, too, and I've sort of made a commitment to bike to work. I don't buy a parking pass anymore. So I'm sort of forced into it.”

“I think mine is divided in one half, either walk or bike, because I am pretty close, but then the other half is driving just because it gets cold.”

“I do live close to a bus stop that can go to my office directly, but it only comes once an hour, so I don't take it as much as I hope and now we have a baby so I do need a car to drop her off at daycare and pick her up.”
Awareness of ASMT around campusStudents expressed some awareness, but also a lot of uncertainty about what’s available. They mentioned e-scooters, safe ride, “Uber and something else”, carpooling, campus buses, apartment shuttles, IUride.

Students are aware of those options because they saw them around campus or saw ads, rather than due to communication from relevant offices.
There's general awareness of sustainable options, including buses, scooters, and carpooling. However, participants confirmed a lack of detailed knowledge about these options, especially the bus system.Faculty expressed some awareness of carpooling, car share, and buses, but could not provide details. Several participants knew about or used Hoosier Commuter Club (HCC).
Exemplary quotes of awareness“I feel like I've been aware of the different options. … there used to be the one type of Safe Ride … there was also some changes where then there was also, you know, Uber and Lyft Safe Rides and some shape changes to the carpool system. … Although I have found that they've been more directed at either undergrad students that are kind of living on campus or faculty, I feel like some of the messaging to grad students, sometimes it's a little ambiguous … I feel like I'm aware of sort of the different things but as a grad student, a little unsure what I might be able to have access to beyond you know, that here's the campus bus system, or yes, we have bike racks and that sort of thing.”

“I know, for example, of the campus buses that I've never used, but I know they are provided, and also the IU ride share. I can echo the last answer I've heard of them, and I've seen some vans driving around, but I'm not sure how they work.”
“I've heard of the buses I've heard of the walking and biking, and the Hoosiers commuter club, and the you know the ride home thing and the tags that they give you a dozen per semester. And probably a lot of other things.”

“I'm pretty sure there's a carpooling service at IU but I've not looked into it.”

“I would count like the bus system, and like bike racks, biking e-bikes, scooters, all that stuff.”
“I'm thinking there's some kind of car share over by the Union or at least there used to be. But I think there's some yeah. And then I'm also aware of the proliferation of e-bikes and scooters everywhere. So I know about that.”

“I know that I don't know much about it. The Hoosier commuter or something like that. And then there's also obviously car pooling. Those are the things I'm aware of.”
Benefits of using ASMTASMT are more enjoyable, healthy, more sociable (spending time around others).

ASMT are economical, reducing the financial cost (spending on gas) and the emotional burden of finding parking.

ASMT are a “green” option, an efficient way of moving more people at the same time.
Walking is beneficial for health and opportunities for socializing with coworkers. Bicycling helps to save on parking and gas costs, it’s faster for short distances.

ASMT are also good for the environment.
Biking and walking provide exercise and fresh air. ASMT help to reduce spending (no need to pay for gas and parking).

Good option for the environment, no fossil fuels.
Exemplary quotes for benefits of ASMT“I think that they're often more enjoyable forms, right? Like you get exercise or you know, you're outside walking in the you know, beautiful weather. … If you're putting gas in your car, you save money. … but then obviously, you know, contributing to trying to make IU more sustainable or community more sustainable has that sort of community element of feeling like you're contributing.”

“It's all of the above also cost and the effect on the environment, but also that it creates a better place to be around like the least amount of cars that are on campus, I think. … It's a friendlier place to work and to walk around.”
“You know the health benefits of walking wherever you're going, but also you would get time with your coworkers and friends to actually have conversations.”

“But yeah, just having physical activity. Parts of it are great and also convenience and not having to pay for a parking permit is also great.”
“Well, there's some benefits for me, I guess, would be exercise being out in the sun and fresh air. And not using fossil fuels.”

“The benefit I might gain is helping to promote good health of the planet. Not just like self, but planet health.”
Barriers to using ASMTBiking and walking are more demanding physically.

Buses are overcrowded, not connected enough, run on limited schedule, esp. in the evening.

Safety concerns exist for all of them (either roads or late rides). ASMT are less reliable, require extra time and planning.

Weather conditions and safety concerns affect bicycling and walking.

Bike theft and inadequate bike parking facilities are a concern.
Distance from campus and the need for quick access to places, especially for parents.

Weather conditions, particularly in winter.

Concerns about navigating campus on a bike and the state of bike lanes.

The bus system was perceived as intimidating, confusing, and sometimes impractical due to overcrowding.
Biking makes one sweat, requires a shower before teaching or going to a meeting.

Lack of bike lanes.

Inconsistent bus timings.

Safety concerns.

Lack of information and poor advertising.

