Luuminary20 | Day One | Session Notes | Recording and Transcript
Luuminary20 is in the books. And a collective sigh of relief is being met with even stronger feelings of hope and exhilaration. What an incredible community we have…inquisitive, knowledgeable and all-in when it comes to building a better world—and improving lives— through the commute.
As promised, we are sharing the sessions, transcripts and data with all of you. Scrolling down you will find the Day One video recording and beneath it the full transcript. Check back next week for a recap of Tim Waldrop’s Amazon keynote—Start Small, Achieve Big—along with the replay video of all the Day Two sessions with polling data and transcripts.
SESSION ONE – LIGHTNING ROUND RESPONSES
with Erin Hafkenschiel (Vanderbilt University), Adam Juul (Allina Health) and Kevin Bopp (Bedrock)
In current or future program, what’s the secret weapon?
Erin – Daily decisions that allow for more options and flexibility.
Adam – Platform that’s easy for employees to manage all commuting benefits
Kevin – Education, awareness among the audience
Fill in the blank – employee commute should be _____?
Adam – not be stressful or in a single occupancy vehicle
Erin – more sustainable and equitable
Kevin – relevant and supported by guaranteed ride home
What is one wish for TDM?
Erin – Change as we go into new reality – regardless of who you are, we can’t reach goals without effective TDM
Adam – Lever is not just telecommuting, we can get back to shared modes
Kevin – Magical Christmas Land – employers and TDM professionals that one size doesn’t fit all and we shouldn’t shape programs that way. Incremental change creates lasting outcomes. Don’t need to gain all the ground at once.
I liked the polling questions so you could sense what other people/organizations are doing – Anonymous Luuminary20 Attendee
SNAPSHOT OF IMPROVING YOUR BIKE PROGRAM
David Allen – Bikes Make Life Better
Slade Bedford – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- People have rediscovered biking – opportunity to encourage recreational biking AND commute by bike.
- TDM professionals can nudge people to encourage bike commutes.
- Communications strategy
- Start with a survey to discover who is willing to give it a try.
- Build messaging platform to share the things they need to do and think about as a bike commuter.
- New reality of bike commuting -re-entry plans, parking, keeping people safe in commute.
- But biking and walking is best way to put a dent in SOV rates.
- Employees are doing their jobs – buying bikes, practicing.
- TDM and employers job to encourage them to transition from a recreational habit to a bike commuter
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation program goals: becoming carbon neutral at Seattle campus – energy consumption and commute. Achieved this in the last few years. 36% SOV > 30% by 2025.
- Biking 6-8% of mode split. Top mode was bus at 17%
- Daily parking has been key to program. Giving people the choice and charging market rate.
Here’s one our favorite (slightly biased) quotes from Day One:
Click on the links below to be taken directly to the start of each session or just push play to view full webinar.
Session One: Leading Change In Your City with Kevin Bopp (Bedrock), Erin Hafkenschiel (Vanderbilt University) and Adam Juul (Allina Health)
Session Two: Improving Your Bike Program with David Allen (Bikes Make Life Better
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF DAY ONE SESSIONS
Leading Change in Your City with Kevin Bopp (Bedrock), Erin Hafkenschiel (Vanderbilt University) and Adam Juul (Allina Health) – Moderated by Naomi Pattis (Luum)
Naomi: So, just by way of continued introduction, why don’t I hand over to the panel at this point and ask you just to tell us a little bit more about your city. What’s it like to live and commute there? Kevin, do you mind starting us off?
Kevin: No, it’d be my pleasure. So, I don’t think this will come as a shock to anyone joining us today that as the Motor City, we are not known for embracing transit of any sort other than individual automotive transit. And when our program launched about 15 months ago, and we began really aggressively collecting information about 88% of our population, not just our team members, but the nearly 20 million square feet of tenants we support, we’re driving alone. And you’ll get a chance to hear how we’ve helped shape those commute dynamics but I would say it’s pretty obviously, we drive a lot. We love our cars.
Naomi: Thank you. Erin, how about you? What’s life like in Nashville?
Erin: It sounds pretty similar to Detroit. Probably most of you know Nashville is a rapidly growing region of just under 2 million. But we similarly are probably around 82 to 83% drive alone across the city. Vanderbilt is slightly lower than that at about 76 and a half percent drive alone rate. But just to give a little bit of background on Vanderbilt, as Naomi said, we’re a pretty big campus 330 acres and we’re just right in Midtown Nashville just about two miles south of downtown. We have about 12,000 daily commuters but we’re actually also co-located with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and we leased some of our parking to them as well. And the two of us combined are generated 55,000 daily trips every day, of course, this was before. And probably very similar to Detroit, we are pretty car-centric and our train system is not great. Cincinnati actually just recently passed a referendum for dedicated transit funding just in the last couple of weeks. And that leaves just Nashville and Memphis as the largest of the top major cities in the US without dedicated funding for transit. So, definitely an uphill battle.
Naomi: Thanks, Erin. And Adam, over to you. I have to say I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Minneapolis but what’s your commute landscape like today?
Adam: Hello, everyone. Just, first of all, mic check. Can you guys hear me okay? I was having trouble earlier on my previous call.
Naomi: Yeah. I hear you great, Adam.
Adam: Okay, great. So, I’m sure you guys have watched the weather forecast, but Minneapolis isn’t known for its warm weather. So, the cold weather presents particularly hard challenges in terms of getting folks out of their single-occupant vehicle. Looking at biking around is not practical for a lot of people. Transit, typically in this area involves transfers and so that not only adds time, it means that you’re sitting out on the corner and sometimes 30 below wind, which is not something that a lot of our employees are excited about. Doesn’t get them out of bed and the first thing they think about is, “Yeah, let’s bundle up and go stand out on the bus stop. So, that’s probably one of the biggest barriers for alternatives to driving alone in this region. And then, a little more background on the line of health. The program I’ll focus on today is based in our largest hospital at Northwestern. We’re connected to our corporate headquarters, which is in a multi-tenant facility in South Minneapolis, just outside of downtown. And then we’re also adjacent to a children’s hospital, which is a separate entity. And then sprinkled throughout those campuses are several medical office buildings. We currently have around a 90% drive alone rate, which is a little bit higher than the area of Minneapolis, St. Paul area in general. So, yeah, that’s sort of the lay of the land here.
Naomi: Thank you. Well, now that we know a little bit more about your geographical context, I’d love to ask each of you to kind of take us back to the very beginning and help us understand where you got started, and how you went about getting your commute program off the ground. Erin, do you want to kick us off this time?
Erin: Sure. So, our program is called MoveVU. And MoveVU is Vanderbilt’s strategic transportation plan and our goal is to reduce our drive alone rate from 76 and a half percent in 2018 to 55% by 2025. And really the way we got started was we were already in the process of updating our academic strategic plan and FutureVU, which is our campus land-use plan. Both of those plans had big goals from a capital project perspective. We wanted to redo a number of our academic buildings, and actually convert most of our dorms to the new residential college model, more of a curriculum involved in our residential living rather than just dormitories. As we were sort of doing this update to our campus land-use plan, we were reminded that we own 22,000 parking spaces on campus, which cover about 82 acres. And as land values have gone up in Nashville, that land is worth about $1.3 billion dollars.
