ICYMI: How to Build Your Best Commuter Benefits Program with Seattle Children’s Hospital
In case you missed it: on March 3, we hosted the first in Luum’s 2020 Webinar Series with Seattle Children’s Hospital. And in case you weren’t able to join us, the recording and transcript are available below.
Seattle Children’s Hospital Director of Transportation, Jamie Cheney, took us on a deep dive into the policies and results that have shaped the organization’s trailblazing commute program. Using a strategic blend of incentives and disincentives—which they activate and administer through Luum—SCH has reduced its drive-alone rate to 33%.
The webinar surveyed 128 commute leaders on two crucial questions:
What is your primary barrier to commute program success?
- 30.5% said leadership buy-in is their greatest barrier to program success
- 19% said budget is their greatest barrier to program success
- 18% said employee engagement is their greatest barrier to program success
What is your top commute program business motivator?
- 40% said parking constraints are a top commute program business motivator
- 27% said reducing carbon emissions is a top commute program business motivator
With a better understanding of your commute challenges and motivators — in this webinar, Jamie Cheney covered:
- How daily parking charges have been the true catalyst for behavior change
- How to get started and build a long-term strategy for your commute program by showing leadership its ROI
- And, finally, how they avoided spending $30 million on new parking
HOW TO BUILD YOUR BEST COMMUTER BENEFITS POLICIES
Hi, everyone can you hear okay? It looks like it’s coming through but we’ll just give a few more minute because I see a bunch of people are logging on so we’ll give the a few more minutes to sign on before we get started? All right where well into the triple digits there registering and some people are still signing on but where going to go ahead and kick it off here. I just want to say hello and welcome every one and thank you so much for joining us for our first ever Webinar in Luum Webinar series. There is a lot going on in the world today and hopefully you are all staying safe and heathy but also can get out vote, but we’re very appreciative that you’ve taken the time to be online with us today.
My name is Kelly and I’m the head of Corporate Affairs and Marketing at Luum and I’m also the Association for Community Transportation Act, Cascade Chapter President. So, a quick SHOUT OUT for Act. If you aren’t member then I recommend joining. It is the single best place to connect with other TDM professionals. Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing Jamie Cheney the Director of Transportation for Seattle Children’s Hospital.
When we decided to start a webinar series to highlight the Innovative Commuter Program of our customers we knew we had to start with Seattle Children, they were our first customer at Luum, and really a partner in those early years. There campus commute challenges shaped the architecture of Luums current management platform, and even more than that they represent the core of our Eco’s at Luum. That long-term partnership and bold policies when brought to life through technology have the greatest impact in changing commuter behaviour, and Seattle Children’s Hospital got that right.
The policies they have implemented are applicable to corporate campuses, hospital campuses, and university campuses alike, and you’ll see many of the commute challenges are similar across industries and geographies; trust me it’s not just a Seattle thing. Sometimes the hardest part is getting started so Jamie will share some wisdom on how to do just that.
With that I would like to introduce Jamie. As the Director of transportation at Seattle Children’s Hospital Jamie supports the hospitals goal of growing responsible by leading efforts to reduce SOV trips to only 30% of all workforce trips by 2030 and she overseas:
- Policy development
- Transportation demand management strategy
- System implementation to support the strategic goal
Seattle Children’s Hospital is a recipient of numerous national state and local awards for:
- Climate change
- Trip production performance
Jamie has eighteen years of experience in TDM including as a Transportation Solution Provider at Zipcar, a consultant as the Executive Director of our Local TMA Commute Seattle, and now as an employer now at Seattle Children’s. Feel free to submit your questions throughout the presentation in the Q&A chat box. Jamie will not answer questions until the end. There will also be a couple of poll questions during her presentation as we attempt to make this international webinar a bit more interactive with some audience participation, so be on the lookout for those. So, with that I will turn it over to Jamie.
