How Green is Your Commute? - Metropolitan Planning Council

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How Green is Your Commute?

Did you know that 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector?  And that number keeps creeping up.  If you care about addressing climate change, you need to care about transportation.  How do we get more people to use sustainable transportation to get to work?   MPC’s May 31, 2019 roundtable event featured speakers addressing opportunities for business - transit partnerships to increase transit ridership and improve greater Chicago’s regional sustainability.

CTA President Dorval Carter highlighted how his agency’s sole focus is on delivering sustainable transportation. One CTA train carries 600 passengers and each bus can carry up to 60 people.  He served on the recent New Transportation and Mobility Task Force and noted that the final report recommends more regional businesses offer transit incentives to their employees.  “One of the effective ways to get commuters to leave their cars behind is to work with employers to incentivize public transit.  We have the opportunity to market fare products in a way that is even more appealing to businesses,” said Carter.  We need to be a sustainable and livable region to attract residents.

Shifting Transportation Patterns at a Large Institution

John Attanucci, manager of the Transit Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) noted that their recent Access MIT staff transit incentive program was driven by a need to reducing demand for expensive parking facilities. Recent parking developments in the area were costing $150,000 per parking space. At the same time sustainability is a campus-wide goal.  And staff benefits are important given is increasing competition for research staff in the competitive labor market.  

Therefore, the university decided to develop a universal transit pass integrated into staff IDs enabling free transit use, while adjusted the way parking is charged from a monthly to a daily fee of $10.   Instead of buying monthly transit passes that might not get used by some, MIT pays for every ride employees take at full fare. The MIT staff pass can also be used for transit trips anywhere on the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (MBTA), not only to work, which the school views as a contribution to the sustainability of the metro area.  Once the new program was put in place, the shift in transportation patterns was immediate:  parking went down 8% in thefirst year and 24% more staff use MBTA bus or subway service on a regular basis (at least 2 workdays/week).  The program saved an anticipated replacement of 400 parking spaces.   The MBTA  is now considering expanding this “universal” pass product to all employers in region, since the MIT program resulted in about 10 percent more rides and 5 percent more revenue.

A Business Perspective

CA Ventures is an international developer of multifamily, senior and student housing with 250 employees in its Chicago headquarters.  The company is seriously committed to transit, paying 100 percent of transit costs for all Chicago employees.  As a result, 95 percent of Chicago employees use the benefit, which is notable given that one third of the workforce lives in the suburbs.  The firm was voted by Crain’s as a 2019 Best Place to work in Chicago for the first time. CA Ventures feels that the transit benefit was a factor, since 99 percent of its workforce cites this as a deciding factor when choosing the firm as a place to work.  Additionally, Over 85 percent of CA’s existing portfolio and future development sites are within three blocks of public transit rail systems.  The firm recognizes that transit is critical for access to talent and customers in their residential buildings.

Solving the Suburban Last Mile Problem

Suburban employers are working to stay competitive in terms of access to talent by providing last-mile transportation.  With the Transportation Management Association of Lake Cook’s Shuttle Bug Program, 13 Pace shuttle routes connect one CTA & six Metra stations with four suburban employment centers, providing 1,000 daily passenger trips. This program has functioned as a public-private partnership between Pace/Metra and participating firms since 1996. Employers and the public sector share costs 50/50. Executive Director Mike Walczak noted, “Chambers of commerce sell this as a strength of accessing corporate campuses in their communities.”  A recording of the full event is available here.

Tell Your Transit Story

The Metropolitan Planning Council subsidizes every employee with up to $35 towards transit in addition to offering employees the ability to contribute pretax income to paying for transit fares.  Every MPC employee is also provided an annual membership to Divvy bikeshare. Check out other business case studies in our Transit Means Business report.  How is your company supporting sustainable commutes? Please tell us your story by emailing Transportation Director Audrey Wennink at awennink@metroplanning.org.  

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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