Promoting Sustainability

July 17, 2007

Written by KAI Intern Shana Hoffman

With the ever increasing price of gasoline, and the charge to society to reduce its levels of pollutant emission, it’s only logical to look to the public and private sectors to form a joint partnership in order to implement effective far-reaching programs in an attempt to aid in the quest to make sustainable transportation not only an abstract idea, but an achievable goal.

The ability to make an abstract idea into an achievable goal in the context of a partnership implies that each side of the partnership must independently contribute valuable ideas. In the case of travel demand management, both the public and private sector have made valuable strides forward independently.

In the private sector, numerous corporations have developed key tactics to reduce employees’ number of trips per day. These strategies include hiring travel coordinators to arrange ride sharing and carpooling among employees, providing subsidies for bicycles and necessary biking gear, creating more telework opportunities to enable employees to work from home, and providing discounts on transit while subsequently increasing parking prices.

Some corporations with notable incentive programs include Bank of America who offers its employees three thousand dollars towards the purchase of a hybrid automobile, IBM who has more than 32,000 of its employees participate in the work from home “e-commute” program, and Nike who utilizes its “Traveling Responsibly? Accept the Challenge”( TRAC) program to offer monthly transit passes for $15, to provide all-day shuttle service between the nearest light rail station, its main campus and several leased buildings.

In addition to the companies mentioned above, in an attempt to reduce peak hour trips, to alleviate roadway congestion and delay, other companies have implemented more flexible scheduling patterns for different worker types. The flexible scheduling programs allow certain employees to work longer hours for fewer days during the week or to arrive to work after the morning peak hour. Because many of these incentive programs in the private sector are so new, it remains to be seen which of the incentives will be embraced and utilized by employees.

The measure of success for any and all of these incentive programs lies in whether there is a decrease in the number of single occupancy vehicle trips per day and when the public sector enters the equation to create performance measures and standards they rely heavily on these reported numbers.

The public sector, in addition to devising performance measures and standards for the private sector, has also developed some of its own travel demand management programs including developing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, centralizing transit fare and schedule information on municipal websites and other public areas, and providing special exceptions to transit oriented development (TOD) projects submitting proposals for site development approval.

In addition, similarly to the private sector, many public agencies actively promote ride sharing programs, transit discounts, parking cash out programs and other incentive programs.

It is clear that the beginning steps in the formation of a successful partnership already are taking shape in the work done independently by the public and private sectors in the quest to create sustainable transportation. However, when we look at the fundamental meaning of sustainability, livability over time, it is clear that independent action without effective collaboration will not achieve this goal at the most effective level. Continued independent efforts on the public and private side in conjunction with well organized collaborative opportunities will be the final step in moving from an abstract idea toward tangible results and quantifiable success.

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