Welcome to our 12 Days of Mobility series, which celebrates the launch of our Transportation Cost-Savings Calculator, a tool that measures the return of investment from transportation demand management (TDM) programs. Click the image to see the entire series.
The worst workplace obstacle to transportation I’ve seen was during an unpaid internship at California Governor Jerry Brown’s office.
Despite the governor’s progressive transportation policies and the State Capitol’s downtown location, interns were offered a parking permit but not transit benefits. I sucked up the costs for a monthly pass and enjoyed a convenient bus commute, but (to my knowledge) I was the only regular transit rider in the office.
As I experienced, employers often cover the costs of parking for employees who drive alone. Occasionally, they even provide them take-home vehicles for personal use. This is (obviously) quite expensive for employers.
For example, even in affordable, low-density Phoenix, an aboveground parking structure costs approximately $17,000 per spot to build – or, nearly 14 years of Valley Metro’s most expensive monthly transit pass, which covers not just rail and local buses but also all of the region’s premium bus services. This cost rises to as high as $48,000 per spot in Honolulu, a price that would cover over 62 years of unlimited travel on that city’s TheBus system (not to be confused with the Prince George’s County, Md., transit system of the same name).
An employer subsidizing the full costs of parking for its employees won’t earn any revenue from this costly infrastructure, yet will have to pay interest on any construction debt, maintain and secure the garage or lot, and pay taxes on the value of the paved-over land. In addition, the long commutes everyone (including upper management) would need to endure to reach their subsidized parking spots are likely to be unreliable, expensive, and stressful – no matter how much funding and space is allotted to roads.
Making multimodal transportation options available and convenient for employees boosts companies’ bottom lines.
Anything an employer does to reduce the number of parking spots it must construct and maintain is bound to pay off for them: both in the short-term by reducing transportation-related costs and in the long-term by improving employees’ quality of life and attracting better talent.
As illustrated by the parking-transit cost comparisons above – which don’t even include the costs to employees (or employers, should they choose to subsidize) of owning and using a car – transit benefits are one proven way for employers to save money, while also making the workplace more accessible for potential talent. In addition to offsetting parking construction, maintenance, and security costs, provision of transit benefits can save employers nearly $500 per employee per year in payroll taxes. Amazon’s demand for high-quality rail and bus service at its proposed HQ2 demonstrates how important transit is to a business’s success.
Employers can also benefit from promoting the use of active transportation modes, such as cycling and walking. Cyclists directly save their employers money, as personal bikes only require around a tenth as much secure storage space as a car does, while membership fees for bikeshare systems are miniscule relative even to transit passes (for example, employers in the Washington, DC region pay only $50 for their employees to use Capital Bikeshare for free).
Cyclists also enjoy increased work productivity thanks to better health. For example, a study conducted in France found that employees who chose to cycle used up to 15 percent less sick leave than their car-commuting peers, while also enjoying lower stress.
But helping employees avoid congestion isn’t just limited to providing transit benefits or amenities for active commuters: employers can use telework or flexible work hours. By allowing flexibility in employees’ work hours, employers in Texas increased retention and productivity while reducing traffic congestion for those whose work tasks necessitate peak-hour travel.
One highly useful tool for employers is allowing their employees unlimited time off, requiring only that they get all their work done. Such policies have helped put Asana in the 99th percentile for employee satisfaction among tech companies, while boosting Dropbox employees’ perceptions of their work-life balance by up to 10 percent. Telework agreements also have proven fruitful; for example, remote work options allowed Dell to consolidate its office space, saving the company $21 million and making it more attractive to prospective employees.
For a more in-depth list of employer transportation demand management strategies, go here.
Photo by Alden Jewell on Flickr.