Why Cities Are Eliminating Traditional Parking Requirements

In North America, many municipalities have bylaws mandating the inclusion of parking facilities in new residential developments and commercial buildings. These policies, which date back to about the middle of the 20th century, once served important and practical purposes.

First, municipalities feared that a lack of adequate parking would put their businesses at a competitive disadvantage. This concern was especially prevalent in downtown areas of major metropolitan centers, which were economically threatened by the rapid rise of suburban development. Also, neighborhood residents tended to worry that they would have to compete with new neighbors for limited parking. As such, they were reluctant to support new high-density construction projects like apartment buildings and condominiums.

Parking requirements solved these issues, but they also supported over-reliance on privately owned vehicles. Thus, as cities continued to grow, traffic congestion and pollution continued to grow with them. They also contributed to urban sprawl, as the amount of space occupied by surface parking lots adds up quickly when aggregated across an entire metropolitan area.

In 2017, Buffalo became the first major city in the United States to repeal its municipal parking requirements. Many other cities, including San Francisco and Minneapolis, have since followed suit. In examining this trend, we are left with three interesting questions:

Why now?

Reduced reliance on private vehicle ownership is a major driver of the shift away from parking requirements. Cities are becoming acutely aware of the many negative impacts of traffic congestion, and many have responded with policies designed to make alternatives to solo driving more accessible and user-friendly. This is having a positive impact by making people less reliant on cars, which in turn makes parking requirements less feasible than they were in the past. As some observers have pointed out, parking requirements enabled urban addictions to cars, and getting rid of them will help cities break free.

In addition, developers lamented the financial and intangible costs associated with parking requirements, which not only take up precious space but also cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to fulfill. Eliminating these requirements reduces construction costs, which in turn allows more housing to be built. Getting rid of mandated parking also makes it easier for cities to embrace smart, high-density urban growth models by ensuring that prime real estate is not occupied by something so inessential as a parking lot.

How will eliminating parking requirements benefit cities?

The most obvious benefits will come in the form of increased residential density, reduced vehicle usage, and accompanying reductions in pollution and traffic congestion. However, there are also many other advantages:

  • Lower rent rates. Because eliminating parking requirements increases available housing by reducing construction costs, housing becomes more affordable because supply levels rise. According to a 2016 study, parking requirements add an average of $1,700 a year in rental costs. Eliminating them could lead to big savings, especially for lower-income individuals.
  • Developmental diversity. Meeting parking requirements puts limits on the types of buildings that can be constructed, as they necessitate certain architectural and functional characteristics. Getting rid of them allows developers to be more creative. For a few interesting examples, look to downtown Sandpoint, Idaho.
  • Historical building preservation. In Buffalo, and many other cities, parking requirements led to the demolition of numerous historic buildings since they could not be redeveloped while meeting municipal zoning bylaws. Scrapping the requirements will make it easier to preserve and repurpose buildings that were constructed before parking requirement laws existed.

How will the changes impact residents?

The urban living landscape will begin to change as more and more cities rethink their parking requirement bylaws. Demand for smart solutions like carpooling, carsharing, and emerging mobility models like shared bikes and scooters will continue to grow. People will make more regular use of public transit, and cities will become more walkable as growth densities rise and updated building codes facilitate the creation of innovative mixed-use spaces.

Just as municipalities will need to respond by continuing to support the proliferation of alternative modes of transportation, employers will see an increased need to create effective commuter programs. Statistics show that long and difficult commutes frequently lead people to quit their jobs, and businesses will need to offer solutions that support recruitment and employee retention efforts.

RideAmigos can be a big help in these areas. Our innovative, comprehensive software platform provides an exhaustive list of administrative and management tools municipalities and businesses can use to make transportation alternatives more accessible. To learn more, get started with a demo or a free analysis of your existing commuter management strategy.

Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Takes Commuter Rewards to the Next Level

In December 2018, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) launched a new commuter rewards program to the public. The CATS program allows commuters to earn points towards valuable rewards by logging smart commutes using approved alternatives to solo driving. CATS configured the system so that 10 round trips logged using approved modes could earn the commuter a $5 reward.

Just 10 days after launching, the CATS commuter rewards program attracted almost 200 new users, marking a 500% increase in registered users over the preceding three-month period. Over those 10 days, participants posted some pretty impressive stats: they logged 1,200 alternative trips totaling 14,900 miles, which saved 3.83 tons of CO2 emissions.