And on the University side, our parking is actually usually only about 65% full. So, we saw this huge mismatch and sort of how we were dedicating our land, really valuable land, way too much of it to parking, versus what our overall goals were as a University. We want to have a really walkable, sustainable campus that supports our overall academic missions. And dedicating so much of this land to parking just wasn’t doing that. One of the other questions is sort of how we came up with a goal, when we’re one of the first employers to think about this. And our 55% goal is actually driven by a lot of our capital projects. As we remove surface parking spots as part of our capital projects, we need to reach that 55% goal for those projects to be able to move forward. So, it’s a little bit of a different driver than normal. We also have a very ambitious sustainability goal to be carbon neutral by 20– Well, in the south, at least, carbon neutral by 2050. So, those are really sort of the driving factors for our program.
Naomi: Thank you. And Kevin, over to you. I think the story is a little bit different. But what was the forcing function for Bedrock and the family of companies to start addressing the team member commute?
Kevin: Yes. So, the challenges are, I would say almost the complete opposite of what Erin just shared. So, we are the largest real estate developer in Detroit. And where there is similarity is that land value is exceedingly high. However, in supporting our office tenants, residents, retail, on any given day, pre-COVID-19, at least our parking assets and much like Vanderbilt the amount of parking spaces we own and manage at least in Detroit, excluding other markets is very proximal to what Erin just shared. And those spaces are oversold by nearly 20% across the board before we open every day. And so much like a hotel or an airline, we have more people competing for the spaces then functionally exist. And so while that’s financially very lucrative, it’s still not the highest and best use for space. And the challenge is that without a robust transit system there is going to be an increased load of demand as time moves forward, especially because we continue to build and redevelop projects. And so for us, the project focus or the program focus was about shifting demand to meet the available incoming supply. And so we took an approach that was built around creating incentives, awareness, and a lot more comfort with the options that existed so that we could better manage what was a very limited supply relative to excessive demand.
Naomi: Thanks, Kevin. And Adam, over to you. What was the motivating factor for Allina?
Adam: Yeah, sure. Similar to Erin, we were going through a refresh of our master facility plan for at Northwestern campus. And similar to Kevin, we are at a very high capacity rate. On some days we exceed 100 and we have our employees spilling out over into the neighboring community and parking on side streets. And so as part of the master plan, when I learned that, we would need to be taking down one of our parking ramps and reducing the supply when we already were at 100% capacity, it was pretty clear that we needed to invest in TDM, more so than we ever had. Because while we fully realized we needed to add back some supply, we knew that it wasn’t economically responsible or socially responsible to build it back one for one. So, we really wanted to focus on reducing the driver loan rate. And it’s, I guess, I should say this is a very new program, we just launched in December. It’s called FLEXcommute. And so some of the strategies that we were implementing we’re put on hold with COVID. We were able to launch some of the new strategies, but similar to folks, everybody on this call, highly focused on incentives for people that aren’t driving alone and taking the stick to the driving or to the parking rates as well. So, to get it going, our organization is still kind of old school, we use waterfall methodology. So, the first thing that we did is we created committees. You know, we had a core team and a steering committee, and then we also wanted to make sure that we created a good vision and goals and that we had something that we’re striving for. So, our goal is to reduce our drive-alone rate by 10% by the year 2026.
Naomi: Thanks, Adam. So, just continuing with the theme of getting started, and as your programs have continued to evolve, I’d love to hear more about the different stakeholders that you’ve worked with and really had to bring on board, both internal and external to help start making some meaningful change. Erin, do you want to go first again with this one?
Erin: Sure. So, I’ll focus a little bit more on some of our internal stakeholders. Because I think that that’s really important. I report directly to our Vice Chancellor for administration, which is within sort of the academic setting that’s relatively unusual for someone that’s working on transportation and TDM issues. But for us, has been absolutely critical in sort of being able to really create change. Our Vice-Chancellor for administration also oversees our future view plan, which is the campus land-use plan I mentioned rather than our facilities team. So, another indicator that he is just really committed and engaged in seeing these transformations happen across University and across campus. And having his support has been really, really essential. As my partners at Luum will know, there have been a number of times where we’ve been going through the governance process to get the Luum Commute App up and running. Where some of the other vice-chancellors from other divisions have– they have tried to derail the project and they don’t hide their intentions very well. It’s been very clear that they want to continue driving to the campus the way they always have. And so most recently, we’re working on the payroll integration with Luum. And there have been just sort of a number of what I’ll call absurd questions that have come up as part of that integration process. And if I didn’t report directly to the Vice-Chancellor I think that they likely would have been successful in being able to derail the process.
Kevin: So, on our side, I think it helps to offer a 10 minute tutorial on Naomi, you touched on what we call the family of companies. But Dan Gilbert, who owns Quicken, also owns well over 100 other businesses and we’re the real estate arm of those holdings. So, our audience starts internally where there are about 18,000 employees, we call them team members just in Detroit, excluding the other markets. And they occupy about 40% of the office space that we own. The second stakeholder for us is being a conscientious landlord and making sure that we’re being very cognizant of the needs of all of our other tenants, whether they’re office, retail, residential; making sure that we’re meeting them where they need to be as the property owner. And then last of all, we are neck and neck with the city of Detroit in terms of who owns and controls the most parking in and around the city. And so we have to be very conscious of the effort we apply to delivering an incredible experience in a city that over the last few decades has had some we’ll say , reputational challenges. And as Detroit has become resurgent and is often now among the must-visit cities on the rebound, it’s really critically important that we’re taking care of our guests and visitors and residents.
So, we had to be conscientious about programs that could start with our own internal 18,000 person petri dish, if you will, and then leverage the wins, losses, and lessons learned to begin preparing for what we hope this year will be scaled launches that support our tenants, should they choose to opt-in, and provide longer-term benefits to the city. So, our stakeholders begin with the Bedrock leadership team. As I mentioned before, parking, at least for us, is very, very lucrative. And so we wanted to be thoughtful about reinvesting that capital in a way that drove long term benefit, especially as more development and more demand was coming online. And then we also as an urban employer in a city that lacks great transit, we’re competing for talent, both regionally and nationally. And to attract that talent, we have to make the commute at a minimum tolerable and God willing, we make it positive and pleasurable. And so if you’re competing with people that have better tools in their arsenal, you need to change your approach and you need to raise the game. And so for us, internal status folders were various leadership teams that manage the recruiting and retention aspects of what we do. And then it was also staying focused on our commitment as a landlord to all of the tenants that we support.
And then like I said, last of all, almost all of our programs have some capacity to overlay and get partnered with various City and Regional stakeholders. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate to have a lot of support from the mayor’s office and from the state of Michigan’s mobility incubator called planet M. So, our program, which is called my commute has been wildly successful because we have so much internal and external support.
Naomi: Thanks, Kevin. And, Adam, you mentioned briefly that you had an army of internal steering committees and other groups that were involved in the conversation. Is there anything you want to add to that, or any of the external stakeholders that you’ve partnered with?
