“Replacing” Your Commute During the COVID Pandemic

Sure, commuting takes up a lot of time, and it can be stressful. But even so, many people find themselves missing the comfort of routine now that they’ve been relieved of their daily commutes in favor of teleworking.

Here are some creative and interesting rituals newly minted telecommuters are using to stay sane, connected, and productive in the face of this abrupt change:

Video coffee dates

When we started asking around the office, one of our team members said, “I’ve started having some morning video coffee dates with friends, providing a ritual and giving some personal interaction as I start my day.” Sounds like a great way to stay connected!

Vary your surroundings

One respondent offered, “I’ve been switching rooms every other day with my partner to change things up.” Another noted, “Going to a different physical space [to work] is a super helpful practice.”

Different scenery adds variation, which can be psychologically important to people who aren’t used to sameness and monotony.

Meditation

This was an interesting response: “I replaced commuting with meditating in the back yard for a few minutes to get started in the morning. Then, after work, I do a workout outside to tell my body ‘I’m done.'” This bookends the day with mental and physical breaks.

Get a pet

One emphatic respondent insisted: “If you don’t already have one, get a furry friend because they give you a great excuse to take five or ten minutes to give them the attention they want (and deserve!). Having something else that needs you is a great way to break up the day.”

Another pet owner added: “My dogs are very good at telling time, and every day they know when it’s dinnertime and that I should stop working and feed them. They’re very persistent, and help keep me accountable to healthy scheduling.”

Hop on a bike

“I’ve replaced bike commuting with post-work riding,” said one new telecommuter. “I usually pick a part of town to ride to and explore it.”

Another cycling enthusiast added: “I love exploring neighborhoods and nearby areas I had no idea existed. It’s become a vital way to separate myself from work and connect to the world around me in a way I never expected.”

All that, and it’s fantastic exercise!

What’s your work from home ritual?

What are you doing to create a new routine, break up your work day, and separate work time and personal time? We want to know! Tell us in the comments.

Telecommuting During COVID-19: Technology Solutions for WFH Productivity

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced sudden, major changes to the way companies do business. Many organizations have switched to mass telecommuting during COVID-19 in a bid to stay productive, creating a new set of challenges. A large number of companies are scrambling to figure out how to maintain productivity in the new working environment, so we’ve put together a list of tools that can help. This is not comprehensive but a good place to start!

Telecommuting during COVID-19: Meeting face-to-face

Hopefully we’re all getting in on the occasional virtual watercooler chat with our teams via Zoom. While it is getting a lot of press these days, and Microsoft’s Teams also enjoys a dominant position in the virtual meeting space, they are certainly not the only game in town when it comes to voice-based productivity tools. Services like Google Meet, Blue Jeans and GoToMeeting also deliver great face-to-face functionality, making them excellent solutions for productivity, team bonding and remote collaboration.

Instant messaging tools with group chat features are a strong alternative, and may be preferable in some cases. Text-based applications make it just as easy to get quick answers to critical questions as teams work remotely. Software development groups with contributors scattered across the globe are used to working this way, and they have excellent insights and recommendations.

Screen sharing

Screen-sharing apps offer an easy and effective solutions when employees need troubleshooting assistance, or when team members need to simultaneously view slide decks, documents, presentations, and the like. Computer World magazine recently featured its top picks for 15 easy-to-use screen sharing apps for businesses. Many of the reviewed solutions on this list support free trials or free-to-use versions with limited features.

Communication and social networking tools

Some enterprise productivity solutions take a page out of the social media playbook, creating online spaces where connected team members can share updates, files, links, and information in a news feed-style interface. These enterprise social networking platforms make making telecommuting during COVID-19 a more seamless experience.

Slack has always been a great tool for remote teams. While it also makes the chat platform list, its wide variety of enterprise integrations it makes a versatile platform for all kinds of collaboration and connection when large portions of the workforce are shifting to work from home.

For a more traditional social media platform, Microsoft’s Yammer has carved out a unique niche. If you need this kind of functionality, it’s well worth a look.