CATS program administrators used a few targeted approaches to generate interest in the program. First, they enticed new users by offering bonus points for joining, putting them within striking distance of a prize right off the bat. They also structured their program to include progressive reward tiers, giving participants added incentives for logging more trips and saving their points for a truly special prize. The resulting engagement and impact speaks for itself!

Learning from Programs that Work

The CATS program is powered by CommuteRewards, part of the RideAmigos cloud-based platform that automates the kinds of proven points programs that have worked for innovative employers like the City of Austin and regional agencies like Commute.org.

Key advantages of the CommuteRewards program:

  • Easy management. By taking advantage of automation, the program eliminated the need to worry about how many rewards to purchase from each vendor at any given time. Instead, they simply define a budget and set point values. Earning and redeeming points is self-service!
  • Tons of choice. Because more than 100 different rewards providers participate, there is no guessing which vendors commuters will like best. Everyone is different, so the program lets them choose their own rewards from a wide variety of retailers and restaurants.
  • Streamlined administration. The CommuteRewards store is configured for easy administration, so you don’t have to keep track of digital codes, leftover gift cards from previous events, or other similar management and reporting headaches.

Commuter rewards are generally a great way to motivate employees to make better and more frequent use of greener, smarter alternatives. A growing number of companies and organizations are turning to this strategy to complement their outreach and commuter challenges and promote sustained behavior change. If you’d like to learn more, we’d be happy to help!

2018: Millions of Single Occupancy Vehicle Trips Avoided

As we prepare to welcome 2019, we’re pausing to reflect on the amazing positive impact RideAmigos partners have made on mobility, traffic, commuter wellness, and our planet.

We’re proud to be working with the leaders from Fortune 500 businesses, top research universities, and innovative government agencies engaging commuters to make a healthier, happier planet.

Here’s a look at some of what our partners have achieved this year:

RideAmigos users avoided millions of single occupancy vehicle trips in 2018.

Making a difference for employees and communities

Organizations partnering with RideAmigos are saving money, burning more calories, and reducing their greenhouse gas output by thousands of tons.

They’re doing it by offering better information and the incentives to make smart choices. Together, we’re changing the way people commute – creating a happier, healthier future for everyone.

We at RideAmigos are so grateful for the opportunity to support your success. Thanks for joining in our mission, using our tools, and leading the way for so many others. Thank you for helping us create a better world.

We look forward to continuing to empower transportation heroes in 2019 with cutting edge trip planning, ridematching, incentives management and gamification, and to share our collective wealth of knowledge and experience in the RideAmigos Academy.

To make RideAmigos part of your own 2019 success story, get started here today!

Commuter Engagement vs. Commuter Management

As competition to recruit and retain top talent grows tougher, a growing number of companies and organizations are offering commuter programs as part of their benefits portfolio. Two common phrases you’re likely to encounter include “commuter engagement” and “commuter management.” Many people are under the impression that these two terms are interchangeable, but there are actually important differences between these cornerstone concepts.

What is commuter engagement?

Commuter engagement focuses on programs that make people feel good about adopting alternative modes. In addition to promoting short-term commuter events like Bike-to-Work Month or Rideshare Month, effective engagement strategies also aim to encourage long-term behavior change. When handled well, commuter engagement results in more people choosing to ditch the solo drive in favor of smart alternatives more often.

Essential commuter engagement strategies and concepts include things like:

  • Points programs that allow commuters to collect points they can later redeem for valuable rewards
  • Games, friendly competitions, challenges, and other incentive programs
  • Giving commuters financial incentives for leaving their cars at home, like those provided by parking cash-out programs
  • Targeted marketing campaigns that promote commuter programs to specific groups within your organization

What about commuter management?

Commuter management, on the other hand, simply seeks to provide commuters with the information and resources they need to make better use of smart mobility options. It covers things like:

RideAmigos empowers program leaders to successfully manage both commuter engagement and commuter management. Our unique, industry-leading platform includes the tools and programs that make it easy to drive higher levels of commuter engagement. Administrators also enjoy advanced commuter management features and that make managing and analyzing large and complex programs easy, efficient, and fun. To learn more about our solutions, get started with RideAmigos today!

CommuteCon 2018 is Bigger Than Ever

A New Year has begun and that means our team is gearing up for the third annual CommuteCon on February 7. In 2018, what was already the world’s largest online commuter transportation conference is going to be bigger and better than ever. We’re incredibly excited to present a program that covers the most important trends and issues in commuter and transportation demand management in 2018 and beyond. This year’s theme, “Smart Mobility with Purpose,” invites commuter transportation leaders to reflect on and celebrate the important impact their work has on their communities and the world.

