Economic Prosperity – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:55:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ford not just selling cars anymore https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/ford-not-just-selling-cars-anymore/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/ford-not-just-selling-cars-anymore/#respond Mon, 13 Mar 2017 19:33:42 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21560 Business model shifts to include mobility options Anyone who caught Ford’s Super Bowl commercial might have some questions about the other modes – bikeshare and vanpool, most notably – that appeared next to the automaker’s cars. To Ford, it’s part of a strategic, ongoing shift. Speaking Monday at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, Executive Chairman... Read more »

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Business model shifts to include mobility options

Anyone who caught Ford’s Super Bowl commercial might have some questions about the other modes – bikeshare and vanpool, most notably – that appeared next to the automaker’s cars. To Ford, it’s part of a strategic, ongoing shift.

Speaking Monday at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., said his company has done one thing really well for the past century – sell cars. But now it’s going to do two things really well – sell cars and provide mobility solutions.

“About 12 years ago, it occurred to me that the way we were doing business wouldn’t hold anymore.” He said many competitors were looking around the world at the potential to sell more cars in developing countries with growing GDPs, but Ford thought that was a terrible growth strategy. “Where are they going to go? You already can’t drive in most urban areas.”

And although it also seems counter-intuitive that Ford would want to make America’s aging transportation systems work better by providing additional options, Ford Jr. alluded to that being a key to the mobility strategy. He didn’t want to discuss the services Ford is going to start offering cities, but he hinted at logistics, fleet management, integrated payments, and autonomous vehicles as areas that make sense. “Watch what we’re doing more than what we’re saying,” he added.

The earliest public parts of what Ford is doing are already starting to take shape. In September, Ford bought shuttle startup Chariot for an eye-popping and a little surprising $65 million. Chariot currently provides 15-seat vans in theBay Area, which run along fixed routes set by rider demand. Ford CEO Mark Fields, recently claimed that, besides offering a complement to transit, each Chariot vehicle likely replaces 20 to 25 vehicles in downtown areas. (Fields, like Ford Jr., has been making the rounds to further publicize the company’s mobility focus.)

This spring, Bay Area Bike Share will become FordGoBike, expanding a shared mobility option that offers another way for more people to get to bus and rail connections.

Surely not all of the experiments under the umbrella of the Ford Smart Mobility division will work. Ford partnered with Bridj, another Chariot-like shuttle, last year in Kansas City, and the year-long pilot program ended in March with few riders. City officials have discussed bringing it back after more fine-tuning.

And Ford is also planning for autonomous vehicles that will work in a fleet-like capacity by 2021.

At SXSW, Ford Jr., said he is confident that the technology for all the ways automobile fleets can complement mass transit have predictable dates to be ready. What he said he can’t predict is when the public will be ready.

Photo: Bill Ford Jr. speaking at SXSW (Twitter.com/exmonkey).

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More people in the DC region are teleworking. Here’s how to get started. https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/02/more-people-dc-region-teleworking-week/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/02/more-people-dc-region-teleworking-week/#respond Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:54:46 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21407 In the last few years, the D.C. region has quietly seen a significant rise in the number of people teleworking. According to last year’s regional State of the Commute report, 10 percent of the area’s workers now primarily telework, and nearly one-third of all workers report teleworking at least some of the time (on average, 1.5... Read more »

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In the last few years, the D.C. region has quietly seen a significant rise in the number of people teleworking.

According to last year’s regional State of the Commute report, 10 percent of the area’s workers now primarily telework, and nearly one-third of all workers report teleworking at least some of the time (on average, 1.5 days per week).

These high teleworking rates allow the region’s transportation systems some greater flexibility for accommodating major events, such as a week-long papal visit or inaugural ceremonies. And since transit riders are more likely to telework, it provides a flexible option for taking demand off lines affected by SafeTrack surges or other maintenance disruptions.

Source: MWCOG

While the many people teleworking already have helped minimize crowding and congestion during those disruptions – and have contributed to lower congestion on a daily basis as well – that same MWCOG report found that another 18 percent of workers could and would telework, at least on an occasional basis, if given the chance.

(In Virginia, home to Mobility Lab, March 6 through 10 marks the state’s official Telework Week: the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and local commuter agencies are working to ensure that all telework-interested employees and employers have the resources to give it a shot.)

Our sister program Arlington Transportation Partners has advice for both employees and employers on how to kick off the process, especially if one’s workplace is lacking an official policy. For employees whose workplace is on the fence, the business case is a clear one:

Put yourself in your employer’s shoes for a moment. What would convince you to try something new? Tailor your pitch accordingly and know the cost/savings of a telework program as well as data that can back up your point. You can also offer to take it off your boss’s plate by researching any equipment needed, drafting policies, and managing vendors. Here’s how this conversation may go:

YOU: Teleworking not only reduces our commute times, but saves you money. Some companies have saved more than $50 million in real estate costs, with the average savings for employers with full-time telework at $10,000 per employee, per year. Additionally, with the cost of losing a valued employee estimated between $10,000 and $30,000, not including recruitment and training costs, 95 percent of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention.

