Assessing the Impact of Health Benefits and Carbon Footprint in Student Parking Decisions at a University Campus

Emiliano Ruiz, University of Texas at El Paso


In the student parking location problem, traditionally, the parking permit cost, the last-mile travel time, and the ease of finding an available parking stall are the only decision criteria driving permit purchases. However, a student’s choice of parking location has associated walking health benefits and sustainability impacts. These impacts are related to the walking distance from the parked vehicle to the final destination on campus, in addition to the location effect on the carbon footprint of a vehicle-trip taken to campus. As such, this thesis examined a multi-criteria decision approach to a university student’s choice of parking location. This approach involved the consideration of both the traditional, and the non-traditional decision criteria derived from the potential health benefits of walking and the desire to reduce a student’s contribution to carbon footprint. The associated health benefits were denoted by the Measure of Health Benefits (MHB) and were estimated in calories/year. Similarly, the relative contribution to carbon footprint is denoted by the Measure of Carbon Footprint (MCF) and is estimated in kilograms of CO2/year. These parameters were estimated for each of the designated student parking lots at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) by a walking study and a simulation-based estimation, respectively. The walking study collected calorie information for both male and female students. The simulation-based estimation collected vehicle emission information using an integrated approach between VISSIM, a microscopic traffic simulation software, and CMEM, an emission estimation model. The MHB results estimated potential health benefit values ranging from 5,889 to 35,938 calories/year. Similarly, the MCF results identified vehicle emission contributions ranging from 6 to 35 kilograms of CO2 year. The estimated MHB and MCF results were subsequently presented in a menu of choices during a permit purchase transaction simulated by a student parking survey using UTEP students as the research subjects. The results of the survey were used to assess the students’ parking location decisions before and after the provision of these non-traditional decision parameters, such that the effect of this information is adequately accounted for. The results of survey corroborated that the most important factor influencing this decision was the price of the permit. The second and third most important factors were the last-mile travel time and the ease of finding an available parking space in the selected location. Although this observation was encountered both before and after the provision of the health benefit and carbon footprint information, the presentation of MHB and MCF impacted the respondents’ awareness on the importance of the consideration of environmental sustainability and a healthy lifestyle. This impact was measured by a respective increase of 7.8% and 9.4% in the consideration of these non-traditional decision factors at the time of making a parking location decision.

Subject Area

Civil engineering|Transportation

Recommended Citation

Ruiz, Emiliano, "Assessing the Impact of Health Benefits and Carbon Footprint in Student Parking Decisions at a University Campus" (2021). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28714390.