Team management and feedback

One of the hardest things about remote work is the distance between managers and direct reports. With the dramatic shift to working from home at scale, many experts have taken note of the unique challenges this can pose and there is lots of good advice out there for how to rethink remote management – like this article from the Harvard Business Review.

15Five and other similar tools can help facilitate productive one-on-ones. And, of course, recognition tools like bonus.ly can allow anyone in an organization to amplify praise for a colleague’s hard work through micro-bonuses and public announcements.

Online document sharing

Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Box and many other free and open-access alternatives have ushered in a new area of remote collaboration. These solutions allow team members to create, share, edit, and collaborate on documents in real time, using a system built around access permissions to ensure only authorized individuals are able to edit files. Contributors can add comments to facilitate discussions and revisions, and everything is cloud-based so secure storage is never an issue.

Virtual office software

People teams in need of comprehensive, fully functional solutions for telecommuting during COVID-19 can also consider virtual office software. These complete platforms aim to recreate the office experience digitally, with functions that support:

  • Face-to-face communications
  • Collaboration on documents and projects
  • Time management, time tracking, and attendance tools

Sococo is a trailblazer in the virtual office software space. You can also explore these free alternatives if you’re only planning to support temporary telecommuting during COVID-19.

RideAmigos is here to help

The unprecedented crisis surrounding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has created unexpected challenges for many businesses, and the RideAmigos team is here to offer all the help we can. Through our blog, you can learn more about telecommuting and access further resources, and our partners can also help in valuable ways. Check out:

If you’re a RideAmigos customer or partner, we would also like to take this opportunity to share details of our COVID-19 response. Our entire team remains at your disposal if you need any further assistance or insights on how to manage telecommuting during COVID-19 as we all work together to get through this challenging time. Please contact us if we can assist you in any way.

Make Commuter Engagement Your Business

The way YOUR people get to work is YOUR business. More and more senior executives are realizing the truth: if you have employees, the commute is an important business concern. The old ways of thinking about parking facilities, long, stressful commutes, and their impact on corporate sustainability are costing employers money and valuable employees.

Let’s start with the issue of employee parking. Whether the employer owns facilities or is providing spaces for employees in some other way, employee parking is not free. A 2012 report found the average cost across twelve U.S. cities to build a single above ground parking space to be $24,000. And, this does not account for the time wasted by employees searching for a good spot, tax liability for parking as a benefit, or the opportunity cost of using valuable land to build more and more parking to meet rising demand. Employers can’t afford to chalk this up to business as usual.

Then there’s employee retention. A 2018 survey by global human resource consulting firm, Robert Half found that more than one in five workers has left a job because of a bad commute and the problem is worsening in some of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. This is not just disruptive — when considering a variety of factors associated with losing and replacing an employee, this can cost businesses between 50-200% of the person’s salary depending on his or her role. Particularly in this labor market, employers have good reason to start paying attention to how the commute might be affecting morale, engagement and attrition.

Last but not least, corporate sustainability strategies that don’t include commuter engagement are missing a huge opportunity. Nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from transportation, including commuting. Whether a business identifies being green is a key part of its brand or it simply has to meet the requirements of a development agreement or local regulations, there are real costs to missing the mark. On the other hand, making commuters part of the solution has tangible benefits to the corporate and employer brand, employee engagement, and community relations. Investors and shareholders care about sustainability and so does top talent.

Operations, human resources and corporate sustainability leaders each are already working to address these challenges. It’s time to break down the silos dividing parking management, human capital management and corporate sustainability. At the center of all of these mandates is a smart commuter engagement strategy. Forward-thinking employers that implement effective commuter engagement relieve pressure on facilities, increase employee engagement and retention, and boost corporate sustainability — differentiating themselves from the competition as an employer of choice for top talent.

Provide Access to Options and Information

The foundation of most successful commuter programs is understanding your employees — where do they live, what are their transportation options, and what are their commute preferences.

As with any other business decision, knowing the details helps employers better understand the problem and the full range of potential solutions. Employers that are serious about helping commuters make better choices begin by collecting data about how their employees get to work and what other options may be available to them.