For employers looking to establish an official telework agreement, Mobility Lab contributor Pinky Advani of ATP breaks down the four essential parts, from equipment to benefits, that every policy should include. Interested employers can download ATP’s guide here.

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Five ways employers are thinking big on commuter benefits https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/21/five-ways-employers-are-thinking-big-on-commuter-benefits/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/21/five-ways-employers-are-thinking-big-on-commuter-benefits/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:39:03 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21276 A new publication from the Association for Commuter Transportation, entitled “Getting to Work,” highlights the ways several forward-thinking employers are offering better commuting options to their employees. Each story offers a look at the unique transportation challenges major employers face – from parking crunches to time-consuming commutes – and which solutions have proven effective in addressing... Read more »

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A new publication from the Association for Commuter Transportation, entitled “Getting to Work,” highlights the ways several forward-thinking employers are offering better commuting options to their employees. Each story offers a look at the unique transportation challenges major employers face – from parking crunches to time-consuming commutes – and which solutions have proven effective in addressing them.

Keeping ridesharing fresh

While carpooling rates have fallen consistently across the U.S., Salt River Project, a water and electricity utility in Phoenix, Ariz., has maintained a strong employee ridesharing rate for decades. Starting in the 1970s, SRP began promoting carpooling as part of a sustainability campaign, encouraging employees to do “one in five for cleaner skies” – as in, take at least one carpool commute per week.

Today that trend and ridesharing culture continues. SRP enjoys a 6 percent vanpool commute rate and an attractive vanpool setup: the utility leases vans to ferry employees to and from its 20 office locations, and employees only have to split the costs of gas.

“We subsidize the vanpool because it’s been, hands­ down, one of the most effective ways of getting employees involved in an alternative mode of commuting,” SRP transportation coordinator Perez told ACT.

A free connection to transit

In Atlanta, Coca-Cola is also offering rides for employees, but on a fixed route. The “Red Bus,” which first launched in 2013, circulates from the company’s two downtown office locations to the MARTA Civic Center rail station. The first-last mile transit connection is further cemented with a complementary incentive: a $50 transit pass monthly subsidy, more than half the cost of a $95 monthly MARTA pass.

Speaking with ACT, Eric Ganther of Coca-Cola explained that the ease of use makes the shuttle a popular option.

“‘The transit benefit helps. But the [most impactful piece] is the shuttle,’ Ganther said. ‘It’s that direct connection from transit stop to doorstep that makes the choice to leave your car at home easier, one part of helping ease the barrier to entry for those who have never used public transit to get to work.'”

Coca-Cola sees its responsibility to commuters and employees as part of its long history with Atlanta, where it has resided for over a century. The company estimates that its shuttle replaces approximately 800 trips each day in the metro region.

Use new transit as a jumping-off point

The opening of the first leg of Metro’s Silver Line reshaped the transportation landscape in Northern Virginia three years ago. In McLean, Va., not-for-profit MITRE sought to build off of the interest in the new option by investing in commuter benefits to encourage some employees, many of whom drove through Beltway traffic, to try the new Metro line.

The organization found that, with Metro nearby, the number of employees taking advantage of the pre-tax transit benefits is now on track to quadruple pre-Metro levels. Now, employees can also take advantage of a $30 subsidy on top of the pre-tax benefits. MITRE also reported to ACT that the number of employees commuting by transit has yet to level off as of late last year.

Like Coca-Cola, MITRE complements its transit benefits with a free employee shuttle between the Silver Line and its office locations.

Pay employees to not drive

Seattle Children’s Hospital, a national leader in commuter benefits, has been working to reduce drive-alone commuting since the early 1990s in order to meet Seattle’s commute reduction plan. Using a three-part model for shifting commute preferences – parking reform, non-driving subsidies, and amenities – SCH has already reduced its drive-alone percentage by 35 points in the last 20 years.

One key part of this plan is a daily subsidy for commuting by any mode other than driving alone. Employees log their commutes in a web portal, and are in turn given $4 for each day they do not drive. This creates an additional opportunity cost for driving that, when combined with market-rate parking costs, adds up over time and helps influence transportation choices.

Expedite longer commutes through vanpools

At Marriott’s current headquarters in North Bethesda, Md., three miles from the nearest Metro station, the hotel company has seen success in a recently-launched vanpool program. After Marriott’s transportation manager Jude Miller reached out to employees about connecting those who lived near each other to better commuting options, two vanpools launched in 2015. In the short time since then, four others have taken off as well, bringing employees from as far as Ashburn, Va.

As Miller told ACT, the vanpool can be a time-saving alternative for those who would otherwise drive long distances alone: “In a van, driving in an HOV lane, it definitely takes less time to get here, making employees happier and more productive.” Car rental provider Enterprise operates the vanpools and stressed the flexibility of the option, noting that Marriott can add or eliminate pools depending on future changes in commuter ridership.

Marriott also encourages employees to apply their $120 monthly commuting subsidy toward the cost of the vanpools. And while the publication makes no mention of Marriott’s recently-announced move to downtown Bethesda, the new location mere steps from Metro will open new transit options to its commuters.

It’s worth checking out “Getting to Work” for a deeper dive into each commuter benefit program: beyond the cited options, each works to offer a network of additional benefits to appeal to commuters of all types and needs.