Thank you Kelly and good morning/afternoon to you ‘all it’s a pleasure to be able to share Seattle Children’s Transportation Demand Management story with you. I would like to start with the agenda what I think will cover today. The first is I would like to right of the bat share with you what our business motivations are in hopes that some of these resonate with you and you’re work. Then we’ll move to:
- Performance Metrics
Seattle Children’s is really in this work for the Performance so that’s really important to us and I think hopefully we’ll be instructive for you folks as well. Then I would like to move from why we do this work to how we do it so well talk about so well talk about some:
- Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Strategies
And then share some:
- Policy & Program Highlights
That I think will be useful and then end with:
- How to Start or Enhance Your Program
Then lastly I would like to share some:
That I think will be useful at the end. I’m going to start with a little bit with introduction before we get into the business motivators and our first poll.
So, just by way of introduction it’s useful to know that Seattle Children’s is located in Seattle. We are not located in downtown or in a primary business district, in fact we are not located in a secondary business we are located well outside a secondary business district in a neighbourhood, and so that gives us some unique challenges.
I just want to give you some numbers to think about. We’ve got about ten thousand employees that come to Seattle Children’s every day. We have a thousand patients who come and go every day and we have eleven hundred parking spaces on our campus. So, right off the bat you can probably surmise that we have a math problem so that is a focus of a lot of our work. I’ll come back to that in a minute. I mentioned that we’re in a residential neighbourhood and that is really contextual for us because we only have two bus routes that serve our neighbourhood which are generally speaking over our time frame of doing events and where inadequate, and so we’ve had to enhance that in ways that I will share with you. Then lastly Seattle Children’s is subject to a law. Now the state of Washington has a law that says:
“If you’re an employer that has a work site that have more than hundred employees that come to work every day between six am and nine am”
So, peak commute hours, you are subject to a law. This law is called the “Commute Trip Reduction Law” and it went into effect in 1995. It requires an employer to have a plan about how to reduce their commute trip. The state and the city give us a target for trip reduction that we are asked to meet. We are also required to survey every two years our [0:09:55.1 PH].
We have been doing this for quite some time, several decades, and have some sort of long experience of doing this and this is the basis really for our program. I’ll talk about more business motivators in a minute but this is to say we have one which is a regulatory requirement. I think I’m going to pause there now and we’re going to do a poll about you’re business motivators, so that we can be sure we ask some good Q&A or I can speak about some of these along the way.
So, you should see a poll, and we can see you’re results real time which is really great. The majority of you are saying:
- Parking constraints
- Reducing carbon emissions
- Retracting and retaining talent
- City regulations
- Development constraints
Well that’s really great to know and we will talk about all of those. Thank you. I’m going to move onto to some more business motivators.
Seattle Children’s Hospital is located on a small campus in a residential neighbourhood and you are looking now at our campus concept here. We have some bold plans and those plans include developing more clinical space on our campus. We are out of clinical space on our campus and we want to build more buildings. We knew that a decade ago and so we started to develop plans for development and worked with the City of Seattle who said, “Okay we will allow you to grow but we will ask you to do certain things in exchange for a building permit.”
We have a development agreement and that development agreement has forty-two conditions which we must meet to be able to achieve building permits. Several of those conditions are about transportation, but one in particular says, “We must reduce our drive-alone rates or SOV rate to just 30% of trips made by our workforce our employees” and that is a very aggressive goal.
We are given twenty years to do that so we have met that goal by 2030. If we show progress towards that goal, directionally correct progress the city will consider our performance and give us building permits as long as we’re making progress to that goal. So, this is really kind of a north star of what my team and I do to help the organization achieve that goal over time. We are building buildings already and continuing to request permits to build buildings because it’s a twenty year plan and so for that entire duration we need to demonstrate our performance against his goal. So, that is what I think is unique about Seattle Children’s we have pretty aggressive goals and it has really redoubled our efforts. We started this work in 1995 but in 2010 we redoubled our efforts to attain performance against this goal. I’m going to mention a few more business motivators.
The other is we have limited parking as you know by the numbers I already showed earlier. This is a business motivator from that poll that suggests many of you have these same constraints. This is a lot of what my team does on a day-to-day basis is manage parking and reduce the demand for parking and prioritize parking. In our case for our patients and families who are our customers. Well come back to this in more detail.