In many cases, providing transit passes, carpool and vanpool programs, cyclist-friendly facilities, and even subsidizing high-occupancy shuttles are much more cost-effective solutions and provide better value to employees. And, when offered the choice, certain employees will prefer these options to sitting in traffic alone and searching for spaces in sprawling parking lots or level after level of an indoor garage.

Inspire Them to Try Something New

What if employees are not quick to adopt alternatives to driving alone? Offering an incentive to try something new is a great way to break through the natural bias toward sticking with familiar habits. Real monetary rewards work, and bigger incentives are more effective. But combining incentives with other strategies can make each dollar go further.

Paid time off is a highly valued employee benefit. The City of Austin — which has been listed among the Forbes Top Employers and Best Workplaces for Commuters — was able to reduce 1.33 Million employee drive alone trips in six months with an administrative leave incentive. This kind of incentive is a great option for organizations that want to incentivize employees with a meaningful benefit that doesn’t increase taxable income.

Of course, it is not helpful to simply pay someone to do something for a period of time if they’ll stop once the incentive is gone. Smartly designed incentives give commuters time to form new habits. Commute.org in San Mateo County, California had great success — increasing carpool trips fourfold — by offering a repeatable incentive, coupled with its ongoing rewards program.

Make Costs (and Benefits) More Personal

An even more effective strategy to change the way employees think about their commute is to actually show them the money and let them decide how to spend it. Employers can do this either by letting commuters keep the cost of their daily or monthly parking if they opt not to use it, or granting them the funds and deducting the cost of parking from their balance if they choose to use it.

These parking cash-out programs leverage the same feelings associated with paying for parking while still supporting it as an employee benefit. Daily cash-out options give employees flexibility to make daily decisions about how to get to work, while a monthly or quarterly cash-out structure plays to the concept of loss aversion by putting money in employees hands and letting them choose how to spend it. This results in employees thinking much differently about the value of parking versus other ways they could spend the money.

The most flexible programs — ones that offer daily and long-term options — are especially effective because they appeal to a broader range of employees. Sonos in Santa Barbara, California did just that, and reduced parking demand by 25%.

Engage Employees and Reinforce Smart Choices

Even parking cash-out and really attractive incentives may miss important keys to inspiring employees to adopt and maintain smarter commute habits. There are two major factors that employer commuter programs should not overlook: ongoing engagement and intrinsic motivation.

While a big incentive may motivate them to try something new, it is still important to give employees a reason to continue the habit. Allowing them to earn points toward smaller rewards over time, or even chances at larger ones, will ensure that they are motivated to make smart choices whenever possible.

Another way to continue driving participation is to challenge employees periodically. Challenges and gamification are proven to catalyze behavior change and there is evidence that, when done right they can create lasting change. Encouraging team participation increases the social aspect of a challenge — building community and helping employees make lasting connections — while allowing them to earn and track personal achievements and milestones leverages their own internal drive to succeed.

Finally, and often overlooked, is the good feeling employees get when they understand the positive impact of their smart commute choices. When you show them their unique carbon footprint reduction, health benefits and savings versus driving alone, you help make the commute a source of pride rather than a burden. In the big picture, showing employees that they are contributing not only to their own health and well-being but to the corporate sustainability mission and a better planet can increase engagement and productivity.

Just as transportation options, employee preferences and business objectives vary widely, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Identifying the right mix of programs for your workforce is the first step, and it can change over time and across the geographies in which you operate.

Running programs like these successfully doesn’t have to be daunting. At RideAmigos we see them work for hundreds of employers across the country – made possible when committed transportation heroes at all levels of an organization have the right tools and partners. To get started, consider reaching out to your local transportation management association (TMA) or regional commuter program, sign up for our Commuter Tips newsletter and, when you’re ready, contact us about the value of a future-proof hub for all of your commuter mobility programs.

What Is a Smart Commute?