Photo: The McLean Metro station on the Silver Line (Malcolm K., Flickr, Creative Commons).

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In Arlington, 221 Champions recognized for work promoting transportation options https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/02/arlington-transportation-partners-champions-banquet/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/02/arlington-transportation-partners-champions-banquet/#respond Thu, 02 Feb 2017 21:32:20 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=20226 While Arlington County’s transportation network benefits from being directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the county has worked hard to get people moving in ways other than by car. “We have the lowest drive-alone rate for commuters in the state,” noted Larry Filler, bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services. But that rate... Read more »

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While Arlington County’s transportation network benefits from being directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the county has worked hard to get people moving in ways other than by car.

“We have the lowest drive-alone rate for commuters in the state,” noted Larry Filler, bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services. But that rate doesn’t happen on its own: it’s partially a product of employers and property managers creating a welcoming environment for biking, walking, carpooling, and transit.

Banquet audience

Left to right: ATP’s CEO Lois DeMeester, Larry Filler, Robert Thomson, and Jay Fisette at the Champions Banquet. Photo by Reema Desai for Arlington Transportation Partners.

Filler’s comment kicked off a celebratory breakfast honoring the 221 employers, commercial and multi-family residential building managers, and schools that take part in Arlington Transportation Partners’ Champions program.

ATP recognizes Champions in a tier system, awarding bronze, silver, gold, and platinum statuses based on participants’ efforts. And ATP makes sure each employer and property re-ups its efforts each year to continue promoting and supporting biking, walking, taking transit, teleworking, and getting IRS transit benefits throughout the county.

“Traditional contests are very employer-focused, and they look at what organizations are doing right now,” said Wendy Duren, ATP’s program director. “The multi-family residential properties have really embraced Champions. They are always trying to get new residents and new amenities in their buildings. And across all sectors, it’s promoting a little friendly competition to attract the best talent and keep up with the Joneses.”

One key to ATP’s successful efforts is that it remains a constant resource and advocate for Arlington’s attractive network of transportation options. For example, Nestle USA announced this week it will move its headquarters from California to Arlington, and ATP sales representatives have already worked with Nestle to ensure a smooth transition. One ATP rep will even travel to California to meet with Nestle employees before they move to Arlington’s Rosslyn neighborhood starting this summer.

“Part of the appeal of Arlington to Nestle was that our ATP has been working with them from the beginning,” confirmed County Board Chair Jay Fisette.

He said a major part of the county’s vision is to work well with the private sector and that ATP has been “stepping up to bring that vision to life.” Speaking at the banquet, Fisette cited Arlington’s mix of transportation options as a major selling point for potential employers and residents alike.

Fisette specifically noted ATP’s work with schools. “Very rarely do you see a school system as committed to [transportation issues] as ours. A lot of our schools are not in our transit corridors, but our school system has committed to work with us to enhance those transportation choices,” he said.

Of course, Arlington’s focus on educating the public about its transportation possibilities diverges from older thinking. Robert Thomson, better known as The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock,” gave the keynote address to the Champions in attendance.

“There’s a cloud on my horizon. It’s called Arlington County,” he joked. “I have a vested interest in commuter frustration.”

At the Post, Thomson is considered “the Dear Abby of traffic.” “Tell [my readers] that the nuclear summit is in D.C. or the Pope is in town, and they don’t ask for the best method of travel. They ask for a detour.” He added, “Many people have not had a bad experience on Metro: they have had no experience on Metro.”

Thomson’s comments make clear how important it remains – and how much work is left, especially for organizations like Arlington Transportation Partners – to get more people traveling in more and different ways.

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Which employers are leading on commuter benefits? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/31/best-workplaces-commuter-benefits-tdm/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/31/best-workplaces-commuter-benefits-tdm/#respond Tue, 31 Jan 2017 21:50:58 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20186 Employer TDM programs aren’t just for reducing congestion on highways – they also make good business sense, contributing to productive workplaces and employee retention. Best Workplaces for Commuters, a program of the Center for Urban Transportation Research, today released its 2017 list of employers leading the way in TDM programs, a national lineup of companies making... Read more »

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Employer TDM programs aren’t just for reducing congestion on highways – they also make good business sense, contributing to productive workplaces and employee retention. Best Workplaces for Commuters, a program of the Center for Urban Transportation Research, today released its 2017 list of employers leading the way in TDM programs, a national lineup of companies making smart business decisions by investing in smarter commutes.

The list of 231 U.S. companies and buildings highlights the offices ahead of the competition in benefits, which include anything from a locker room and showers for bike commuters to the possibility of flexible schedules through compressed hours and telework. To be considered for the list, an employer must offer a “primary benefit,” such as employer-paid transit passes or vanpool, and at least three secondary benefits, such as ride-matching for carpooling or telework options.

“Companies are recognizing that it makes good business sense to provide commuter benefits, such as subsidizing bus fares, designating parking for carpoolers or allowing employees to work from home.” said BWC program manager Julie Bond, in a statement.