CommuteCon is a unique, free opportunity for transportation and commuter management professionals from around the world to connect and experience presentations from industry thought leaders, policy-makers and practitioners from diverse fields in the public and private sectors – all without leaving the office. We are so excited about the amazing lineup of presenters for CommuteCon 2018. With more than a dozen valuable sessions and lightning talks on key topics in commuter transportation and demand management, plus two incredible keynotes, this five-hour event is the essential virtual conference to propel you forward in your mission this year.

Opening Keynote: Susan Shaheen, Ph.D.

It will be an honor to welcome Susan Shaheen back to CommuteCon this year. Susan is the Director of Innovative Mobility Research, a co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center, and Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California Berkeley.  

Susan is an internationally recognized thought leader whose work focuses on applying technology to mobility challenges. She has been a pioneer in research on commuter carsharing and continues to contribute to the study of smart vehicle sharing, intelligent parking management, sustainable transportation technology and infrastructure, as well as other areas.

She has a Ph.D. in ecology from UC Davis, focusing on the energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and an M.S. in public policy analysis from the University of Rochester. In the past, she served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, and as the Policy and Behavioral Research Program Leader at California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways.

She currently serves on the ITS World Congress program committee, and the editorial board of IJST, and is chair of the subcommittee for Shared-UseVehicle Public Transport Systems of the Transportation Research Board.

Second Keynote: Simon Mainwaring

For the second keynote presentation, attendees will hear from Simon Mainwaring, founder of We First, a leading brand and leadership consultancy that empowers people and organizations to lead and make a positive impact on the world.  

A global thought leader in purpose-driven strategy and brand development, Simon is also a member of the Executive Committee of Sustainable Brands, the Steering Committee of the Business Alliance for the Future, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London and the World Business Academy in the United States. He alsoserved as interim CMO at TOMS, where he helped to lead innovative marketing strategies.

Simon contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, and Huffington Post on branding and social technology and was featured on the cover of the National Speaker Magazine.

His book, We First: How brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave Macmillan) is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon bestseller. He has worked with an incredible portfolio of brands including Nike, Coca-Cola, Toyota, and Motorola, and has won dozens of awards. Simon will call upon CommuteCon participants to connect with the purpose behind our shared mission and draw inspiration from the impact our community is make on our world.

Full Agenda Coming Soon…

CommuteCon 2018 will feature speakers from across the private sector, leading research universities, and state and local government. Attendees will have a front-row seat for presentations on the important issues in transportation management including commuter incentives, parking demand management, program development and marketing, employee transportation, tax and regulatory impacts, local and regional economic development, and more.

The program will be full of opportunities to learn what other leading organizations are doing to manage a variety of commuter challenges and build sustainable, smart communities. Most sessions will include a short virtual Q&A period so attendees can engage with the presenters and dig deeper into the issues that matter. Stay tuned at commutecon.com for updates to the agenda and a full list of speakers and sessions.

We hope you’ll join us February 7 for this incredible day. Visit commutecon.com to register to attend the free online conference, and stay up-to-date with additions to the agenda and opportunities to connect with other commuter transportation professionals. In the meantime, if you missed CommuteCon last year, you can catch up with our recorded presentations.

Look at All We Accomplished Together in 2017!

As we wrap up this holiday season, here at RideAmigos HQ we’re feeling incredibly grateful for the year we’ve had. Our growing community of partners and users are making huge positive impacts on our world.

Together, we’re making a real difference for individuals and communities.
Together, we’re saving more money, burning more calories, and reducing tons of CO2.
Together, we’re changing the way people commute – creating a happier, healthier future for everyone.

Check out what we accomplished during 2017:

RideAmigos partners have accomplished so much!

RideAmigos 2017 Impact Snapshot

To all of our partners: thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are so grateful for the opportunity to support your success. Thanks for joining in our mission, using our tools, and doing amazing work. Thanks for sharing and learning with each other through the RideAmigos Academy. Thank you for helping us create a better world.

If you’re not a RideAmigos partner or user yet, we hope 2018 brings you an opportunity to join our community.

To make RideAmigos part of your own 2018 success story, get started with us today.

Learning From The TDM Pros: An Interview With Peter Williamson

Here at RideAmigos we love celebrating the success of our partners and helping others learn from their wisdom!

Peter Williamson is the Employer Outreach Coordinator for the San Luis Obispo Council of Government’s (SLOCOG) commuter program, the Back ‘N’ Forth Club, which supports employers in shifting commuter behavior. Peter is also one of the all-star members of the RideAmigos Academy, where he’s a frequent webinar conversation partner and a leader in our Coffee Talk X initiative.