The term “smart commute” is starting to displace the familiar “alternative commute” among in-the-know Transportation Demand Management (TDM) pros. As some leaders point out, the word “alternative” implies that solo driving is and should be the default mode. Instead, characterizing a particular mode as “smart” removes this distinction and uses language that reflects TDM’s true values and objectives.

Moreover, a growing number of regional and organizational commuter programs are applying “smart commute” as a term to define the modes of transportation that qualify for rewards or make a positive impact on sustainability goals. How are these industry leaders thinking about what constitutes a smart commute? Let’s examine some common answers.

Smart commutes use shared instead of individual modes

One defining aspect of a smart commute is that it emphasizes the intelligent use of shared trips over individual transportation. Thus, it embraces modes like:

  • Carpooling
  • Public transportation like busses and trains
  • Vanpooling
  • Rented micro transit solutions like bikeshares and scooters to bridge that “first mile/last mile”

Anything that gets solo commuters out of cars and into a greener, more efficient shared trip counts as “smart” in our books.

Active commuting is smart commuting

People who walk or bike to work are smart (and happy) commuters. These modes have little if any environmental impact, and they also support physical and mental health and wellness.

You can make your workplace friendlier to active commuters by providing facilities like showers, lockers, and secure bike parking areas.

The smartest commute may be one that doesn’t happen at all

A growing number of employers offer remote teleworking as an alternative to coming into a physical workplace. Many TDM advocates argue that telecommuting is often an optimal choice, as it doesn’t require a commute at all. Employees also value the added focus and work-life balance telecommuting offers. Depending on your business, it can be a great way to boost morale and help your business attract and retain higher-quality employees.

If you’re looking for new and innovative ways to encourage your people teams to embrace the “smart commute” mentality, we can help. Get started today with a free analysis of your existing commuter programs and a personalized demonstration of our leading commuter engagement platform.

3 Effective Ways to Solve Company Parking Issues

Company parking issues affect both the management and employee sides of a business, presenting significant challenges for both. Managing employee parking needs is costly, as companies must either own or rent enough space to cover the daily needs of their commuters. In some cases, they must even go to the expense of building new parking structures.

For employees, competition for limited space creates unsavory situations that can have a long list of negative impacts in the workplace.

Let’s examine the root cause of most company parking issues, then explore effective methods of solving them.

Common Parking Problems

Demand for limited parking is the single most common problem companies face. Traditional solutions include constructing new parking structures and renting more parking spots. However, these aren’t feasible from a cost-benefit standpoint, especially in places like the Bay Area where new parking lots cost about $38,000 per space and rented spots command upwards of $500 per month. Each. Yikes.

Three Proven Solutions to Company Parking Issues

In our experience, the best and most effective solutions to company parking issues stem from a simple concept: behavior change. This term describes a workplace culture in which people swap out old habits that contribute to problems for new ones that foster solutions.

Stimulating behavior change on an organizational level is something of an art form, but no matter how you approach it, the key to success is to offer transportation incentives.

Try these three strategies:

  • Encourage carpooling. Promote the cost savings and social benefits of sharing rides. Participants reduce fuel expenses and vehicle maintenance costs, all while strengthening their personal and professional networks. Among other benefits, rideshare-based employee commuting is also known to reduce stress and improve job satisfaction.
  • Offer public transportation benefits. People teams don’t need parking when they use public transportation to get to work. Employers can help employees purchase transit passes with pre-tax dollars or even offer free or subsidized transit passes. On a monthly basis, they’re much cheaper than maintaining or renting parking spots, and they also reduce traffic congestion while inspiring team members to carry over their positive new travel habits beyond their daily commutes.
  • Make it a game. Commuter challenges, points programs, and other gamification strategies engage team members and encourage them to think about employee transportation in different, healthier ways.

These tools are proven antidotes to company parking issues, and they have wider community benefits like reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. The RideAmigos platform supports these any many other solutions to parking constraints, so if you’d like to learn more, we invite you to get started today.

We’re Saving You A Seat! The RideAmigos Guide to ACT 2019

Whether you’re a first time or a long-time member of the Association for Commuter Transportation we hope you’ll enjoy these insider tips for enjoying your time in New York City! 