In the D.C. area, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lafayette Centre, and Fox Architects took honors. Mobility Lab’s sister program, Arlington Transportation Partners, was also recognized.

“It is important for us to be a role model in the transportation industry,” said Wendy Duren, ATP’s program director. “We promote the importance of implementing forward-thinking mobility option programs to our clients. It only makes sense that we also incorporate the same concepts and transportation programs into our own culture and offer them to our team.”

To see the full list of employers sorted by state, click here.

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Transportation connectivity as a tool for public health in rural communities https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/06/transportation-connectivity-tool-public-health-rural-communities/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/06/transportation-connectivity-tool-public-health-rural-communities/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 17:01:27 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19967 This Saturday’s TransportationCamp DC 2017 will feature a broad array of topics. Esther Dyson, executive founder of Way to Wellville, author, and angel investor, will appear in a session about creating more connected cities. Access is an important factor in community health, and a well-connected transportation network plays a vital role in enabling that. Small,... Read more »

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This Saturday’s TransportationCamp DC 2017 will feature a broad array of topics. Esther Dyson, executive founder of Way to Wellville, author, and angel investor, will appear in a session about creating more connected cities.

bob-lee-ed-creative-commonsAccess is an important factor in community health, and a well-connected transportation network plays a vital role in enabling that.

Small, rural communities tend to lack the resources, funding, and political will necessary to drive this, meaning, residents are likely lacking travel options to access the services that support a higher quality of life.

Esther Dyson, founder of health research non-profit HICCup, hopes to fill TransportationCampLargerResizedthose gaps with Way to Wellville, a challenge the group is running to improve quality of life in five communities over 10 years by providing support and guidance to health-based improvements that would achieve these goals.

Hailing a connection

Dyson, who expresses a particular interest in ride-hailing services, emphasizes the importance of creating transportation options for residents that link them to health and economic opportunities.

One of her group’s major efforts is to attract ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to the “Wellville Five” communities selected to participate in the challenge: Clatsop County, Oregon; Greater Muskegon, Michigan; Lake County, California; Niagara Falls, New York; and Spartanburg, South Carolina. With such low-density areas, Dyson says the services represent an opportunity to connect spread-out people to healthful lifestyles.

Dyson points out that this could start by using ride-hail companies to connect residents without their cars to healthcare and wellness facilities. Providing convenient access to health infrastructure creates an opportunity for smart, long-term investment in community health by “paying a little bit year-by-year to maintain health rather than paying a huge price to fix something after it goes wrong.”

That said, Dyson says it is difficult to get companies to roll out programs in small communities like the Wellville Five. While private businesses have more incentive to establish services in dense urban areas, there is a “latent capacity” that they overlook in less-dense areas.

Dyson wants to build interest among companies and convince them to work with small communities by emphasizing the long-term economic value of introducing this transportation option. Local initiatives and buy-in would be essential to “jump-start” efforts to attract service providers and overcome their high startup costs.

Should a ride-hailing company establish itself in these communities, Dyson expects that they would release a strong source of latent economic activity, engaging people with cars that need money, and providing access to the community for people without personal vehicles who lack transit options.

Because Way to Wellville is only two years in, it is still too early to measure dramatic progress. However, Dyson ultimately won’t look for success in terms of metrics like blood sugar count. Instead, she expects to see “more kids graduating, more empty hospital beds, and more people engaging in fitness” by having access to the tools and facilities that promote healthy lifestyles. These will become desirable communities to live in, and connectivity will play a decisive role.

Attendees of Transportation Camp 2017 will have an opportunity to discuss with Dyson and other panelists the potential of such services to improve community health: please keep an eye out for the “Ultimate Connected City” session.

Photos: Top, a couple walking (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com). Esther Dyson (Bob Lee, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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12 ways developers can guide tenants to better transportation decisions https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/16/ways-developers-tenants-transportation-decisions/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/16/ways-developers-tenants-transportation-decisions/#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2016 16:23:59 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19838 Real-estate developers and property managers have long been coming around to the simple business decision that, if they want to manage profitable projects and attract tenants, they should build and own near transit and other non-driving options. Just look at Detroit: A 2.5-mile streetcar system expected to launch in a few months to downtown is... Read more »

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Real-estate developers and property managers have long been coming around to the simple business decision that, if they want to manage profitable projects and attract tenants, they should build and own near transit and other non-driving options.

Just look at Detroit: A 2.5-mile streetcar system expected to launch in a few months to downtown is attracting a goldmine of $3 billion in development, with about 10,000 new housing units. On the other end, commercial real estate in car-dependent areas is proving to be far less valuable over the past decade than city cores or walkable suburbs.

This makes sense. According to Chris Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo, in a 2012 Brookings Institution study, 90 percent of increased economic performance can be explained by walkability, job density, and workforce education.

For developers in a competitive market, however, just building in these walkable, transit-rich locations is not enough. They, along with property managers, can further improve the attractiveness of their locations by taking distinct steps to ensure that their tenants make full use of those transportation options. These measures have the added benefit of reducing traffic and the improving the quality of life in the surrounding community.

Here are 12 key tactics developers creating projects near transit should consider in order to make their residents, customers, and visitors as happy as possible. The best thing is that these are no-brainer enhancements that are far less costly than the more infrastructure-focused elements of their properties.