Peter was recently recognized as one of the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) 2017 “Top 40 Under 40.” We sat down with him to learn more about his work helping employers support smart commute choices in their workplaces:

Peter Williamson - SLOCOGRideAmigos: Congrats on your recent award, and on a successful Rideshare Week 2017! I know you’re still crunching numbers and analyzing outcomes, but are there any things you learned from this year’s challenge? Any lessons for next year?

Peter Williamson: The goal of Rideshare Week is to develop an awareness of how we commute and the impact that our commute choices have on our wallets, health, and community. We asked community members to pledge to make at least one smart commute choice during Rideshare Week (October 2-6th) to reduce the number of single occupant vehicles on our region’s roadways. In SLO County, 683 commuters pledged to commute by carpool, vanpool, bike, foot, or bus, and then logged their trips at iRideshare.org.

Our Back ‘N’ Forth Club challenge put employers into two categories: 20+ employees or 60+ employees. The usual suspects (Cal Poly and SRAM) made the biggest impact and won this year’s Rideshare Week Challenge. Our winners receive a paid Best Workplaces for Commuters designation. This award puts our employers on the national map, and provides them with a valuable recruitment tool.

In addition to an online pledge, we asked willing employers to host a roll-up banner that employees could sign. One unexpected outcome was that some employees went outside of the box and expressed mode pride (i.e.: signed Peter – [draw a picture of a bike] 3 x a week!). I would like to do our part to encourage this next year (perhaps by having Lead Super Commuter/ETCs set the precedent).

For the challenge, I want to make it more competitive for Cal Poly, MINDBODY, and all other employers. I hope to accomplish this by mirroring what I did with the county my first year at SLOCOG. This would mean breaking Cal Poly and MINDBODY into sub networks by department. These departments could compete against other employers and departments based on size, making it more competitive for everyone. This effort simultaneously improves program communication at these larger employer sites.

Rideshare Week 2017 Trip Log Stats:

  • 2,749 single-occupant vehicle trips eliminated
  • 39,022 less vehicle miles traveled
  • 9.8 tons of CO2 prevented
  • $12,339 in commute costs saved
  • 156,415 calories burned

RA: As an Employer Outreach Coordinator you spend a lot of time and energy working with organizations to help them promote and support alternatives to solo driving. How do you help employers see the value in promoting alternative commuting options?

PW: The two biggest factors when approaching a new employer are: what is the time/money commitment, and who else is doing it? I take employers through the following outline:

  • What is the expected return on investment for starting a program?
    • Free extension of human resources and benefits
    • Reduced parking demand
    • National and regional recognition
    • Recruit talent from big cities
    • Retain employees that live further away
    • Payroll tax savings
    • Measurable environmental impacts
    • Reduced employee stress and health costs
    • And support for the local community
  • I highlight a few of the many tools, incentives, and services we offer participating employers.
  • I explain different participation designations and similar employers participating in each designation.
  • I ask the employer to nominate a program liaison (Lead Super Commuter / ETC).

RA: Transportation demand management (TDM) programming is obviously a year-round endeavor, but do you have any particularly favorite seasons or annual programs? What makes them your favorite?

PW: Of all SLOCOG/RIDESHARE’s campaigns, nothing compares with the community participation and awareness associated with Bike Month. It’s very well established, likely because our staff used to spend half of the year focused on this campaign. For me it’s valuable because Bike Month is the perfect opportunity to grow employer support of the Back ‘N’ Forth Club. Each year, I’m pushing employers to take their commitment a step further. Spring means employers are calling me, rather than the other way around.

RA: From transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to autonomous vehicles, technology is rapidly expanding the options people have for transportation. How do you see emerging technologies impacting your TDM programs in the future?

PW: Uber and Lyft have already had an impact locally, whether good (less drinking and driving) or bad (more cars in higher-traffic areas). Our guaranteed ride home policy is very flexible, so we’ve noticed a trend in people selecting Uber/Lyft over the original options of a taxi, rental car, or shuttle. I hope technology continues to make data collection and program enforcement easy. I also hope technology reduces traffic congestion, and does not increase it, the fear being that people send their autonomous cars home to park themselves resulting in twice as many trips!

RA: Any parting advice or morsels of wisdom for someone who is new to this movement of shifting commuter behavior for the common good?

PW: Every day is filled with highs and lows that deliver the inspiration I need to keep moving towards a multi-modal world. What started as training for a 200-mile bike ride has grown into a career and lifestyle full of passion. It takes time to change commute behavior, but with a lot of persistence, passion, and patience, TDM professionals do make a difference. What seems like a dead end now will turn into an opportunity next year!

