Economic Prosperity – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:55:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 California merchants, public clamor for rethinking our transportation impulses https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/23/california-merchants-public-clamor-rethinking-transportation-impulses/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/23/california-merchants-public-clamor-rethinking-transportation-impulses/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:04:11 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22839 In bustling city cores, people driving alone in their personal cars can be the worst thing for local merchants. Many of them simply didn’t know it before, but they’re slowly beginning to figure it out. Three new stories out of California show that the state is taking the concept of transportation demand seriously. Take this example:... Read more »

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In bustling city cores, people driving alone in their personal cars can be the worst thing for local merchants. Many of them simply didn’t know it before, but they’re slowly beginning to figure it out.

Three new stories out of California show that the state is taking the concept of transportation demand seriously.

Take this example: In downtown San Francisco, the drive-alone rate has dropped from 14 percent in 1989, when the non-profit Transportation Management Association was founded, to 8.5 percent in 2017. That’s both an impressive drop and impressive overall that so many people appear to understand the countless societal ills their personal actions can bring.

However, traffic congestion just keeps getting worse, with 81 percent polled in the city saying it has reached a “crisis level.” So it’s a practically Herculean uphill battle, but the San Francisco Business Times notes some of the strategies the TMA and others are trying:

The city passed a new Transportation Demand Management Plan [that] encourages the creation of bike parking, car-share parking and delivery services and a boost in high-occupancy vehicles and parking management. It’s up to employers to provide commuter benefits, shuttles or incentives, and the challenge is growing in size without adding parking, said Carli Paine, who works on these issues for SFMTA.

Down in Los Angeles, Culver City has a new Metro station and leaders are hoping to take this opportunity to make sure it creates a much wider sphere of vibrancy than simply one immediately adjacent to the station. UrbanizeLA notes that Culver City:

… currently sees approximately 70,000 daily car trips into the city, mainly for employment – roughly twice its residential population. These commuters traverse a road network [described as] an “incomprehensible web,” with east-west circulation pinched into the center of town before spreading back out. Culver City may also consider a city-wide transportation demand management program, as has already been implemented in Santa Monica. This strategy involves coordinating with various employers in the city to manage automobile trips, with consideration to peak travel times.

Throughout the state of California, these TDM plans are simply a growing reaction to what the people truly want, according to a new survey commissioned by the California Bicycle Coalition. Streetsblog California sums up the findings:

The results seem to defy the notion that Californians want to drive everywhere. “Transportation officials are decades behind acknowledging this shifting demand,”wrote Jeanie Ward-Waller, the CBC’s policy director.

Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed say they believe that state and local transportation departments need to change the way they build streets and roads to make it safe for all users, including people who walk, bicycle, take transit, and drive. Voters want better bicycling conditions: two-thirds agree that their city government should do more to encourage bicycling.

Photo of San Francisco street by Richard Masoner/Flickr.

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Post-Travis Kalanick, Uber needs to finally think deeply about its role in the world https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/21/post-travis-kalanick-uber-needs-to-finally-think-deeply-about-its-role-in-the-world/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/21/post-travis-kalanick-uber-needs-to-finally-think-deeply-about-its-role-in-the-world/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:39:33 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22802 With today’s news that Travis Kalanick has stepped down as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing giant has reached a crossroads on whether it will sink or swim. Its many months of trials and tribulations may be too much to overcome, and the boorish company culture that has come to light again and again will... Read more »

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With today’s news that Travis Kalanick has stepped down as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing giant has reached a crossroads on whether it will sink or swim.

Its many months of trials and tribulations may be too much to overcome, and the boorish company culture that has come to light again and again will no doubt prove too much for many former customers to overcome.

When Uber’s board essentially fired Kalanick, it wrote that he had “always put Uber first.”

That is not a good thing; that is part of the problem. By always putting Uber first, at all costs, he forgot that there’s a context to all this. What we’re learning from the early days of Uber is that perhaps the best way to fit into a particular universe is not to make enemies with everyone else in your immediate orbit (in this case, to name a few, taxicab companies and drivers, transit providers, and the occasionally unhappy customers you treat with disdain like mosquitoes).

In Uber’s quest to take over the world of tech-transportation, Kalanick and other leaders there have forgotten the many ways the company should be contributing to a better society.

We can thank Uber and other so-called “sharing economy” transportation companies (although the only part of Uber that truly meets this qualification is UberPool) for getting people to realize they don’t always have to drive everywhere, alone in private vehicles. Uber has become a powerful tool to persuade people to give up car ownership altogether.