Perform tenant surveys to understand people: Particularly if properties have a high resident-turnover rate or difficulty attracting new residents, perhaps it’s time to evaluate what the buildings are missing. On-site brochures and advertising about transportation amenities won’t make much difference if developers don’t understand how to target customers by first understanding their needs and motivations for why they choose to live near transit. A survey that asks residents questions about their commutes or barriers to trying new transportation modes could provide insight and lead to recommendations on ways to improve these amenities. For example, property management company Dittmar surveyed its Dolley Madison Tower residents in Arlington County, Va., to learn about what factors would attract them to a possible shuttle service, among other options.

Learn from past mistakes: Developers are acknowledging that car-oriented office parks are increasingly empty, which is why, for example, First Potomac Realty Trust got rid of more than two dozen suburban industrial buildings and is purchasing multiple properties along Washington, D.C.’s Metro lines, not to mention its bike-friendly streets. First Potomac’s chief executive Robert Milkovich recently noted the writing on the wall: “I’m just continually amazed at how many people are commuting around downtown by bicycle. I don’t think that was the case even five years ago.”

Gently remind people they can bike and walk: The San Francisco Planning Department has an attractive menu of options for its proposed transportation demand management program. Front and center are active-transportation elements that can open people’s minds to biking and walking, especially in the cases of new residents, the most likely to change a long-time habit. Those options include: improving walking conditions, adding bicycle parking and repair amenities, adding a fleet of bicycles, use of bike-valet parking for large events on site, transit and bikeshare memberships and discounts, and installation of showers and lockers.

Think creatively within site-plan mandates from local government: The San Francisco program works by awarding developers a certain number of points for every element they incorporate into their buildings from the draft menu of options. Two of those options might seem unrelated to transportation, but actually are: providing healthy food options in areas identified as being underserved (no longer need to travel to eat) and affordable housing units (fewer low-income people forced to live away from transit).

Get recognized for your work: Arlington County has a checklist of options for properties wishing to be recognized as a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum level member in its Champions program run by Arlington Transportation Partners. Starting with just a handful of participants back in 2013, there are now 221 Champions, a sure sign that a little friendly competition can bring an entire community together to accomplish clear goals.

Set goals: To become a top-level Platinum Champion, employers in Arlington have to “achieve company mode-shift goals within one year.” That is pretty advanced, considering it requires actually having tenant mode-shift goals in the first place, and surveying to follow up.

Offer free money: Developers can lure people to their properties by simply offering the kinds of transit benefits building-wide that individual tenant companies have long offered their employees. Transit passes get people riding.

Display quality information: Some developers understand that boring information bulletin boards in lobbies don’t work for the needs of today’s mobile society. Wayfinding signs aren’t just for roads and highways anymore. Real-time transit-information displays and tailored, hyper-localized transit marketing are crucial to helping residents understand their sometimes overwhelming transportation options.

Provide pooling services: While individual building tenants may not yet be able to afford home-to-work shuttles, such options becomes more possible at the building-wide level. And there are also ways to improve traffic in a building’s neighborhood by offering passes and benefits for UberPOOL, Lyft Line, and other services; subsidies and priority parking for carpools, vanpools, and electric vehicles; and passes for car-sharing fleets like Zipcar and car2go.

Focus on the family: Back in San Francisco’s menu of options, the Planning Department lists incentives for developers who provide cargo bikes and shopping carts, storage for car seats near car-share parking, and on-site childcare services, which help remove the anxiety some parents feel about needing a personal car to make various stops along their daily commutes.

bike-parking-jon-fisher

Dedicated, secure bike parking

Forget about parking assumptions: At the top of options Arlington and San Francisco recommend to developers is to reduce, if allowed, the number of parking spaces on site. Some of the best ways to do this – and replace all those empty spots with something more lucrative – include separating the cost of parking from the cost of renting, leasing, or owning; allowing for only hourly or daily parking passes; and giving employees the possibility of “parking cash-out,” the option to receive the cash value of the space rather than the space itself.

Think about how people will get there: Better still, developers should grab a bike, walk around, and take transit lines directly to their buildings from every conceivable direction. Being in other people’s shoes will likely open possibilities that developers may not have envisioned otherwise.

Prepare for future cities: And finally, developers must not forget the dawn of the autonomous vehicle, already testing in places like Pittsburgh and Detroit. Most of these will likely – or at least hopefully, for the sake of traffic sanity – be fleet vehicles shared among groups of people. Much like how individuals should avoid paying too much for a garage in a new home, unless you’re Jay Leno, developers too should avoid going overboard on garages (or build them in smart, convertible ways). When shared autonomous vehicles are roaming the streets, they will, in theory, not need to go into those garages nearly as much. Redfin estimates one-third of urban real estate currently devoted to parking garages could become parks.

There is a lot here for developers to take into account. As people embrace more walking, transit, and other options, and the era of paving over America hopefully trends downward, there will be an awful lot of new real estate for developers to put to better use.