Adam: Sure. Yeah, I guess identical to others, just starting at the top getting support from executive leadership is critical. At least in healthcare, parking and transportation isn’t a high priority. So, trying to convince folks that they need to change policies or any kind of business rules is difficult if you don’t have the champion and the C-suite to help you deliver that message and gain support for it. The other key player that I’ve found that used to have an arsenal is our IT department. I think technology is a big component to our program. Having data and efficient processes that are easy for our admin staff, as well as for our employees to manage their commuting benefits is really critical. And it’s not just the Luum platform, it’s how it interfaces with payroll and how it interfaces with our internet and other various technical solutions, our parking systems and whatnot.
As far as external partners, we worked with our local TMO moved to Minneapolis, hugely helpful in helping us understand best practices, what some of our other business partners in the neighborhood and surrounding area are doing. And so I guess those would be the main external folks on some of our sister sites operate in silos within Allina. So, just working with them to understand what their plans are for the future and making sure we’re not getting misaligned with anything that they might do. So, we create inequities, even within our organization because like Kevin mentioned we’re trying to attract, attract and retain some of the best players in town, but not just with other healthcare companies, but internally as well.
Naomi: Thanks, Adam. Yeah, I think everything you’ve all spoken to really maps with my experience at Luum working with many different customers in many different locations and industries. There really is a common theme, I think in working with that wide variety of stakeholders to inform them of your plans, to really bring them on board, and ultimately help them champion your efforts to really move things forward. Okay. So, switching topics, I think it would be great to help folks understand a little bit more about what the commute benefits you are offering to your employees are as well as the different component parts of your commute programs. Adam, do you want to lead us on this one?
Adam: Sure. Again, not a very mature program and sort of interrupted just like everybody else’s lives were when COVID hit. But we have a daily rate and we always have had a daily rate for parking. And we also have a monthly rate and that’s typically the easier option because it’s payroll deducted. Our daily rate is a more manual process where people have to pre-loaded on a debit card. We offer a transit pass, it’s deeply subsidized. Our employees pay $20 a month for unlimited rides. We have free access to bike storage. And then we also have started creating some incentives. For folks that aren’t driving alone that’s partnered up with our benefits program. We have a way to incentivize folks by giving them dollars towards their benefits that they can use for different healthy options like fitness club memberships every time that they log trips in Luum. So, not very mature, not exactly where our endgame was heading. And hopefully, we’ll get that back on track sooner than later. But that’s the gist of our commuting options.
Naomi: Thanks, Adam. And Erin, what about you? What’s on offer at Vanderbilt?
Erin: Well, just before I dive into some of the programs and policies I wanted to say a little bit about– I’ve been at Vanderbilt for about a year and a half. And I actually came in when we were in the process of developing our strategic plan. And the Kimberly Horne team out of their Atlanta Office helped us put that together. And I think that that was really important because it allowed us to sort of step back and figure out what our goals were, and look at really what best practices have been across the country, both at universities and also at private employers. And so it’s allowed me to be very focused on a couple of key programs. In a TDM program, it is so easy to get distracted by an opportunity that comes up over here or someone has a good idea over there because there are so many good ideas. I have been just incredibly focused on, we already provided subsidized transit passes to you all of our community members, but we’ve just recently made upgrades and improvements to that, expanded it to our regional transit options and converted it to a flat fee, which is more helpful to the local transit agency. And also more easier for us from a budgeting perspective.
And then similarly to Adam, we launched our commute hub with Luum in February of this year, which has been very exciting. And then we hope to launch daily parking and our commute incentives in September. And I honestly think– I’ve been trying to figure out whether the COVID crisis is going to impact that, but I think that this is proving the value of daily parking more than probably anything else could have. And so I think people are– I think we’re going to see the interest in the daily parking program really spike, and I think that will be good for being able to move our program forward. One other thing on the commute incentives, because we are in a city with not great transit, and as housing prices have gone up, a lot of people feel like the Vanderbilt community members are being pushed further outside of Nashville and outside of Davidson County, we had lots of internal conversations about what our commute incentives should include. I think usually programs limit it to just walking, biking and transit. But we made the decision to include carpooling and vanpooling as part of our commute incentives to sort of help with some of those equity issues.
Adam: Before Kevin goes, I just wanted to comment on what Erin said about shifting the daily rate in the COVID crisis creating a bigger demand for that. We’d saw that happen in a dramatic way since we already did offer a daily rate. A large number of our employees shifted over into that category. And one other benefit I forgot to mention is that we do offer a guaranteed ride home option as well.
Naomi: Thank you both. Yeah, that’s definitely something we’re seeing on the Luum site as well is a resurgence of interest in daily parking specifically and the flexibility and benefits that that can offer for employees. So, Kevin, I think at this stage, you have the most mature commute program of everybody on our panel, and there are very comprehensive offerings that you have across the board. But maybe you could just give us a quick summary of what Bedrock offers.
Kevin: Sure. And I misspoke earlier. I said 15 months because I discounted the last two for COVID purposes. So, it’s 17 months at this point. But I think, just as a jumping-off point, I want to offer the audience one really important piece of context which is organizationally the Rock Family of Companies provides fully paid for parking and where necessary connector shuttles to all of our full-time team members. And when our program launched, this is part of what made it a little bit easier to sell, if you will. We were spending north of $30 million a year to cover the cost of that team member parking and connector shuttles. So, when you look at that spend, and it’s being spent in a way that is not clearly moving through someone’s paychecks or benefit array, it’s very hard for them to quantify and understand that value. And so that would be the first thing I offer. And then secondly, we had matured even prior to our partnership with Luum to offering individuals who didn’t need or want parking, which again, we provide, whether it’s because they lived in a walkable location or carpooled every day with a spouse or friend; we offered what we called an opt-out credit.
If you didn’t need or want your parking, we were giving you $150 a month pre-tax before we even entered into the partnership and launched our My Commute Hub. So, those were sort of the boundaries, if you will, that helped shape where we began. And then the last thing I’ll offer, and I wish it weren’t true, and I think we’re evolving a little bit, but we love carrots and we hate sticks within our organization. So, we have to do a lot of creative work through incentives and messaging and not always the ability to leverage proper constraints and pushback. So, I think there’s an evolution. But for us, we began despite a lot of different approaches internally with a program that first of all ensured people that were using it every day of the month would get more than the 150 they were receiving for opt-out; we started at $8 a day for any commute that was not a drive alone, park on our asset commute.
So, whether you took Uber or Lyft, carpool, use public transit, walk by, vanpool they were all the same. I’m not saying that that is the best approach. I’m saying that’s the approach that was taken. And we have been really pleasantly surprised not only at the behavior shifts, but which ones were the stickiest. And for us, we knew that carpooling would work again, in a community where people drive everywhere all the time, there’s no great shock. What has been very surprising is in a city that has been very transit resistant for a long time generationally, people that did take the bus stayed taking the bus on some level of frequency. They found that it did suit their lifestyle often enough, even if that was once every couple of weeks to stay with it. And then much like my peers on the call, we fully at this point, subsidize our light rail and bus. If you want a transit pass, we’re going to buy it. And we are actively working to connect with those transit agencies so that we actually hope to get to a point where you’re building access badge can actually swipe on to a bus, so that we can both fund that transit differently and make it a little bit more frictionless at the same time.
Naomi: Thank you. So, a lot of their full range of things on offer there across the board that goes up to make a comprehensive commute program for employees. So, moving on, I did want to spend a little bit time talking about the elephant in the room or the elephant on the call in our case, and would love to hear from each of you what you foresee is going to be the biggest barrier to continuing to make change in your city, acknowledging that the world has changed and things are rapidly evolving with the COVID situation and what that retention work is going to look like Kevin, do you want to start us off there?