RA: Thanks for your time, and congratulations again on your recent recognition and all your programs’ success!

PW: Thank you!

We’re proud to count Peter and the whole team at SLOCOG as partners in the RideAmigos family, working together to transform transportation. To learn more about how you can shift commuter behavior more effectively and efficiently, contact us today!

 

Announcing New Commuter Benefit Solutions Integration

RideAmigos and Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions are teaming up

The RideAmigos team has exciting news: we’re adding new platform integrations with Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions, and we couldn’t be more excited about the ways this will benefit our partners.

Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions is the nation’s only comprehensive commuter benefit solutions provider and number one resource for commuter savings. Since 1985,Edenred has served Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, top third party benefit administrators and the nation’s largest metropolitan area transit authorities.

With its premier solution offerings; Commuter Check, a nationwide commuter benefits program for employers; and WiredCommute, a private label program for third party administrators, Edenred is able to provide a one-stop total solution experience.Edenred’s mission is to make tax-free commuter benefits a staple in employee benefits packages nationwide.

Here’s a snapshot of some key Commuter Benefit Solutions numbers:

  • The company serves more than 12,000 employers representing over 1.9 million
    employees, including many Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies.
  • The company also maintains partnerships with over 50 national third-party
    administrators, more than 350 transit agencies, hundreds of bike shops, and over
    5,000 parking locations.

Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions has a strong core focus on managing and delivering both employer and employee-based commuter pre-tax benefits programs. These programs help enterprises generate savings of up to 7.65% per year on their payroll taxes while helping employees generate huge savings on their taxable incomes. They provide extensive support, including dedicated account managers, nationwide coverage, convenient product delivery, and a complete suite of support services.

RideAmigos is proud to be creating connections between Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions products and our industry-leading commuter management software. Our partnership will give the businesses and organizations that use our platform easy access to one of the world’s most powerful commuter benefit management programs. The goal is to make generating, tracking, and maximizing both employer- and employee-based tax savings as convenient and profitable as possible.

To learn more, check out the recent Coffee Talk webinar we held with Commuter Benefit Solutions to discuss their product and our plans, or contact us directly.

What is a TMA / TMO?

What is a Transportation Management Association (TMA) /
Transportation Management Organization (TMO)?

A transportation management association (TMA), sometimes known as a transportation management organization (TMO), is an administrative body designed to manage the transportation needs of a particular venue, district, or community. In most cases, TMAs are non-profit organizations, and they are usually controlled by members.

Most TMAs also use partnership models that combine private investment with public resources, thus casting a wider net of stakeholders.

TMAs operate on various scales, with larger-scale organizations holding jurisdiction over entire cities or regions, and smaller-scale associations governing the transportation needs of medical facilities, shopping centers, business districts, or industrial zones, among others. They play an important part in shaping and implementing transportation demand management (TDM) programs with specific objectives that typically include:

  • Single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuter trip reductions
  • More efficient allocation of parking resources
  • Reducing peak-period traffic levels
  • Shifting traffic to off-peak periods
  • Promoting alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles
  • Improving transportation accessibility and system performance

Member-controlled transportation management organizations are more responsive than most government-run TDM initiatives, since they are not encumbered by administrative red tape and can implement new policies with greater speed and flexibility. They also play a key role in supporting smart growth initiatives and land-use patterns that conform to the mixed-use models being favored by a large number of forward-looking municipalities.

The RideAmigos commuter management platform is an ideal tool for TMA’s

The RideAmigos platform is a valuable ally to TMAs of all sizes, thanks to its proven ability to make smarter modes of transportation more accessible to a broader base of users. Transportation management organizations around the world are now using the groundbreaking RideAmigos TDM software package to:

  • Access network and reporting tools that provide an excellent basis for policy creation and implementation
  • Bring a broader range of sustainable transportation options to a larger number of community members
  • Generate meaningful statistical insights into network-specific transportation patterns
  • Manage parking demand
  • Reduce vehicular traffic during peak periods
  • Create and distribute commuter surveys that help program managers better understand the needs and desires of commuters and travelers

RideAmigos is specifically designed to address the TDM needs of organizations operating in both the public and private sectors, and it has become an indispensable tool for businesses, government agencies, and TMAs across the US.

Do you help run a TMA or TMO that could use a more efficient system for managing your programs and shifting commuter behavior? Get started with RideAmigos today to learn how we can help maximize your impact.