If you are like many Central Texas employers, you are feeling the parking pinch. Downtown and The Domain employers commonly pay $150 a month for a single parking spot. Even employers that own their parking lots pay $5,000 to $10,000 to build each ground-level spot and $15,000 to $25,000 per garage spot. Those spaces cost more to maintain, and the land could be used much more productively.
As commutes in Austin lengthen in both time and distance, it’s no surprise that Austinites consider traffic congestion one of the most important challenges facing the city. But companies that encourage their employees to use environmentally friendly means of transportation to commute to work find a strong sense of company culture and sustainability.
Here are five ways your company can join the ranks of outstanding businesses that support an environmentally mobile lifestyle:
1. Make an action plan
If your company wants to reduce reliance on automobiles, you’ll need a plan. Some have launched their initiative through the City of Austin’s Mobility Challenge. Others have worked with Movability Austin or Thrival to develop a plan specific to their needs.
For example, central city companies could focus on walking, biking, and transit. Suburban offices could focus on carpooling, which uses employee vehicles, or on vanpooling with MetroRideShare, which uses a leased vehicle.
Additionally, your company should consider internal policies like telecommuting, flex schedules and access to showers onsite for those who choose to bike into work.
2. Provide information
Most of us are familiar with navigating Austin by car, but what about other modes?
In order to launch a successful mobility-shift campaign, employees need to know what’s available. Ask Capital Metro to host a lunch-and-learn to help employees become more familiar with the transit system. The agency can provide one-on-one trip planning sessions to help learn trip options, schedules, routes and what to do when they stay late.
3. Transit adventure
Employees are more likely to switch modes if they’ve had a direct, positive experience using transit. Why not use transit as a team-building event? Host a “Transit Adventure” and get to lunch, volunteer service, or happy hour using public transit rather than a car. It demonstrates your commitment to transit and can provide a stress-free environment to get familiar with transit options to and from your office.
4. #Carless Thursdays anyone?
With about 150 new residents adding 70 cars a day to our roads, rush hour has never been worse and unlikely to get better anytime soon. But employees’ reliance on their cars doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. In fact, companies can encourage their workers to start small by choosing one day out of the week as a “carless” day. If an employee drives to work five days a week and switches their commute once, that’s a 20 percent reduction of cars clogging our roads, especially during peak hours.
5. Provide a financial incentive
Don’t forget to offer employees a mobility credit. Since your company probably pays close to $150 a month for parking, why not credit your employees this amount for their use of transit memberships or daily parking passes?
For example, the employee could get a monthly Capital Metro pass ($40-$96) + Car2Go membership ($3) + B-cycle membership ($6.67) and use the remaining amount ($44-$100) on parking passes. Employers offering this kind of benefit have seen up to 30 percent of their workforce switch, enabling a reduction in parking expenses. You can extend the savings further by enrolling in MetroWorks, which offers up to 35 percent off bulk purchases of transit passes.
Knowing what solutions are available is only part of the work. The true test of success is motivating employees to change their travel habits. If you do, it will lift morale and put your company on a more sustainable path. For more ways on how your company can build a culture around feasible transportation, click here.
This guest column was written by this year’s State of Talent sponsor, Capital Metro. Created in 1985, Capital Metro is Austin’s regional public transportation provider that offers more than 30 million boardings each year.
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