Kevin: Sure. So, usually for us, the biggest barrier is that sadly once again, getting a regional transit initiative on the ballot for 2020 did not pass. So, really doubling down on the transit options that exist in our area continues to be waylaid. setting that aside, I think just to offer some data I had said that we were in the 88-ish percent range single-occupant trips when our program launched. And Naomi, as our daily partner, you’re close to this, but I think we had moved somewhere around 81 or 82%, over that 17 months pre-COVID. And we were exceedingly happy with the ground gained in such a short period of time. I expect we’re going to get some of that back. Particularly because our organization is going to be very, very judicious, deliberate, thoughtful, and respectful about people’s safety concerns as we build our return to office or reentry plans. And that’s going to allow a lot of blended work from home, work from office schedules, which means that density of demand that we had previously will be severely curtailed, making it easier for people to drive and park. I will also tell you, though, that even throughout this crisis, our critical onsite team members have taken transit and have carpooled and walked and biked. And we’ve continued to be surprised at how much of those behaviors have remained.
So, I’m going to be an optimist here and tell you that I think the rebound is going to be a little bit faster than a lot of people expect, particularly because people are doing what makes sense for their own personal utility, whether that the daily commute choice are what they do with their time. And so I would just offer if Erin and I happen to be neighbors, I don’t know how that’s possible in Detroit, Nashville. But if we were, and we had gotten into a habit of carpooling a couple of times a week, I think you build a level of trust and understanding that you wouldn’t stop carpooling coming out of this with someone that you know, and had built that rapport with. And the same with transit, I understand that there’ll be fewer seats occupied on a bus in all likelihood. But that doesn’t mean you won’t take the bus, you’ll just be more thoughtful about the safety measures in taking it. So, for me, I think we’re going to see those modes of commute rebound more quickly than as expected. They’ll just be thoughtfulness applied to how people use them.
Naomi: Thanks, Kevin. Erin, I saw you nodding away there. What’s your perspective on how the world is going to change?
Erin: Well, before I jump into sort of where we think we’re going forward, I wanted to provide a little bit more content text on some of the other barriers that have come up in Nashville over the last year and a half. And it sounds similar to Detroit as well here. I mean, honestly, at this point, if I could get like six consecutive months of business as usual, I would be really, really happy. And it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get that anytime soon. So, we’ll have to develop a new plan. So, I actually moved over to Vanderbilt after Nashville. I was in the mayor’s office here in Nashville and was working really hard on a voter referendum for a really big and ambitious transit plan here in Nashville, which failed in May of 2018. And so I guess I was taking on this project, knowing that we weren’t going to have this influx in better transit and better transit funding. But there’s been a number of sort of consequences of that transition. The mayor that I was working for, had to resign in the middle of a sex scandal. And since then, we’ve had two more mayors, an interim mayor and then a new mayor that was elected. There also was a property tax reappraisal that did not go according to plan. So, we were in a crisis budget even before the COVID crisis.
So, last year, our transit agency had a $9 million budget hole that they had to figure out how to close. And then this year, right before the COVID crisis happened, there were two major tornadoes that hit Nashville that have caused quite a bit of damage. We actually had almost 100,000 residents in Nashville without power for over a week in the middle of the safer at home order. So, it has been a little bit of chaos. And then in the middle of everything that’s going on in Nashville, Vanderbilt is also in a leadership transition. Our Chancellor announced his retirement last year, we have an interim Chancellor right now and our new Chancellor takes over on June 1st. So, it is for sure been a chaotic time. And then, of course, the Coronavirus has sort of landed right in the middle of all of that. I actually really agree with Kevin, that I think, as a university, we’re having lots of conversations about how we reopen and how we reopen safely.
We actually just reopened our research labs this week. And we’re in the process of mapping out every building and every pathway on campus to be able to maintain social distancing. And there are days where I’m feeling really hopeful about our ability to do that and to get back to some other– some new version of normal. And the research that we’re doing in collaboration with our partners and the civil engineering department who do a lot of work around risk and resilience is showing that like Kevin said, if you are practicing social distancing, and you’re wearing your mask and you’re doing things safely, and you’ve built this trust either with riding transit or carpooling or vanpooling, you can find a way to do that safely. And I think as TDM providers, it’ll be important for us to share the most accurate information that’s out there, the same way that we have always to do that.
What makes me nervous here in Nashville, and I don’t know whether Kevin and Adam are thinking about this too, but Nashville, Davidson County is very different from the rest of Tennessee. And we are operating on a completely different reopening plan than the rest of the state. And so every day that I start to feel hopeful that we’re going to be able to come up with a plan either for Nashville or Vanderbilt to reopen safely; I hear stories from co-workers who live outside the county who say that they’re going to Costco and no one’s wearing a mask and no one’s practicing social distancing. So, that’s sort of one of the big unknowns is how do you develop sort of new ideas around your own risk tolerance and safety when there’s a lot of people who aren’t really making smart decisions. And I’ll stop there.
Adam: So, I think here in Minneapolis, we’re in a little different position than some other areas of the country. We are starting to reopen a little bit, but we’re still on the way up. We haven’t reached our surge yet. So, while we’re thinking about returning to campus, as we’re calling it here, I think we’re still very much in the mindset that it’s gonna be a conservative approach in testing, tracing, and confining. We’re gonna keep a lot of our employees that aren’t at the bedside at telecommuting. So, I’m very optimistic about our telecommuting rates. I think that’s gonna continue to be very high. But I think like I said, we’re going to take a really conservative approach to return into work and you know, I’ve heard some of our executives talk about our proximity to the hospital in our corporate office. And that sort of creates some unique risks too, that we don’t necessarily want to expose our corporate employees to. And then in the hospital itself, we’re still operating on a very limited basis. We’re allowed to do elective surgeries, but folks in our community are either not allowed to get the care or they’re still frankly, a little nervous about getting care, and are staying at home. So, while that’s good for the spread of the disease, it’s creating less need for employees. So, until we surge and start seeing the downside of it. I think it’s hard for at least me personally project anything. But if folks on the panel are on the call have a crystal ball, they want to loan me, I’d gladly take it.
Naomi: Currently Adam, I do not have one of those in my back pocket. And no doubt there are going to be challenges ahead and a lot of unknowns as we move forward in time. But I do appreciate the optimism that some of you have shared that this might still all work out okay from a TDM perspective.
Adam: And it will work out okay. I didn’t mean to sound so pessimistic. I am optimistic that we will again, be doubling down on our TDM strategies. And again, telecommuting, while it’s not exactly the way I intended to increase or pull that lever, it is occurring and people are realizing that it can be done.
Naomi: For sure.