The RideAmigos team looks forward to the annual Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) International Conference all year. We’re proud to be a sponsor of this year’s gathering in New York City (August 4-7, 2019), and we can’t wait to see our partners and connect with old and new friends!

There are so many things to do and see, and unfortunately you can’t be in more than one place at a time, so we made a list of a few of the things we’re most excited about at #ACTConf19. We hope this inspires you too!

Meeting New ACT Members

The conference is bigger than ever this year with over 600 attendees and more exhibitors. We always look forward to meeting new members and first-time attendees, whether they’re completely new to transportation demand management (TDM) and commuter transportation, or have just been waiting for the right time to attend an ACT event. If you’re new to ACT, you’re in for a great week – take this opportunity to meet lots of like-minded leaders from across our industry, and please say hi to the RideAmigos team! If you’re an ACT International Conference expert be sure to look out for new members and first-timers at the welcome receptions on Sunday.

All the Sessions

If you’re coming to New York with friends or colleagues, you might want to make a plan to divide and conquer. There is an incredible lineup of panels and presentations this year and you’ll want to see it all. Consider agreeing with a buddy on which sessions to attend and then compare notes over dinner at the end of each day. Here are some of the sessions our team doesn’t want to miss:

  • If you’ll be in town early on Sunday for the pre-conference sessions, an excellent panel of researchers and public agency leaders will share findings and engage the audience in Nudging the Commute: Behavioral Science in TDM. This should be an inspiring morning, and something we’ll be talking about for the rest of the conference.
  • Cities across the country are making an impact with innovative TDM policies. Check out how Austin, New York, and Santa Monica are using state and local policy and investment to enhance their transportation ecosystems in Take Charge: Use Government Policies and Investments to Make Your TDM Program More Impactful.
  • Marketing is a key part of a successful TDM program. Learn how agency leaders in Portland, Oregon and their partners are using audience segmentation techniques to better target their messaging to get the most out of their marketing spend in How to Slice and Dice: Targeted Approaches to Audience Segmentation for Transportation Behavior Change.
  • If you are responsible for transportation at a large university, this discussion about MaaS for Campus, including Safe Ride programs with leaders from The Ohio State University, Texas Tech, UCLA and USC is one you shouldn’t miss.
  • Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) are on the rise. No matter where you’re from, you can learn from the important role they are playing in TDM at the local, regional and individual employer levels in this session about TMA Expansion in Massachusetts.
  • Don’t miss the session on TDM and Social Equity – a topic that is becoming more complex and important as the mobility ecosystem evolves.
  • We won’t miss the chance to hear from a lineup of leading Bay Area employers, Intuit, Facebook, Genentech, Google and Stanford University discussing how they’re closing the gap with corporate transit.
  • Our own Corey Tucker will be part of panel of experts from Waze Carpool, TransSystems and ICF to dive into the science behind behavior change and how innovative TDM programs can overcome objections holding commuters back from sharing rides.
  • Wondering how your community is going to handle e-scooters (and other dockless mobility) when they arrive? Drop in on Keeping Up with E-Scooters to take note of lessons learned by this panel, moderated by UC Berkeley’s David Sorrell.
  • Who defines success in transportation programming? Different stakeholders have different goals and performance indicators. Measure What You Treasure, featuring our own Kathryn Hagerman Medina, will examine this question from the employer, TMO and municipal perspectives.

The RideAmigos User Group Meet-up

The ACT International Conference is an opportunity for dozens of RideAmigos administrators to get together for an in-person briefing and feedback session with product and support leadership. One of our favorite things about this reunion is seeing TDM leaders from across industries and geographies connect and share ideas and best practices. Since the last time we got together, RideAmigos has rolled out major updates to the web interface, our mobile apps, and our configurable commuter engagement programs.