Many cities have been working to integrate Uber, Lyft, and other companies into extending the reach of their fixed mass-transit systems. Hopefully that work continues because it really could improve problems created by pollution and traffic jams. Perhaps even better, transit agencies themselves, after years of sluggishly moving into the 21st century, are starting to copy the ways Uber has made travel so effortless because of information obtainable through technology.

In the end, if services like Uber can cut total vehicle trips in congested areas, then they can play a major role in helping city governments and planners design much more livable places. After all, if a city could reduce car ownership by 15,000 vehicles, $127 million could stay in the local economy.

That’s where Uber and its board could take a step back to think about how it wants to get, to cop a phrase from D.C. Metrorail, “back to good.”

Read more about Kalanick leaving Uber at The New York Times

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Offering transit incentives is a way to avoid costly infrastructure spending https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/14/offering-transit-incentives-way-avoid-costly-infrastructure-spending/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/14/offering-transit-incentives-way-avoid-costly-infrastructure-spending/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 19:59:43 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22662 In the department of “Where Are They Now?,” Chris Hamilton is a prominent face around Mobility Lab, as one of our contributors and the former bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services, of which Mobility Lab is a part. He just appeared as a guest on the excellent GovLove podcast. Host Ben Kittelson asks to learn... Read more »

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In the department of “Where Are They Now?,” Chris Hamilton is a prominent face around Mobility Lab, as one of our contributors and the former bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services, of which Mobility Lab is a part. He just appeared as a guest on the excellent GovLove podcast.

Host Ben Kittelson asks to learn more about transportation demand management – Mobility Lab’s bread-and-butter – and Hamilton answers: “Transportation tends to revolve around adding supply and adding infrastructure. And TDM is all about changing the behavior of people so that you better meet the demand.”

Hamilton gives the TDM example of “if the roads are clogged, rather than widen the road, which is really expensive and in tons of places we can’t even do that anymore, what if we could get more people to ride the bus if there’s not a lot of people [already doing that]? Or what if we could get more people on bikes or even walking?

“In TDM, you use a set of tools to educate people about alternatives to driving. It’s often about marketing and carrots and sticks and incentives and disincentives. If you apply those tools correctly, you can often get that change and you don’t have to spend all that money on expensive infrastructure or ruin your downtown by adding more cars.”

Now serving as the program manager of Car-Free Key West in Florida, Hamilton was a key ingredient in the founding of Mobility Lab back when he was in Arlington. He tells the amazing origin stories of Arlington’s transit retail outlets, its pioneering online transit pass-purchasing program way back in 1997, and its ongoing corporate transit-sales program.

Hamilton also gives a nice shout-out to Mobility Lab as one of the industry’s “biggest thought leaders.” The host asks for more information, and Hamilton says, “We needed to tinker with better ways for making it easy for people to think about taking bike, walk, or public transportation. We birthed Mobility Lab to do research and find best practices across the industry so that we could then bring that knowledge back home to us and make our own operations better.”

Listen to the full GovLove podcast, and wonder in amazement how Hamilton took off for Key West, abandoning both his Redskins season tickets of 37 years and his streak of attending opening-day Orioles baseball games (he loves the Nationals too) since 1981.

(This article originally misstated the origin date of Arlington’s online transit-pass program. The date, 1997, is now correct.)

Photo: A street in Key West, where Hamilton is program manager of Car-Free Key West (Kenneth Garcia, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Bike parking and the bottom line https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/05/bike-parking-bottom-line/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/05/bike-parking-bottom-line/#comments Mon, 05 Jun 2017 16:06:33 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22554 5 reasons why retail business can no longer afford to ignore bicyclists Once, providing a secure bicycle parking infrastructure was an option that was only considered by socially-conscious business owners in bike-friendly communities. But with bicycle commuting rapidly growing, that has changed. Now, business owners in almost all communities must face the reality that a... Read more »

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5 reasons why retail business can no longer afford to ignore bicyclists

Once, providing a secure bicycle parking infrastructure was an option that was only considered by socially-conscious business owners in bike-friendly communities. But with bicycle commuting rapidly growing, that has changed. Now, business owners in almost all communities must face the reality that a significant portion of consumers now pedal their way to shop and dine. Although it was once thought to be an extra feature, the provision of bike parking has become a necessity for successful retail businesses and workplaces.

Let’s review why:

1. The numbers

Have you noticed more people pedaling past your business lately? There’s no doubt that bike commuting and bicycle tourism are growing trends in North America’s largest urban centers. Bicycle commuting rates increased by 62 percent nationally between 2000 and 2013, and, in some communities, the increase has been even more drastic. Not catering to this growing demographic means missing out on their business.