Kevin: Yeah. I guess I’ll say one other thing, Naomi me just in response to some of what Adam and Erin have offered. There is also a lot of pragmatism to what I’m saying. I mean, I want to contextually explain our parking assets are spread geographically over several mile diameter, area. And the ones that are also to say the most remote or least proximal to really truly high-density desirable areas, those will continue to see very diminished use in the near term. But what will happen is if you just play with numbers, and I said there were 18,000 team members, if overtime seven or 8,000 of them come back to the office on blended schedules, they’ll just be parking in the close locations instead of using the more remote ones because I don’t want them riding shuttles if they don’t need to, from a connector standpoint. Similarly, again, as a large landlord we got a lot of national acclaims because for all of our retail tenants, restaurants, and smaller businesses, depending on their annual revenues, we gave all of them two or three months of fully abated rent with no lease extensions or deferment, in an effort to help keep them viable coming out of this. Cities aren’t vibrant without places to grab a meal or have a cocktail or parks to visit with things adjacent to them.
And so for us, we very much want the cities to reopen safely and thoughtfully. But I think you’re going to find to the Walmart comment, there’s a lot of pent up desire and demand for people to get outside and get back to what they felt was normal. And so we’re just going to have to work to help support that in a judicious and safe way. And I think we will. And so we’ll just try very hard to shift with our tenants’ arrival and departure time so that everyone’s not arriving and leaving at the same time that they are getting in and out of their cars. Can we ask people to stagger things so that lunch hours are a little bit off-kilter? You know, those are the types of things we can do, not just from a parking standpoint, but from a pragmatism standpoint.
Naomi: All right. So, I do want to make sure we save a little bit of time to answer questions from the audience. But just before we do that, I have a round of quickfire lightning questions for each of you. So, just as a reminder, we’re looking for either a one-word answer or a single sentence to the following questions. In your current commute program, or future, what do you consider as your secret commute weapon? Erin, do you want to go first?
Erin: Yeah. I think the way we’ve been talking about our secret weapon is daily decisions. And daily decisions that allow for more options and more flexibility rather than less.
Naomi: Thank you. Adam?
Adam: This is like a Luum softball in a way. But I would say having a platform in place that’s easy for your employees to manage other commuting benefits.
Naomi: Thank you. We’ll take it. And Kevin your secret weapon?
Kevin: So, in the interest of not pandering or being repetitive, I won’t say optionality or Luum. Instead, I’ll say education, creating awareness among your audience.
Naomi: All right. Next question. This is one of those fun fill in the blanks. So, employee commute should be blank. Adam, do you want to go first?
Adam: Oh. Well, how about, can I say it should not be stressful or in a single-occupant vehicle?
Naomi: Yeah. Well, we’ll let you have that creative. I like it. Erin, what should the employee commute be?
Erin: I think we’re focused on making commutes more sustainable and more equitable.
Naomi: And Kevin.
Kevin: Relevant and to touch on something Adam said previously supported by a guaranteed ride home.
Naomi: Thank you. All right. And the last of our quickfire questions, what is your one wish for TDM? Erin, will you kick that one off?
Erin: Yeah. I think that it’s going to change a little bit as we get into our new reality. But I think it still stands that I want TDM for it to be very clear that regardless of who you are; a city, an employer, or university, we can’t reach our climate and transportation goals without an effective TDM program.
Naomi: All right. Adam, you’re one wish for TDM.
Adam: Going back to some of my pessimistic comments, I guess my one wish would be that our mode lever that we pull is not just telecommuting that we can get back to bussing and other vanpooling, carpooling modes.
Naomi: Got it. Kevin, how about you to coin a phrase I’ve heard you use frequently, a magical Christmas land; what is Kevin’s one wish for TDM?
Kevin: Magical Christmas land, has improved lawyers and TDM professionals understanding that one size doesn’t fit all, and we shouldn’t shape programs that way, and incremental change creates lasting outcomes. You don’t need to gain all the ground you want at once.
Naomi: Awesome. Thank you all. All right. So, we’re gonna– we have about 10 minutes left, which is great. So, we will pick a few questions from the audience that we can answer live. So, folks do have questions for the panel, please pop them in the Q&A that you all see on your Zoom webinar. So, starting at random, I’m Kirstin Haldeman from Arlington public schools in Virginia, asked how did your employees receive TDM measures, especially when it meant parking supply was reduced?
Kevin: So, I’m happy to start. For us, the whole premise of this working effectively and meeting people sort of where they live mentally and emotionally, was the fact that the Luum platform connects to the HR system, particularly for payroll. And going back to my we love carrots statement earlier, the program was built around offering people that daily incentive. So, as we announced our programs, we were offering daily cash payouts in exchange for people taking the opportunity to try a different mode of transit. And by leveraging all of that information, we could see where the interest was and wasn’t, and then further shape and refine those programs.
Naomi: Thanks, Kevin. Erin, it sounds like you were all making a very conscious decision about reducing parking supply. I’m serious, how has that been received by your employees?
Erin: Yeah. I mean, to be clear, nobody is super excited about the fact that the parking spot right in front of their building is potentially going to go away. And like everybody everywhere, I think there is only some resistance to change. But I also think communicating with the Vanderbilt University audience has been a really breath of fresh air for me personally. I mentioned that I was working on a transit referendum right before coming to Vanderbilt. And so I’ve had my fair share of conversations with transit skeptics, as we were having a conversation about raising sales tax stuff on transit. You know, the Vanderbilt community while you know, typical Nashville residents, they also are really bought into what Vanderbilt’s trying to do and the sort of role and mission that we play in the community and for our students on campus. And so, we have focused a ton on how MoveVU is really aligned with our values as a university. Sustainability has been a big focus of ours. And that’s something that I think most people on campus can really get behind. And then I think similar to what Adam and Kevin have said, we just talked about options, options, options. The whole, the whole point of our program is so people feel like they have more options, not less.
Naomi: Thank you. And, Adam, I think you probably have an interesting perspective here just on how employees are receiving your measures. Do you maybe want to talk about the survey you did before this all got started?
Adam: Sure. Yeah. I mentioned that around 90% of our employees were driving alone. At the beginning of our project, we did a number of things, a number of kind of current state analysis, but one of them was surveying. And in that survey, we heard that only 50% of our employees were taking their preferred mode to work. So, it just was shouting the fact that people were ready for this and they were tired of us with a stagnant program and at 90 to 100% capacity, I think it was really well received. People are begging for this.
Naomi: Thank you. All right. So, we’re getting quite a few questions coming in specifically on the theme of telecommuting. Folks would love to hear from Adam from you, in particular, what number of employees have now shifted to full-time telework? And do you see that as more of an option now to help meet your goals? But also we’re getting questions around, are you aiming to continue having people to work from home after the pandemic and looking at a way to incentivize that potentially among managers? So, throughout telecommuting, generally…to share your thoughts there. Adam, do you want to start on the specific question that was for you on the level of telecommuting?
Adam: Sure. Yeah. The vast majority of our corporate employees, I would say, of the 2,000 desks that we have in our headquarters, we have about 100 of them filled today. So, it’s a dramatic number. We’re still talking again about how we’re going to phase people back in, but it will be phased. And it likely won’t be for several months. I’d also note that we’re doing a lot more telecommuting on the patient care side too. Our virtual visits have dramatically increased. I don’t remember the last number but, you know, upwards of 2,000% increase in our virtual visits. So, I see that sticking and I just hope that it doesn’t stay at the same level in terms of our corporate office and some of our other support functions. I think we need to get back into the office where it will be more productive. When we’re all out of the office, I think it works better than a split group of folks when half the people are in the meeting room and then half the people around the phone call. I think we all know that it’s really difficult to find openings in the conversation if you’re not in the room, and the conversation is being led in the room. So, while I do see a lot of folks not coming back, I do project that a good chunk of folks will go back.