The Seventh Annual RideAmigos Closing Night Party

After two and a half days of learning and networking, ACT members unwind with light-hearted karaoke and toast to a successful conference. The crowd is supportive and the music plays all night long. This year, Scoop and Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions are joining us to host the closing night event in true New York City style. Come prepared for some extra special “carpool karaoke” and don’t worry, the Scoop team is bringing a list of transportation-themed songs. All ACT International Conference attendees are welcome with RSVP. Stop by RideAmigos booth 100, Scoop booth 205, or Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions booth #407 to sign up, or just visit the Eventbrite page.

Celebrating Outstanding TDM Professionals

Each year, ACT recognizes and honors outstanding achievements in the field of transportation demand management at a breakfast ceremony on the last day of the International Conference. This year, ACT is presenting awards in fifteen categories, including a few new ones for 2019. Last year, eleven of the twenty-nine finalists and four of the winners were RideAmigos partners.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in New York! Email ACT@rideamigos.com or message us on Twitter @rideamigos to connect. You can also find us at Booth 100 or taking notes in sessions. Safe travels!

3 Easy Ways to Get Employees to Carpool

One highly effective way to supercharge your company’s commuter program is to encourage more employees to carpool. Sharing rides carries a long list of benefits beyond reducing traffic congestion and environmental impact. It also reduces demand for scarce parking while delivering tangible improvements to employee health and happiness.

The big challenge is to get people to give it a try. To that end, here are three strategies you can use to drum up participation for your employee carpool programs:

Rideshare matching

One big objection that many employees have to carpooling is that they believe it is less convenient than solo driving. This doesn’t have to be the case. We’ve heard countless stories about employees who had no idea they lived so close to one another until they found out through an employer ride matching program.

Employer ride-matching systems should:

  • Help employees discover potential carpool partners within their company network;
  • Offer user-friendly mobile and online tools for managing carpools;
  • Provide decision-support and cost tracking features;
  • Support complementary commuter benefits like guaranteed ride home, subsidies, and rewards.

They’re a great way to drive long-term behavior change!

Parking benefits

Organizations can also offer exclusive parking benefits to employees who share rides. If you charge commuters for parking, you can incentivize employees to try something new by offering discounts to carpoolers, no matter how they find their ride. If you can’t charge for parking right now, another smart strategy is to offer preferred parking spots to carpool vehicles. Other employees will take notice, so this can act as a simple way of promoting your parking benefits program.

Competitions and incentives

Friendly competitions and gamification always get people excited about participating. Rideshare challenges that track standings and offer prizes to winners are a great way to introduce carpooling. Of course, the trick is to get employees to carpool even after the challenge is over.

To that end, we’ve found a few tricks and incentives that work:

  • Allow employees to earn points for every carpool commute and create a commuter store where they can be redeemed
  • Launch a parking cash-out program that provides direct financial benefits to commuters who voluntarily roll back or relinquish their parking privileges
  • Include a guaranteed ride home program so rideshare commuters have emergency transportation

If you’d like to learn more, the RideAmigos team is here to help. Our platform empowers you with programs based on the science of behavioral incentives so you can encourage commuters to use smarter, more sustainable alternatives to driving. Drop us a line to get started.

 

 

How to Make Transportation Incentives Work Better on Limited Budgets

Transportation incentives are programs local transportation and public transit authorities create to encourage people to choose alternatives to solo driving. They aim to achieve their objectives by giving commuters specific rewards for using smarter modes of transportation. Common examples include things like:

  • Free public transportation on certain days
  • Access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on highways
  • Rewards programs
  • Loyalty programs
  • Access to preferred parking
  • Free electric vehicle charging

While transportation incentives generally have a beneficial impact, default strategies have some noteworthy limitations. First, they tend to reward people who are already using smart alternatives to solo driving instead of encouraging single-occupancy vehicle operators to change to another mode. They also stagnate by failing to engage participants over the long term while offering financial rewards that do not provide enough motivation. Typically, this results from budgetary limitations.