Photos: Top, a Metrobus on Columbia Pike in Arlington County (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com). Middle, a bike parking room at The Nature Conservancy in Arlington (Jon Fisher, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Virginia’s new Capital Trail has brought biking, business to Richmond and historic communities https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/06/virginias-new-capital-trail-brought-biking-business-richmond-historic-communities/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/06/virginias-new-capital-trail-brought-biking-business-richmond-historic-communities/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 17:05:24 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19695 Stretching between Richmond and Jamestown, the Virginia Capital Trail is a powerful example of how bike and pedestrian infrastructure can encourage economic growth and sustainable living in diverse communities. The 55-mile paved, multi-use path dances along historic Route 5, connecting small towns, bucolic farmland, historic sites, and high-rise apartments. First proposed in the 1990’s, groundwork... Read more »

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Stretching between Richmond and Jamestown, the Virginia Capital Trail is a powerful example of how bike and pedestrian infrastructure can encourage economic growth and sustainable living in diverse communities. The 55-mile paved, multi-use path dances along historic Route 5, connecting small towns, bucolic farmland, historic sites, and high-rise apartments.

First proposed in the 1990’s, groundwork for the trail began in 2003 when Virginia Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement made the trail a priority. The following year he helped found the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation – the non-profit that manages and promotes the trail – and in 2005 VDOT broke ground at Jamestown. Since its completion in October 2015, the Virginia Capital Trail has provided more than just a safe place to ride, walk, and run: it is also quietly changing the life and the economies of the communities that it passes through.

va-cap-trail

Map of the Virginia Capital Trail, via Terrain360. Click to see a trail-level view of the route.

No place is that more evident than in Richmond, Va., where the trail is helping power that city’s revitalization. Beth Weisbrod, executive director of the Capital Trail Foundation (based in Richmond), sees the trail as a major economic engine for the city, citing packaging company WestRock’s 2006 decision to move to downtown as based partly on the then-incomplete trail. She also pointed out that smaller businesses have benefited from it as well. “When the trail opened,” Weisbrod said, “there was no place to rent a bike in Richmond. Now there are at least three.”

One of those places is The Kickstand, a non-profit founded by the Richmond Cycling Corps that advertises itself as “the easiest (and coolest) way to get on a bike and enjoy the Virginia Capital Trail.” Opened in July, The Kickstand does more than rent bikes – it also teaches kids from low-income households how to bike and fix bikes. Those students are then employed as mechanics for Kickstand.

To Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk-RVA, the trail is both a cause and an effect of increased cycling in Richmond. “I think it’s done a great job generating excitement around biking and walking” he said. “Once the snowball starts rolling, it just keeps getting bigger.” The stats from Richmond are certainly not small. The city has nearly doubled its bike infrastructure in the past three years, announced a bikeshare program, and hosted the UCI World Cycling Championships.

Furthermore, the trail has served as an anchor for new businesses. “Stone Brewing is one of the biggest examples,” Hepp-Buchanan said. “They are literally building their bistro on top of the trail.” While not all recent economic development can be attributed to the trail, Hepp-Buchanan argues that it has helped make Richmond an attractive place for corporations like Carmax, which recently moved downtown. “You can’t deny that having the Capital Trail right there is one of the biggest reasons why a company like that would locate downtown,” he said.

Cul's and bicycling patrons

Cul’s Courthouse Grille in Charles City, mere feet from the Capital Trail

The trail is also making an impact outside of Richmond. There is no better place to see that benefit than at Cul’s Courthouse Grille, a charming restaurant managed by mother-and-son team Bonnie Whittaker and Cullen Jenkins. Cul’s opened seven years ago when Whittaker, recently retired, decided to create a space for community gatherings near the historic Charles City Courthouse. Although Cullen stresses that Cul’s focuses on the community, not “dollars and cents,” it is impossible to ignore the business the trail has brought. “We’ve just tried to hold on and do the best we can,” Cullen said. “Recently, Channel 12 did a nice piece on the impact that the trail has had on small business, and they focused on us. My mom said that [business grew] by 30 percent in the interview, but she meant to say 300 percent.”

clip_ins_signThe increase in customers has meant more than just money for the restaurant. “We’ve been able to hire 10 folks because we needed them for the business,” Cullen said. Ten jobs might not seem like many, but in a small community like Charles City County (population 7,000), they make a huge difference. “These women are holding their families together with the jobs they have here,” Cullen said. “We can give someone a decent living wage where they can pay their bills and have a couple of bucks left over to improve their quality of life.”

Cul’s isn’t the only business to capitalize on the trail. Nearby Shirley Plantation recently added a large dining room to its outbuildings, placing in front of it a chalkboard sign reading “Welcome Cyclists: Please remove your clip-ins. Thank you!” Closer to Cul’s, rumor is that an old schoolhouse is being rehabilitated into a coffeehouse. And according to Beth Weisbrod, the Capital Trail Foundation is planning a connector trail to the Blue Heron Restaurant, another local eatery slightly off Route 5.

The money and cyclists flowing along the Capital Trail come from all over the world. Rich Thompson is a staff member at the College of William and Mary, where he helps lead the College’s Bike Alliance. (Full disclosure – the author was a founding member of the Alliance.) A regular cyclist on the trail, Thompson has met folks from D.C. and farther.