2. Revenue

Providing accommodations for cyclists has the potential to not only boost the number of people who visit your business, but also to boost revenue. While many business owners have voiced concern that bicyclists tend to spend less money than their automobile-driving counterparts, research shows people on bikes visit businesses more frequently, and, as a result, in many cases generate more overall revenue. In fact, with all the money they save on gas, maintenance, and parking, some bicyclists spend even more than drivers. In New York, for example, a 2012 study found that bicyclists spent the most among commuters, on each shopping trip.

3. Job satisfaction and employee performance

A bike parking infrastructure isn’t only a benefit for customers; it also increases employee happiness. With secure bike parking at their workplace, employees are more likely to ride to work. Bicycling is a vigorous cardiovascular activity that increases physical fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It can also improve mental health which has a positive effect on the workplace. One study found that bicycling before work can increase productivity by up to 15 percent, while also reducing sick days by 15 percent.

4. Brand image

Today, image is everything for businesses. A commitment to sustainable transportation will help businesses promote both their progressive change to a more responsible lifestyle and their commitment to supporting a diverse customer base. Providing secure bike lockers or bike racks is an effective way for a retail business to help shape the culture.

5. Reduced expense

From the reduced cost of parking maintenance to the decreased cost of health insurance for cycling employees, the installation of secure bike storage options can lead to savings for your business. Often, in situations where vehicular parking must be shared, bike-friendly businesses can save the expense of renting or validating the spaces the bicyclists would otherwise use if they drove. Businesses that encourage bicycling may also save on the expense of compensating short-distance business travel for their employees. On top of it all, the provision of bike racks allows businesses to add parking capacity in space they already own.

Having parking infrastructure that accommodates bicyclists offers numerous benefits to business and requires little in terms of investment. Bike parking requires far less real estate than parking spaces for automobiles. As well, a single bike rack can offer parking for multiple bikes at a convenient location, granting prime access to a building entrance.

Municipal support has also grown with the popularity of bicycling. Many community programs now offer financial assistance to businesses looking to increase bike parking at their locations. Through these programs, community groups and government representatives can help plan for bike racks – and in some situations, may even offer free hardware and installation. With business incentives and many signs indicating that bicycling rates will continue to increase, providing secure bicycle storage is an investment that retail businesses cannot afford to miss.

Ed.: For business and property owners interested in adding bike parking, Arlington County’s TDM for Site Plans team has a detailed explanation of bike parking best practices.

Photo: A busy bike rack in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab; www.kittner.com)

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In Arlington, when is it cheaper to choose carsharing over car ownership? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/11/arlington-residents-save-car-carsharing-costs/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/11/arlington-residents-save-car-carsharing-costs/#comments Thu, 11 May 2017 17:40:15 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22328 Arlington County, Va., includes carsharing in its Master Transportation Plan because it adds important connections to and from its already-rich transit infrastructure. But for car-owning Arlington households, how does carsharing fit within their transportation needs? For one, cost can play a large role. Marietta Gelfort, a carsharing analyst for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, recently took a detailed... Read more »

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Arlington County, Va., includes carsharing in its Master Transportation Plan because it adds important connections to and from its already-rich transit infrastructure.

But for car-owning Arlington households, how does carsharing fit within their transportation needs? For one, cost can play a large role.

Marietta Gelfort, a carsharing analyst for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, recently took a detailed look at the question. Gelfort’s study compared the costs of different car ownership scenarios – new cars, used cars, purchased with and without loans – against the membership and use costs of the two carsharing operators in Arlington, car2go and Zipcar.

Gelfort said, “Carshare makes you more aware of the costs because you get a bill every time you use a car. With ownership, you aren’t reminded [of the high and mostly hidden ongoing costs].”

So how exactly are Arlingtonians supposed to know when carsharing memberships are a better deal than car ownership?

There are many variables that affect ownership costs, including the make and model of the vehicle and how much of it has been paid off. But, for an Arlington resident, Gelfort’s research found that, on average, carsharing is a more affordable option if one generally drives 3,000 miles or less annually (equal to 58 miles per week).

carshare 3000 vmt

At 3,000 miles annually, several carsharing rates still cost less than many ownership scenarios. Source: Arlington DES report.

Arlington residents with multiple personal vehicles might be good candidates to explore carsharing, according to Gelfort. If a second or third car is rarely used, replacing one of those cars with occasional use of a car2go or Zipcar is likely to result in substantial money savings.

As is the case in many places throughout the U.S., there are other people besides multi-car owners who could benefit from carsharing.