Naomi: Erin, how about you? How are you navigating the telecommuting landscape going forward?
Erin: Yeah, so we, of our sort of 6,000 faculty and staff, we probably have about 350 that are coming into campus every day. So, similarly, our– just have a huge, huge percentage of folks that are working from home right now. And I think similar to Kevin and Adam, in some ways, this has been a huge proof of concept for the fact that working from home really can work. But I think I agree exactly with what Adam said. I personally can’t stand being on back to back Zoom calls all day and I have my two young children running around at the same time, and that’s just not a sustainable or productive work environment. And so we’ll work from home I think at, you know, we’ve all seen that it can really work. I don’t want it to be our only option to achieve our TDM goals. And so, Vanderbilt is working on a similar to Adam and Kevin, probably a phased approach. And we have the sort of added complexity of what’s going to happen with students. Vanderbilt hopes to announce whether they’re going to have undergrads back on campus in early June, all of our undergrads live on campus.
So, if they do come back to campus, we will have to convert all of our residential living to single occupancy rooms, which means we’re talking about, you know, I work on the 11th floor of an administration building. That entire floor might be used for classrooms so that the classrooms can be– students can be socially distant within the classrooms. And so if students come back to campus, I think we will end up in sort of a phased approach where some staff are only coming– some staff are working from home indefinitely, but some staff are only coming in on days when their conference rooms or offices aren’t being used for classroom. So, I think it still is very much of a, you know, sort of TBD about what will happen, but agree that we’ll sort of be very pragmatic in how we move forward over the next year.
Naomi: Thank you. And Kevin, maybe you can take this angle, I think it’s fair to say there wasn’t much of a culture of telecommuting at Bedrock prior to the current situation. So, perhaps you can speak to whether this will factor more into your plans or less or if you’re setting specific goals around it going forward.
Kevin: Yeah, I mean, in terms of raw numbers, like both Adam and Erin, the 18,000 folks, there are about 500 that are on site now and over the next 60 to 90 days, we’ve already begun the plans of phased reentry. But I think it’s safe to say that at least for the next 12 to 18 months, we’re going to work in partnership both internally as an organization, but with our tenants on how we can help people recreate the spaces so that people, when they’re in the office, are able to maintain distance. I mean, as it relates to programs here and not just being you know, real estate minded and a landlord, I think where we’re going to look to shape some of our programs is being thoughtful and sensitive not to removing incentives, but not offering so much money again, $8 a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but it does add up over the course of the month depending on what your income is. And we don’t want to offer so much cash that someone makes a choice they wouldn’t have otherwise in terms of a commute mode. We don’t want to over encourage a mode of transit that someone might not have otherwise taken.
So, for us, I think we’re going to spend a lot of time figuring out how we support the incentives and moving forward disincentives, if you will, to various modes of transit, and how we can effectively redeploy our spaces and assets to continue supporting a healthy urban environment. You know, all of my other answers would be super real estate focused and not particularly relevant to the panel.
Naomi: Kevin, yeah, I think the telecommuting piece is certainly an interesting one. It’s something that we have, for the most part, seen employers choose not to incentivize pre-COVID. Many have continued to make that choice but going forward, we will definitely see if attitudes change and practicalities have changed now that we’ve put this to the test.
All right. We are out of time. So, we’ll leave it there for now. Panelists, I will invite you, there are a number of questions still in the Q&A thread. You’re welcome to jump in there and answer any others as you have time. But otherwise, thank you for your contributions today. I think this has been a really, really great discussion and fantastic to see each of your different perspectives, both from different areas of the countries at different types of organizations. So, thank you for pulling this together. And that said, I will now hand it over to my coworker, Madeline, who’s going to be talking more specifically about bike commuting in the context of the post-COVID return to work. Madeline, over to you.
Leading Change in Your City with David Allen (Bikes Make Life Better) and Slade Bedford (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) – Moderated by Madeline Feig (Luum)
Madeline: Thanks, Naomi. And thanks so much to those employer panelists. That was a great conversation. Next up, I’m excited to introduce David Allen with Bikes Make Life Better and Slade Bedford from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In this breakout session, David and Slade will be sharing some best practices for improving your bike program, which will now be more essential than ever given our current circumstances. We’ll also have some time for Q&A at the end of their presentation. But for now, David, over to you.
David: Great. So, can you all hear me and see me?
David: Alrighty. Bear with me while I get the program started. Okay. Well, thank you, Madeline, for inviting Slade and me to talk about bikes. And I wanted to– before we get started, I want to encourage everybody to pay attention to the chat room. While I’m presenting, we’ll be putting up some resources and links that might be helpful. All right. So, let’s start with the obvious. Our world has been turned upside down and the news has been uniformly bad for a long time now, but there is a silver lining. And the good news is bikes. We’re actually in the middle of a bike boom. In fact, sales are through the roof across the country. Yesterday I saw another of many stories that I’ve seen in the last couple of months about bike sales…story they talked about this quote, “Customers are bringing out cobwebs and covered bikes and getting them tuned up.” I think the point here is that the bike is back. And people have rediscovered cycling. So, if you want to take a look at this graph here, you can see on the left-hand side and in the middle, what this was was a survey of bicyclists. And on the left, it’s new riders, and in the middle, it’s occasional riders. And you can see that blue bar shows that very large percentages of the people who have dusted off their bike are planning to ride in the coming weeks and months.
So, this presents a huge opportunity for commute professionals to get people who are going to try recreational riding to make that transition to commute by bike. The trick is, is that’s not something that happens automatically. And so that’s really where you come in as commute professionals. We believe that you have the ability to nudge the folks who are getting on their bikes recreationally to encourage them that when they come back to the office, give biking a try, give bike commuting a try. And in fact, we believe in this so much that we’ve actually put together a website that’s based on a formula put together by Alta Planning. Thanks, folks. Appreciate that. And we’re calling it Bike Back to Work. This is a strategy based on the formula that Alta Planning put together of try it, do it again, make it a habit, and then encourage others to try it. This is how you get change in your habits. So, we’ve flipped that to make it relevant to the bike back to work strategy, and we’re saying number one, dust off your bike, which is now and people are doing it. Two, go for a ride. And that first ride is the most important one. The second ride is the second most important one, because what that leads to is making biking a habit. And it’s great timing, if you want to think of it that way, because we’re going into summer. And so this nice weather is going to provide a great opportunity for people to take that first ride that second ride and make it a habit. And then when it’s time to come back to the office, try bike commuting, just give it a try.
So, we’ve actually put together a website, and again, check out the chat room for a link to that. But we’ve put together a website that has a bunch of these resources that you can use; ideas, communication strategies, etc. But I’ll mention a couple of them right now. First, celebrate cyclists. So, go out and find somebody who’s dusted off their bike and wants to try bike commuting. And if you have a newsletter, a company newsletter, why don’t you do a short piece on why they want to try this and what they’re doing to get ready to become a bike commuter. And then encourage riding. So, if you have an incentive program that rewards people for bike commuting, make a temporary change, go ahead and make those incentives and rewards available for any biking, so recreational biking, biking to the store, etc. And then think about the accommodations in the workplace. So, those of you that watched Tim Walldrip’s presentation earlier today, Amazon expects a very high rate of bike commuting once people start coming back and they’re preparing for it. One of the things that you can do is think about bike parking. You’re gonna have to allow your employees at least temporarily to bring their bikes to their desks. Or maybe you take a couple of parking spots, and you transition those into temporary overflow bike parking.