So, how can you make transportation incentives more appealing without driving up their costs? We have identified four effective strategies:

  • Targeted campaigns: Data-driven insights offer a cost-effective way to determine who is already participating in the preferred behavior and what groups can be targeted for a behavior shift. Don’t go after those who are already using smart alternatives. Instead, save your resources for those who aren’t.
  • Randomness: Build participants’ anticipation for rewards through randomness: use techniques like raffles and draws for major prizes to get people excited about taking part. Randomness also helps fight program stagnation by introducing an element of excitement and uncertainty.
  • Normalization and framing: Create sustained marketing and public awareness campaigns that frame smart alternatives to solo driving as normal, popular, and increasing in popularity.
  • Self-image: People are motivated not only by financial rewards, but also by their identity. For example, cycling enthusiasts can often be convinced to start biking to work fairly easily. Knowing the identity characteristics of your target audience can give program effectiveness a big boost.

Our experts can suggest many other techniques and strategies to help make your transportation incentives that much more appealing while keeping your budget under control. If you would like a free assessment of your existing programs, the entire RideAmigos team is here to help you get started.

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.

Reflecting on CommuteCon 2019

As we looked forward to CommuteCon 2019, we were excited by the growth and evolution taking place in the mobility ecosystem. We’ve been inspired by developments in dockless solutions, fresh takes on parking requirements, investments in transit and mobility on demand, data and technology partnerships, and the successful launch of so many great programs.

A survey of developments in transportation

CommuteCon 2019 was an opportunity for us to pause and hear from people working on the front lines of this evolution. Presenters from local government, business, transportation technology, sustainability, and research joined us from diverse regions and around the world to share their insights and experience.

The incredible dynamism of the transportation space at this time was illustrated by the story of our keynote presenter, Ryan Rzepecki, founder of JUMP. Ryan has witnessed and driven a major shift in the way people move around urban environments from the advent of the early dockless bikeshare to the ubiquity of bikes and scooters on corners and at transit stops in some cities today.

Paul Hendricks, Environmental Responsibility Manager at Patagonia, inspired us with his discussion of the company’s mission and how employees’ commitment to sustainability permeates even the way they get to work. The session led by Tamar Fuhrer, Associate Director, Transportation and Commuter Services at Kite Pharma in Santa Monica also focused on employee commutes. Tamar discussed how the value Kite Pharma places on its incredible talent is reflected in their commuter programs.

But the private sector wasn’t the only source of innovation. Phillip Kobernick of Alameda County announced a new parking program for county employees that will leverage the principles of behavioral science to shift drive-alone habits by offering them a choice.

For those thinking mode-shift is only achievable in cities with robust transit and short distances – not so fast. Katherine Auge, Program Coordinator at Missoula in Motion, shared insights and strategies from a successful program to promote ridesharing and other sustainable modes in the not-as-dense region in Montana. We think her enthusiasm and the results she shared will inspire you.

Speakers Shawn Chavira of USC and David Sorrell of UC Berkeley talked about cultivating an efficient and smart campus mobility ecosystem and inspiring students – the next generation of commuters – to adopt sustainable habits.

We also heard from leading researchers and practitioners like Jana Sochor, Adam Cohen, Gary Hsueh, and our own Corey Tucker about innovations and developments in the space that will drive all of our work in the next decade.

Purpose-driven work

Like the stellar lineup of presenters, CommuteCon attendees are motivated in their work by goals that will impact our planet and the people living here. Even before warnings about the impacts of climate change issued in the U.S. National Climate Assessment in November 2018, this community has been working hard to develop and encourage sustainable alternatives to drive alone habits that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

But together we are also working toward goals of improving access and equity, optimizing use of space, driving economic growth and making our cities work for everyone.

If you missed some of the sessions, don’t worry. Videos will be available soon. Be sure to visit commutecon.com to sign up for the CommuteCon mailing list so you can be among the first to know when we post new videos and slides. You can also check out videos and slides from previous conferences including 2018 here.

As always, CommuteCon is made possible by the support of Sponsors like Scoop, TransitScreen, and Waze Carpool, as well as  the Association for Commuter Transportation and the Coalition for Smarter Transportation.

Finally, if you have ideas, questions, or suggestions about CommuteCon, contact us at commutecon@rideamigos.com.