“Young people who are just starting to drive would be good candidates to consider carsharing over ownership. It could be a good idea to talk them out of buying cars. And that might be an easier sell before they’ve started getting used to having their own cars,” Gelfort said.

carshare 1500 vmt

In the 1,500 annual VMT scenario, every carsharing scenario emerges as cheaper than car ownership.

Melissa McMahon, TDM planning program manager for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, also worked on the study and added, “There are a substantial amount of one-car households in Arlington and Washington, D.C., that have a car for grocery shopping or weekend trips. Carsharing could even be a great deal for them, especially when they might have monthly parking costs of $150 or so a month.”

It’s worth noting that parking was not considered into Gelfort’s study, as it is “such an individual thing” that is difficult to average.

With about 37 percent of Arlington households owning one car, and 55 percent owning two or more, it stands to reason that there are a number of cases in which residents might save by trading a car for a carsharing membership.

Photo: A Zipcar parked in Rosslyn, Arlington (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

 

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DC employers recognized for leadership in commute contests, transit benefits, and more https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/29/dc-employers-recognized-leading-commute-contests-benefits-leadership/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/29/dc-employers-recognized-leading-commute-contests-benefits-leadership/#comments Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:46:55 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21738 A little healthy competition led a bunch of architects to rethink the way they get to work each day. It sounds so simple, but the science behind it was on display Wednesday at The Westin Georgetown, where goDCgo – an initiative of the District Department of Transportation – held its first Ambassador Awards ceremony. The... Read more »

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A little healthy competition led a bunch of architects to rethink the way they get to work each day.

It sounds so simple, but the science behind it was on display Wednesday at The Westin Georgetown, where goDCgo – an initiative of the District Department of Transportation – held its first Ambassador Awards ceremony. The event recognized D.C. employers for their industry-leading commuter benefits programs.

“There are a lot of examples of how people have changed their commutes,” said Lance Eubanks, who helps run an annual competition for ZGF Architects LLP, which took home the “Most Innovative Commuter Benefits Program Award.” “On average, about 25 percent each year say they are changing their commute based on the competition, based on our survey results.”

Those can add up to significant changes, helping to make traffic a little less awful.

Back in the early 2000s, Eubanks said an employee in ZGF’s D.C. office expressed being “tired of hearing about how green Portland was – where our headquarters is.” So the firm started the competition, which soon expanded to other D.C. architecture firms. Now ZGF actually runs two separate contests each year during the week of Bike to Work Day in the spring: one internally across the firm’s offices in D.C., New York, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, and another with about 40 non-ZGF offices in the D.C. area.

For the latter, dubbed the “Big Green Commute,” Eubanks added, “At first people heard about this and they didn’t really understand it. But when people understood what we were trying to do, they got really excited about it.”

He cited two examples. One employee went truly multimodal, riding his bike from home in Hyattsville, Md., kayaking down the Anacostia River to Capitol Hill, then finally riding to work on a stored bike. Another competitor who used to Metro every day from Columbia Heights to ZGF’s downtown office but “started walking and realized, wow, this is a much better commute … and had never thought to do that before.”

“The design/construction/real-estate industry is always focused on the future … looking forward and what it could be like, not what it’s like now,” Eubanks explained, noting why he thinks ZGF’s transportation efforts are working. He also said employees are excited that money raised through the competition benefits two causes close to the firm’s heart: the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a D.C.-based smart-growth advocacy group, and Community of Hope, which helps homeless families get healthcare, housing, and jobs.

Other winners at goDCgo’s Ambassador Awards 2017 included:

  • D.C. Commuter Benefits All-Star Award: Everybody Wins! DC, which promotes reading for children, extended pre-tax commuter benefits to its part-time employees, an act not required by D.C.’s commuter-benefits law.
  • Bike-Friendly Workplace Award: National Geographic boasts more than 300 bicycle commuters, fields a Climate Ride team each year, offers Capital Bikeshare corporate memberships, and provides extensive office bicycle facilities.
  • Best Telework Program Award: TCG is an IT and management consultant in which 74 percent of employees telework at least once per week, with nearly 50 percent teleworking full time. TCG estimates its “telework first” program saves 42,000 gallons of fuel in the D.C. area each year.
  • Best Carpool/Vanpool Program Award: The Inter-American Development Bank, which focuses on poverty and inequality issues, created a ridesharing app that is used by 300 employees.

Keynote speaker Robert Thomson, who is retiring this week from his job as The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock, laughed, “The 21st century is not going to be like the 20th century in how we get around the D.C. area. Each ambassador effort is valuable on its own, but collectively, they may inspire my [Dr. Gridlock] successor to change the name of the column.”

Photo: Attendees at the Ambassador Awards (photo by A. E. Landes Photography for goDCgo).

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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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