There’s a couple of other things that I think are really important to be thinking about now. And the biggest one is a communication strategy that you can use to identify who might give biking a try. So, start with a survey, a very short survey, just to identify who is it that’s willing to give it a try. And then those people that opt-in, build a messaging platform, where you’re talking to them about the things that they need to do and the things that they need to think about as a bike commuter. So, I want to end actually with getting serious about the new reality of commuting. So, I know you all have serious stuff that you’re talking about. And Slade is going to go into some of these things in just a bit. You’ve got reentry plans that you have to create, you got to think about what you’re going to do for parking as we come back to the office. And you got to think about how you’re going to keep people safe in that commute once they start coming back. And in that context, bikes might not seem like a really big deal right now or a priority, but in this time, right now, biking and walking are the best options to put a dent in the single-occupancy vehicle rate. We’re expecting that to go up. Pretty much everybody I talked to expects SOV rates to go up, and biking can put a dent in that. Employees have already done their job. They’re buying bikes, they’re fixing bikes, they’re planning to go riding. Now what you can do is give them a nudge and help them move from a recreational bicyclist to public commuter. So, that’s what I got. Again, the links I think would be helpful with additional resources to help as you try to build your bike back to work plan.
Now what I want to do is introduce Slade Bedford. Slade runs the transportation program over at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And I just want to say, I know– I mean, I’ve seen a lot of bike programs, and the bike program at the Gates Foundation is one of the best. So, I know Slade’s gonna talk a little bit about that, and he’s going to talk about some of the greater challenges that they’re having as they go into the reentry plan. So, Slade, take it away.
Slade: Thanks, David. Yeah, I think this is a really timely conversation, even with the last session hearing what the panelists had to say around how they’re thinking forward. And that’s right where we are and I think a lot of people in this today’s– Luuminary is really thinking about how do we really balance kind of the short term thinking of the reentry to the long term kind of new normal of our TDM programs. And when it comes to bikes, we’re really starting to think about how do we leverage, as David said, people that are now biking at home or with more than they ever have with their families, even the reduced traffic, the uncertainty around the public transportation, how do we take those and turn those into opportunities around our TDM program? So, I’m excited to talk more about that and what we’re thinking, I think I might have more questions for everybody in this session than answers, but I’m excited for that conversation. But maybe I’ll just back up and talk a little bit about our program as it sits today and really sit before COVID. And then some of the questions we’re trying to wrestle with as we think about our short term reentry, where we are really thinking about working from the office as an exception and not the rule compared to the long term strategy where we are compelling our workforce to be coming back into the campus.
So, just quickly on our goals for our program has really been around becoming a carbon-neutral– becoming carbon neutral in the Seattle campus operations, which included our energy consumption and commute programs. So, we kind of combine that and look at it as how do we become carbon neutral, which we actually were able to achieve in the last couple years. And part of that was within our mode split of 36% goal of SOV in which we’ve met as well. We’re trying to drive that down to 30% SOV by 2025. Biking comprises about six to 8% of that mode split. And last year in 2019, our top mode was busing at 17%. So, a pretty robust transportation program, how we get there, our program very quickly. Daily parking, as we’ve heard a lot about, has been a key to that making sure we are giving people that choice and charging them market rates for their daily parking. We also give an incentive of $4 and we allow people to donate that through a matching program, which will be triple matched. So, if you do not drive a single-occupancy vehicle in a day, you can actually have $16 of impact towards a charity of your choice.
And you can do a portion of your $4 incentive that will be triple matched or all of it or none of it. It’s all up to you. We give fully subsidized bus, monorail and ferry passes, fully subsidized vanpool. We use Zipcar for personal usage for errands or other appointments during a day, five hours a month. We do a guaranteed ride home program through a partnership with Lyft. And then when it comes to bicycling, we have a very robust bicycling program as David mentioned inclusive of our facilities. We have secure facilities, secure storage, lockers, showers, towel service. We have a great gym that people can use. We have a mudroom that has dehumidifiers for all their gloves and shoes and whatnot. So, we do a lot of things around the facilities, we provide subsidized maintenance. We also have a really strong active bicycling group on campus that really thinks about how to bring people together around bicycling. So, we do a lot of things around bicycling to both incentivize, but also to bring people together to think about ways that they can encourage that bicycling.
But I really wanted to spend some of this time and use this time as how we think about this return to work strategy, and how we ramp up to a place of then compelling our workers to come into work on a daily basis. So, again, thinking about working at our office as an exception versus the rule. So, one of the things we’ve been thinking about is parking. Today, as I mentioned, we charge people daily parking. So, one of the questions we wanted to bring up and I think will pop up into the screen here as an option is, if you do charge people daily parking, are you thinking about doing something temporarily? And how are you thinking about that? So, do you plan to prioritize bike commuting as part of your reentry plan? And if you’ve charged parking on a daily basis during the transition back to the office, are you considering temporarily doing something different? Because we are, we’re trying to think about how do we provide a safe and healthy environment for people to come back to work in. And so if we’re giving them the choice, and really it’s more about the kind of the exception of coming into work on a given day as opposed to the rule; do we still want to be charging them parking? So, we don’t want them to be feeling like they have to go necessarily and ride a bus because the cost of parking is significant. So, what are people thinking about? What are they questioning around that because I think it’s an important thing to consider as we go into this.
And part of that is really the change management piece of this, which I’ve heard about today, too, is we want to make sure people think and understand that this is temporary if we do make changes to our TDM program, and we’re balancing it with other ways that people can be incentivized to do things like biking, right. So, how do you think about that? So, please feel free to go ahead and answer the question that’s come up on your screen there. Some of the other things that we’re thinking about in terms of our current strategy around the return to work both short and long term is, of course, like I said, the health and safety of employees, as well as the amenities piece. You know, today, like I said, we’ve got the lockers and showers and things like that, for the time that we’re ramping up, how are we thinking about the short term kind of maintenance of those amenities? So, will we be shutting down our lockers for a short period of time, especially as we only see up to possibly a maximum of 20% occupancy within our campus, which would be only about 250 people that we would have as an occupancy cap; would we still have showers, as an example? Because those become a challenge to keep clean and the perception of cleanliness around that? And how will that then drive behaviors away from biking?
So, I think the real question is, how do we leverage the uptick in personal biking that David mentioned and people buying bikes and transforming it into long term habits and keeping people really biking long after we have a vaccine out there from COVID. And balancing that question with the short term piece of not going against the behaviors that we’ve established in the past, being thoughtful about it, using change management to our advantage, and trying to set ourselves up for success in the future. So, I’d love to open up this now to kind of those questions and answers as well as any of the other panelists that want to come back in. And David, your response to some of the things I’ve said in terms of the biking piece as well, and kind of keep this as more of an open conversation. Maybe we could kind of take a quick look too at the answers. Here is what I’m seeing is that do you plan to prioritize bike commuting as part of your reentry plan? So, 53% said, yes, 13% no, and 34% were unsure about that.