Lack of flexible accessible carpool options.
Exemplary quotes for barriers to ASMT“… if I am walking or biking, just traffic and drivers around campus are really sometimes scary to navigate.”

“I think one barrier that I have in mind is connectivity. Like, you know, for instance bus or even a scooter or other things, they are not connected, like sufficiently out, say, because they have certain routes, and also real reliability. … sometimes the bus being late ...”
“I walk and I get here, and it works just fine, and I can walk around. But if I need to go anywhere in the middle of the day … I just can't do that. I haven't figured out how to pull that off during a lunch hour. You know, to catch a bus and go to a store.”

“I don't know when I get on the bus, am I gonna have to show my ID? I don't know. I could probably read and figure that out. But I haven't, you know? Do I show my crimson card? Do I have to pay money? I don't think I pay money.”
“And then, you know, weather is a mild barrier. Certainly, from bicycling if it's icy, or whatever that's or even raining. It's a pretty strong disincentive to get out there and bike that there's no shower here …So if I get all gross, I'm stuck in all gross for the whole day, and nobody wants that.”

“… from my house here there are no bike lanes until I get onto campus.”

“So I also heard about the carpool program, and I don't know if it's still ongoing. … I think a lot of people don't know about it. … But I kind of would like to have more information how to make use of that program.”
Attitudes toward ASMTASMT is good, there are more and more options for biking (e.g., the 7th street corridor). However, biking and walking take more time. Depending on how far you need to go or live, sometimes, it’s not an option. These methods are not safe late at night.

Bus is good, but schedule limits options to be in certain places on time. Many shared examples of being late because of the bus.
ASMT is a good idea, but practical concerns like family responsibilities, job roles, and campus infrastructure limit its adoption.

Safety and reliability need to be addressed before ASMT adoption.
ASMT requires a commitment, but living without a car is close to impossible in Bloomington.

Family obligations and non-work commitments around the city still require a car.
Issues and pain pointsNo clear communication about what’s available based on university role / status.

Bikes and scooters feel unsafe due to traffic and road conditions.

Limited ASMT options for the disabled.

Hard to use campus ASMT when traveling includes both campus and the city.

Using ASMT is not an option when living far from campus.

Buses often fill up, waiting for the next one makes one late.
Missing evening events on campus due to lack of transportation options (e.g., parking, late bus).

Need to have more options for safe late travel.

Hybrid work schedule requires more flexibility in travel options.

Buses do not cover some areas of living.
Bus schedule is hard to align with work schedule.

Safety concerns during late hours, lack of options when need a late ride.

Safety concerns for bicyclists (some segments of commute are dangerous).

Carpooling information and matching are not available.

Bike theft is not addressed either by the city or campus.

Lack of flexibility in parking permits.

Covered bike parking is needed.
Incentives and suggestionsProvide a cost breakdown – how much would I save if using ASMT?

Enhance bus system reliability, coverage, and schedule consistency.

Communicate consistently via various channels, including social media.

Enable linking of various ASMT (e.g., mapping rides, knowing where to park bikes, etc.)

Plan campus transportation as part of the city and all-day routines, not just to, from, and around campus.

Address late-night transportation and family-friendly options.

Separate e-bikes and scooters from bikes.
Provide more information about sustainable transportation options, including electric vehicles.

Create specific incentives for sustainable commuting.

Create better campus infrastructure for biking and walking.

Consider staff-specific needs, such as parking spots close to work locations or staff-only shuttles.
Provide covered bike parking.

Add more passes for HCC.

Give a financial incentive (similar to tobacco-free affidavit).

Stimulate more collaboration between IU and the city.

Provide consistent traveling options, esp. when travel includes the city and IU.

Provide discounts for e-bikes.

Additional indicative quotes

Student: “… other cities that I've been to where it's, you know, the public transportation is not just present, but it is reliable, it is super connected, it is sort of the mode that everyone has agreed to use … where it's not just you can get from point A to point B this way, but also that you are able to do so in a way that is very consistently interlinked between. … and more of these are the ways that we are trying to help connect or make it not just make it easier to bike. But I think the way that we're trying to link the different pieces, and really sort of clarifying that.”

Student: “And also, it's not just to campus and home, it's also the rest of Bloomington as a whole, right, like, where are you getting groceries? Where do you live in relation to the other things that are accessible within the town, or beyond? … as grad students, you're kind of uniquely in a position where you're like, struggling to make that mix, just because you don't have the same level of consistency, I think, as either an undergraduate student or as a faculty member. And so you're kind of piecing together a lot of different things. … And then obviously, you know, things like safety, which kind of go beyond, you know, I would love to walk or ride my bike or whatever throughout the day. But if something's late and it's dark, then that's not going to be the safest option.”

