How to Build an Active-Transportation Plan at Your Workplace

Walking to work

Employees looking to make a business case to their bosses for better workplace amenities for biking, walking, and taking public would have found a recent goDCgo event helpful.

“If this is not a priority for senior management and Human Resources, make a business case, tie it to the bottom line, and prove your case. The metrics are on your side,” said Melissa Judis, HR director at the Washington D.C. offices of public-relations firm Edelman.

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Tracy Hadden Loh speaks at the podium of goDCgo’s recent event. On the panel, from left to right are: Candi Carpenter, Melissa Judis, and Dana Bres.

Tracy Hadden Loh, a Mobility Lab contributor and research director at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, moderated the panel discussion at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health in D.C.

She added, “There are a lot of dollar-based reasons that employers should care about walking and biking. Getting a program started at your workplace is something you can do for free, and there are [government transportation demand management agencies like goDCgo and Arlington Transportation Partners] currently available.”

Employers can take a tax deduction for putting money on employee transit smart cards. But there is so much more that can be done to recruit top talent.

Hadden Loh said installing a bike rack fro two bikes costs between $150 and $300. The average cost of one structured parking space, meanwhile, is $15,000. “And who exactly is paying for that?” she asked.

Citing some examples, Hadden Loh said Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minnesota launched a bike-to-work incentive for employees. The company captured huge savings because, while health-care costs increased nationally during the time measured by 25 percent, QBP’s company health-care costs decreased 4 percent.

She also said Seattle Children’s Hospital offers a $3.25 bonus for each day its employees bike to work. If they bike two days per week or more on average, they receive a free bike, helmet, lock, and bike-skills class.

Dana Bres works at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was someone who went from not riding a bicycle at all to being part of the team that founded HUD’s Capital Bikeshare incentive program.

“Parking is finite at HUD. Unless you are a senior leader or carpool, you don’t have a parking space,” Bres said. His CaBi team secured $10,000 to buy 200 bikeshare memberships. Three-hundred and eighty-one employees signed up so they had to have a lottery. They are now looking for more money to expand the program.

“It’s not a cost to HUD because a year of Capital Bikeshare rides by employees across town to meetings equals one month of taxi rides,” he added. other federal agencies are now considering replicating HUD’s bikeshare-membership cost-saving blueprint.

Along with these incentives being in high demand and providing cost savings (and being initiated out of necessity, in HUD’s no- to low-parking case), here are some additional bullets to help you make your business case:

  • Health: Walking for one minute can extend your life by two minutes, according to Hadden Loh. That’s important because walking is the most common way for accessing Metrorail (37 percent are walking trips versus 26 percent of trips made by parking at a station). “It’s totally worth it even to walk in the heat, like today, for a few minutes,” she said.
  • Recruitment: “For us, it’s all about finding and retaining talent,” said Edelman’s Judis. “We primarily hire Millennials and they’re looking for active-transportation programs and health-and-wellness benefits.”
  • Equity: “A lot of our employees do not have vehicles and come from countries where they didn’t learn to drive. It’s very natural for my colleagues to walk or bike three or four miles to work in the morning,” said Candi Carpenter, executive assistant to the president at International Relief & Development’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. IRD has a “walkers stipend” of $135 per month going straight into employee paychecks.
  • Team building and sociability: Edelman has a green team that ensures employees have access to yoga, walking, running, and social groups. The firm also encourages active transportation in its orientation process. Senior and junior staff interact in these groups, Judis said. And at IRD, Carpenter said employees feel relaxed enough at its “bicycle-friendly breakfasts” to interact with the CEO.
  • Happiness: “The importance of leadership [encouraging active transportation] cannot be overstated,” Hadden Loh said, adding that Rails-to-Trail’s boss rides an electric-assist bicycle to work, which typically puts him in good spirits. “The value of having a happy boss is important.”

Check out goDCgo’s Storify, which captures highlights from the event.

Photo of walking to work in D.C. by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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