And then, which is interesting, it’s great to see that we’re talking about prioritizing bike commuting. Then if you’ve charged your employee base for parking previously, do you plan to do that during your transition back? 14% they’re planning on eliminating their parking charges and providing free parking just for the time being for that short term, time phase. And then reduced parking was 6%. And then providing free parking for vulnerable population’s about 6%. And then 74% said not applicable. So, interesting results back from that. So, again, open it up to David or other panelists that want to react to what they’re thinking around the short term versus long term thinking around their reentry.
Madeline: Thanks, Slade. It looks like we have a question about offering subsidies for E-biking and if that’s something you all are doing at the Foundation.
Slade: We do. For any type of biking, we provide that $4 incentive if they do E-biking today. Yeah, that’s all part of that.
David: Yeah. And I’ll pipe in. There’s a few companies that we’ve worked with that have done different strategies for how to incentivize E-biking. There’s one company that actually has a vendor that does the station bikes. So, you come into the office and you put your bike into the station, the way some of the old bike-share systems used to work. And what they do is, is because they’ve got it in that station, and because of the backtracking capabilities that they have, they’re able to make sure that people are actually using those. And so the way that the system is set up is that you start by getting on the list to be able to use the E-bike for a month. And then if you use it enough times during that month, then you are eligible for– to be partially reimbursed to buy an electric bike. And there’s some other ideas, there’s some on our website, and I’m certainly available to bounce around additional ideas.
Madeline: Thanks, David. Here’s a question, not may be directly related to bike commuting, but still an excellent question. What’s the relationship between parking price and cost of incentives? Maybe this is a good one for Slade, whether you’ve done any marginal analysis for this. This person has heard three carrots for every stick as an example. Is that something that you’d be willing to chime in on a bit?
Slade: Sure. We’ve thought a lot about what does drive behaviors in terms of people thinking differently about their commute. As I mentioned, we have an agreement with the City of Seattle that we need to charge parking rates and that is $16 a day in our parking garage. We used to be at $3. We did raise it up to $4. We didn’t see a huge shift in the needle from a change of behaviors. So, it’s a tough one. I think different organizations have done it differently. I think there are schools of thought out there that if you can go up to the five, the $7, and then you really start hitting some sort of plateau where it really drives people to do different things. But I’d love to hear and see other data out there on what people have found. Because in my experience, that three to $4 does drive behaviors in some ways, but at some point, it doesn’t do a ton until you might hit even a higher point. So, where do you go and where do you land? It’s a good topic of discussion.
David: My perspective, what we’ve seen with the carrot and stick approach is that the key seems to be daily parking rates. So, if you have a monthly parking rate, it doesn’t really provide much of a stick. What you want to do is daily parking rates so that every day I have to make that choice, am I going to pay for parking today and if I don’t pay for parking, I actually get paid.
Madeline: And Slade, you touched a little bit on this when you were speaking. But there’s some questions around shower facilities, similar facilities for cyclists, and this person is getting some pushback about reopening showers for cyclists, and they think it might stop commuters from trying to cycle to work. Can you speak a little bit more about that?
Slade: Yeah. We’ve been struggling with that right now, our thinking is that we are not going to reopen our showers right at the beginning. And again, we are only planning to allow up to 20% occupancy of our campus for the foreseeable future, and we won’t even get to that point until later, late this year. So, our plan is to keep those closed for the time being. And because of that perception of cleanliness, how do you keep it clean, all we can do is reduce risk. We cannot provide for a virus-free environment. And so I think bathrooms especially in lockers even more so become from a perceived standpoint as an unclean place. And so how do you do something there, and we don’t want people to really be put into that position of having to make that choice. So, we are not going to be opening up lockers at the beginning, but we’re gonna really use the time between now and the end of the year to see the demand, see if we can’t get other systems and other thinking in place around how to keep those things clean. The lockers clean, especially and the showers clean. So, at this point, our thinking is that we’re gonna keep those closed. We’re still gonna allow people obviously to bike in and park their bikes and keep those locked. But at this point, the showers are going to be shut down until we’re able to really move beyond that 20% and start increasing the occupancy with hopes that social distancing and other methodology around keeping facilities like that clean are in place.
David: And we’re actually working right now on a guidelines document for how to successfully re-entry, a bike commuting from a safety standpoint. I’ll throw out one thing that we’re talking about with some of our clients is think about policy change around when people come into work and specific to bike commuters, you know, maybe you give them some flexibility to come in on the half-hour and/or come in an hour later or an hour earlier, or even on the quarter-hour, so that when they get there, it’s more likely that the showers are not going to be in use and they haven’t been used for a few minutes.
Madeline: Thanks about the view. We just have time for one or two more questions. Here’s one around the role that culture plays in commute mode. If it’s not incentives that change behaviors, how might culture play in, especially with biking in changing people’s commute behavior?
David: Yeah, Tableau has done an awesome job. Congratulations to them about building a bike culture. So, their bike rates are not significantly higher than their peers. But their bike community is a community and they feel that they’re supported. So, I’ll give you an example. When they put in new facilities at one of their buildings in Fremont in the Seattle area. They actually went to the cycling community and they said, what do you want to see in it? You know, what kind of amenities do you want to see? And they actually changed their design plans based on what it is that the bicyclists wanted to see and that was simple. You know, just asking them what it is that they want. The Allen Institute also in Seattle, the Allen Institute has done a really good job as well. And they do things like every Tuesday they go out and do a different, well, they don’t do this now, but pre-COVID they were doing a bike to the bar. So, every Tuesday after work a few folks in between five and two dozen folks would get together and just go socialize. And so post-COVID, you can look at some of those more social activities. But I think the salient point is, is that just talking to your biking community about the things that they care about, is probably the best way that you can enhance your bike culture.
Slade: I absolutely agree. I think we have a pretty strong internal kind of employee base that are obviously bike commuters, but also really are kind of self-organized in many ways. And my team does help kind of drive that and provide little things for them to have fun with. But at the end of the day, it’s really an internal kind of culture that can drive that and really make it successful. And my team and the foundation as a whole being able to support that is also really important.
Madeline: Thanks so much to both David and Slade for joining us today. It was a really wonderful presentation. I’m not going to pass it back over to Kelly with Luum for a preview of tomorrow’s agenda.
Kelly: Excellent. Thanks, Madeline. Yep, tomorrow– Well, quickly first, I’ll just say again, thank you so much to our sponsors. Thank you to all of our panelists today, for such wonderful presentations. I can speak for everyone I think when I say we learned a lot. And then I’ll direct you all one last time to go to Luum.com, and you’ll find return to the workplace commute resources all in one place. And tomorrow, as Madeline said, here’s the preview. We will have a phased policy panel to kick off the day tomorrow, where we’ll hear from Expedia Group and Oregon Health and Sciences on past phase policies that they have implemented. And then we’ll have Jessica Roberts from Alta Planning and Design there to sort of you know, unpack those policies, the behavior change that was happening and how we might apply those to COVID and return to the workplace coming up here soon.
And then we’ll have three sessions on rebounding with Vanpool, helping your employees relearn their commutes and carpooling’s role in the future of commute. So, all very focused tomorrow on return to the workplace. So, hopefully, you can log in again, and we look forward to seeing you then. Thanks, everybody. Have a wonderful day.
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