“I recently ran into a son and mother cyclist from Germany and Great Britain,” Thompson said. “They were vacationing here and biking in Surrey and Isle of Wight County,” and told him that they were planning on riding the trail later.

One of forces driving this tourism is the ever-expanding number of companies offering bike tours of the Capital Trail, including Road-Tested Tours, Carolina Tailwinds, Trek Travel, and Vermont Tours. Additionally, the Williamsburg Winery has added weekly 40-mile bike rides to its list of offerings, and Cullen Jenkins, for his part, is renting bikes out to Cul’s customers.

The market isn’t saturated yet either. Jennifer Billstrom is the founder of Velo Girl Rides, a North Carolina-based touring company that hopes to launch a Capital Trail tour. “The unique thing about the Capital Trail, in my opinion, is that it is fairly flat, and it is fairly doable by anyone. And it’s also just a ribbon that runs through a very rich historical area. So using this can be an educational experience … that engages people both physically and with a history lesson, and that’s very unique,” she said.

If other examples hold true, the Capital Trail is only beginning to spark growth around it. Wendy Lyman would know: as the owner of the cyclist-oriented Swamp Rabbit Inn in Greenville, South Carolina, she has seen her region’s Swamp Rabbit Trail revitalize entire towns along its route. She recently traveled up to visit the Capital Trail, and saw ample opportunity for future growth. “I was really impressed with it” she said. “That midpoint destination hub – there’s a lot of development opportunities there, and I think that would make that trail even more vibrant.”

She has observed this type of development before – the trail is built, several businesses take off, more entrepreneurs follow, local residents discover new ways to use the trail, and a new economic and transportation ecosystem is built. The Capital Trail isn’t at that point yet, but with 550,000 trips along the trail last year, that type of development is likely. The question isn’t a matter of if, but when.

Read part two of this article, about the increase in biking that the Virginia Capital Trail is generating in adjacent communities.

[Ed: a previous version of this article stated incorrectly that Richmond’s B bikeshare had already launched. The city is currently aiming for an official launch in fall 2016 or spring 2017.]

Photos: Top, the VA Capital Trail as it approaches downtown Richmond along the James River (Al Covey/VDOT, Flickr, Creative Commons). Middle, the Bike Alliance at Cul’s Courthouse Grille (Bill Horacio). Lower, a chalkboard sign for bicyclists at  Shirley Plantation (Rich Thompson).

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Annual bikeshare conference brings focus to equity, integration, and growth https://mobilitylab.org/2016/11/17/nabsa-bikeshare-conference-equity-growth/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/11/17/nabsa-bikeshare-conference-equity-growth/#respond Thu, 17 Nov 2016 19:17:37 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19559 Last week, the North American Bike Share Association brought together bikeshare systems from across the continent to Austin, Texas, for its third annual conference. BikeArlington program manager Henry Dunbar, who manages Capital Bikeshare in Arlington County, Va., attended the conference, and reports back that three major themes dominated the presentations. A growing mode Though NABSA... Read more »

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Last week, the North American Bike Share Association brought together bikeshare systems from across the continent to Austin, Texas, for its third annual conference. BikeArlington program manager Henry Dunbar, who manages Capital Bikeshare in Arlington County, Va., attended the conference, and reports back that three major themes dominated the presentations.

A growing mode

Though NABSA itself has only existed since 2014, the rapid growth and spread of bikeshare systems is a major trend. Not only are major metropolitan systems expanding exponentially (see: Bay Area Bikeshare’s tenfold growth from 700 to 7,000 bikes with its Ford partnership), but smaller systems are also taking off. The growing variety of models and technologies is allowing small cities, campuses, and towns to find the kind of bikeshare system that fits their needs. This speaks, also, to the broad understanding from cities that bikeshare is a necessary part of the transportation options for their residents and visitors.

Accessibility a priority

As they grow, however, bikeshare systems have struggled with equity issues, finding fair ways to provide accessible service for low-income and minority communities. Now, systems and cities are determining what matters most when reaching out to residents. Often, this means thinking beyond the assumptions of how people engage with biking and transportation.

“Systems are learning that partnerships with existing organizations is the way to bridge barriers into low-income communities. You have to make that extra effort and show people how it works,” said Dunbar.

Affordable housing organizations, for example, can be key to reaching low-income residents because they already know them and their staffs. In Arlington, Capital Bikeshare partners with local non-profit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. Bicycling organizations like Get Women Cycling in New York City are working to connect interested residents to Citi Bike.

Part of the transit portfolio

Lastly, as cities see growing bikeshare systems as key pieces of their transportation-options toolkit rather than recreational curiosities, more are looking into ways to better integrate them into their transit systems. One key way to do so is through combining the fare systems into a single platform, removing a key barrier and simplifying the fragmented transit landscape.

Speaking to TechCrunch last week, NABSA president Nicole Freedman laid out the goal. “You’ll see all of the modes intertwine. And that will be made possible by better tech that allows a single payment for all systems.”