Student: “I know there are some apps and there's some programs that show the bus route and like live tracking feed of the buses. And I think having a similar equivalent for where you can park bikes or where you can put scooters or where you can park your car in general, because I know a lot of people have had issues with parking and employee spots and then paying $40 in parking fees. Which seems like it'd be frustrating. … I think having a separate tab [online] just for other modes of transportation and how people can reliably use those would be good as well.”

Staff: “I would love to not take my car to work, because I'd feel better, mentally and physically, about it. But outside of work, yeah, it's just impossible. With everything else that I have to do in a day after I leave work it's tough. Yeah, I would love to.”

Staff: “I have done the bus to get around campus to different trainings and stuff sometimes here and there. The main issue I have with the bus is that it isn’t very intuitive. And it's also very hard when they're very full, like I have missed a stop before, because no one would let me off in time to get out of the bus. … But it would be nice if there was an incentive, especially for long, like longer commuters, and to help them get around campus.”

Faculty: “I do remember the time when I walked from downtown to where I lived as a student at 1030 at night, because the buses don't run late. So I walked for like an hour and 15 min, or like even longer, all the way across town. Fortunately, there were sidewalks. And you know my husband came and met me half way, so I didn't walk the whole way by myself. But it was definitely like thinking ‘hopefully, this is okay and safe’”.

Faculty: “IU has some clout with the city and can say, you know, we want people to commute to our campus. It's important to us. So let's get together and figure it out. You've got some bike lanes, but really try and put some muscle into this. You know, to really see from where people might come, where it'd be easy to come to campus.”

Faculty: “I just wanted to put a word in for infrastructure. Apart from my interest in the bus [between Bloomington and Indianapolis] I do bike at home a lot, and I and I can't remember who mentioned just being scared of the traffic. And it is really kind of frightening sometimes to be on a bike. And I just had an opportunity to go to Denmark last month, and just the infrastructure is so fascinating. Where there's a sidewalk for people, there's a little bit lower sidewalk for bikes, and then it's really physically separated from traffic in noise, and so we've started to do a little bit of that here. But it could be so much more robust in the way that the city and the university plan that.”

Faculty: “… maybe issuing free good helmets to those who sign up for riding their bikes, because a really good helmet is it can be a higher price point than something you pick up down the street.”

Conclusion of findings

The focus groups’ discussions reflect a varying level of interest in and commitment to sustainable transportation. While many participants incorporate various ASMT, such as bus, bicycle, and walking, into their routings, their interest was tempered by practical concerns of safety and efficiency and a lack of comprehensive infrastructure and information.

The participants' suggestions indicate a desire for more integrated, safe, and convenient sustainable transportation options. Focus group participants expressed a nuanced view of sustainable transportation, where personal circumstances, campus infrastructure, and awareness of options play significant roles in shaping their choices and attitudes.

All these factors will need to be taken into consideration when planning transportation around IUB campus.

Focus group methodology

Table 2: Focus groups recruitment mailing schedule

Date of invitation email sent# of undergrad students sent email# of grad students sent email# of staff sent email# of faculty sent email

If a respondent was selected for a focus group based on availability and diversity in demographics, they received email message 2 (confirmation). If the respondent confirmed their availability in the link provided in email message 2, they received email message 3 (final confirmation and further details).

When selecting which respondents to receive the invitations to the focus groups, efforts were made to capture a variety of respondent demographics. CSR invited respondents who completed the survey on the first day (September 18), as those were considered to be the most likely to respond to the focus group invitations quickly since they responded to the survey invitations quickly. A short screener for eligibility was included in the Qualtrics form sent with the invite message (see Appendix B).

Individuals from the survey were split into categories to ensure a variety of focus groups participants: living distance from campus (within 2 miles vs more than 2 miles); income for staff and faculty (less than $45K vs $45K or more); live on campus vs off campus (students); has personal car or not; class standing (students); variety in gender, age ranges, level of completed education, race and ethnicity; and a variety in zip codes of home (those who lived in or close to Bloomington). Since the purpose of the focus groups were to discuss alternatives to driving alone to campus, efforts were made to include both those who drive alone in good weather vs those who use other modes of transportation like biking and walking. A summary of participant demographics is described in Appendix C.

Six focus groups were planned but due to last minute dropouts in two of the student focus groups, one additional (seventh) group was scheduled to capture more student feedback.

A moderator guide was created by CSR with feedback from Anna Dragovich to lead the focus group discussions (see Appendix D). The guide was written to drive the conversation, with probing questions used when discussions slowed. Focus group sessions were limited to no longer than 90 minutes. All 40 individuals who participated in the focus groups received a $100 Amazon ecode sent via email within one week of participating.