Unfortunately, there exists a number of obstacles to this, which range from bureaucratic hurdles to political impasses to technological gaps. In just the D.C. region alone, there are five jurisdictions with Capital Bikeshare, with WMATA’s SmarTrip system setting the standard for transit payments for the foreseeable future.

One low-cost way forward for some systems could incorporate phone apps into the payment and unlocking mechanisms. B-Cycle, which operates bikeshare systems in dozens of cities in the U.S. (including Austin), allows users to receive unlock codes through the standard B-Cycle app.

Of course, the nature of these challenges differs depending on regional needs, bikeshare technology, and other factors. But NABSA’s Austin gathering demonstrated how bikeshare systems across the U.S. are taking their collective challenges head-on, by finding ways to grow and become more accessible and useful for people.

Photo: Austin B-cycle bikeshare (NACTO, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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How does actual sharing fit into the sharing economy? https://mobilitylab.org/2016/10/18/sharing-economy-business/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/10/18/sharing-economy-business/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2016 20:18:30 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19261 It’s safe to say that, in 2016, the sharing economy has gone mainstream. What’s funny about this is that what most people are referring to when we talk about this segment of the economy has little to do with sharing. I was thinking about this while I rode my hotel’s “shared bicycle” ($22 for four hours)... Read more »

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shared-use-logos-bIt’s safe to say that, in 2016, the sharing economy has gone mainstream. What’s funny about this is that what most people are referring to when we talk about this segment of the economy has little to do with sharing.

I was thinking about this while I rode my hotel’s “shared bicycle” ($22 for four hours) around Chicago prior to the start of this week’s Shared Mobility Summit (of which Mobility Lab is a media sponsor).

The driving forces for the sharing economy, when it comes to transportation, should be efficiency, reliability, traffic mitigation, and the appeal of non-driving options.

But Uber and Airbnb, arguably the two biggest names in the sharing economy, are at their core peer-to-peer businesses. Sure, Uber helps people who don’t live near transit have a better option than taking their own vehicles, and Airbnb can be more convenient and less expensive than staying in a hotel. But in the end, drivers and hosts are providing a service that costs their customers money.

This is not the essence of sharing as most people think of it. Uber and Airbnb are technologies that, with the spread of internet access, have allowed average, non-corporate people to make money from their resources. But there really isn’t any bartering going on, and it’s not “sharing our stuff” in the sense of enjoying portions of our things with each other.

Most importantly, we don’t want to miss the unprecedented opportunity for people to use limited resources more efficiently. It’s not UberX, but UberPool, that should be the focus – actual shared rides. It’s not car companies trying to put more vehicles on the road. It’s Turo, formerly Relay Rides, that lets people rent out their already existing and sitting-most-of-the-time vehicles. It’s Sameride, which is focusing on building critical mass for its carpooling route.

There’s a long way to go before the average household understands all of this. In a recent study by the Insurance Research Council, 71 percent of American adults “report little familiarity” with the sharing economy, with a plurality of that group, 46 percent, saying they are “not at all familiar.”

Another major study, conducted by Pew, found that only 15 percent of Americans have used a ride-hailing app, and only 3 percent say they use them on a daily or weekly basis.

These are very intriguing, and somewhat stunning numbers to a city boy like myself, where the services are more commonly used and density creates more options. Doesn’t everyone like a deal? For instance, I stayed in an altogether-pleasant Airbnb in Pittsburgh this month for $90 during the University of Pittsburgh homecoming, when no hotel in the city core could be found for less than $350. There appears to be a lot of people overpaying to stay in hotels simply because “that’s what we’ve always done.”

It makes me wonder how old-school models like hotels, taxis, and transit are going to survive once a lot more people start realizing they have all these other options. Do they even need to survive? Have we simply been doing it all wrong all these years?

Perhaps part of the problem in reaching people might actually be technology. There are so many apps that do so many different things; maybe it’s no wonder that people default to the car over transit or the hotel over someone’s guest room. A new study from Xerox found that half of all respondents believe they will have one app for all their transportation needs by 2020. This sounds like wish fulfillment by people who want all these little players to go away or merge or something.

Maybe one app for carpooling, one app for car-sharing, and one app for ride-hailing is the model that would get more people into the sharing economy.

Finally, where does government fit into all of this? Promoting and incentivizing sharing that has a larger societal benefit seems like a good start. Since the market is so competitive, most start-ups aren’t sharing their data, another thing regulation could encourage. More open data could help planners, programmers, and others make the broader transportation network run more reliably.

Perhaps federal and state governments could usher in some incentives to get these services to open up and cooperate as part of a larger transportation system. If services are going to channel the nature of sharing, it should be to play a role in improving accessibility and equity too.

If most of the businesses and services being defaulted into the “sharing economy” category truly don’t fall into a more traditional definition of sharing, then perhaps it’s not too late to call the sector something else altogether. The Associated Press has already gotten the memo, last year instructing writers to refer to “ride-sharing” as “ride-hailing” instead.

But if these options truly begin to relieve traffic congestion, increase affordability and accessibility, and improve many of society’s other ills created by our current transportation situation, then we can truly begin to feel all warm-and-fuzzy inside the sharing economy.

Photo: A ride via Uber (Andrew Brackin, Flickr, Creative commons).

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