In this model business motivator much like many you suggested by that poll is that our work in transportation helps support Seattle Children’s Attract & Retain what we call the Workforce of the Future. We try to create value through our transportation benefit that employees like and that are important to them.
A few years ago we looked at what our top emissions were to the hospital meaning why are children coming to Seattle Children’s? Why are they admitted for care? Out of our top five admits two of the reasons that children come here is because of air quality so:
And that really stood out to us and if all these other reasons weren’t great business motivator this was a mission motivator. It is our mission to prevent and treat paediatric disease and this aligns very directly with our mission. If we can reduce congestion and traffic and carbon that help the children we are looking to serve.
I’ve mentioned five different business motivators, there all important and I think the point of sharing this is to find you’re business motivators. This is what connects leadership to the work that you’re doing. The beauty about having five of them is I can leverage all of them at once or leverage and bring to the attention one or two of these at a time whatever the issue is at the time. It makes our commute trip reduction relevant pretty much all the time because we are connected to so much.
I want to now turn to performance. I like to share this early because when I later share some of our programmatic highlight there’s sort of no doubt I think that what we are doing is impactful and it does move the dial. We can see that in the performance. I’m going to share with you are baseline, or first split survey required by the state. It was conducted in 1995 and as you can see here the majority drove alone 73% of them and the minority used commute options. We survey every two years and I’m going to share our latest survey results with you which are 2017 and you can see that we’ve nearly flicked that in two decades from now a majority of people taking commute options is 67%, and a minority who were driving. I think this is extraordinary work that started well before I got to Seattle Children’s back in 1995 and this is just to say this has been a long journey for Seattle Children’s and we’ve been at it for a while. This doesn’t necessarily happen overnight but I like to demonstrate that it can happen. Those of you who need to do this work to help you’re organization here is proof that it can actually happen.
I mentioned that our goal extends to 2030 and we must meet 30% and so while we are within striking distance of our goal we still have about a 3% pt a change that we need to set. I like to say while our progress is linear overall these decades the effort is not, the effort is even greater to get that last 3% because I can assure you everybody who’s out of their cars is pretty much out of their cars.
So, we have to continue to be very clever and innovative and keep pushing the envelope at Seattle Children’s because we need to invite that last 3% of folks out of their cars. So, our work continues and not only will it continue when we get to 30% but we need to maintain that as well. I’m going to now share some details of our current mode split based in 2017 so that you can see where we are with our mode split.
I think the biggest takeaway here to share with you is that we look at this regularly. This is very instructive to us, and if we need to get another 3% we look at this and my team and I try to determine where is that 3% going to come from, is it going to come from:
- Ride share
Because we need to design programs and make an investment that are consistent with delivering that next 3% and it’s really helpful for us to know we’ve come from and where we are. It’s hard to design programs and affect performance unless we have this mode split to look at and do some planning about where we think we’re going to make our next investment to affect that next 3%. This is so important to our work and this goal of reaching 30%; this is really in the culture at Seattle Children’s. The next image I’m showing you is how that culture is communicated or portrayed at Seattle Children’s.
This is not the work of the Transportation Department to reach 30% this is the work and effort of the organization. We came up with this image that we share on all of our materials so that everybody at Seattle Children’s know that they are part of this effort to reach 30%. This imagine is a pretty strong way to communicate to everybody that we all need to reach 30% together and it is true it really is at the DNA of Seattle Children’s the moment you arrive as a new employee.
Actually let me amend that before you arrive at Seattle Children’s we’ve already reached out to you as a new employee a commute plan. By doing so we’ve sent the message that only drive and park if you need to but we are expecting you in general not to drive and park. So, really even before people arrive here they know something is different about Seattle Children’s.
I’m also great to work for an organization that either has or must put trip reduction as part of a really robust strategy for growth. This is our CEO and he’s showing his transit card here. He actually takes transit and rides our shuttle but he doesn’t do this every day but he is walking the talk, and demonstrating our values by not always driving and taking the bus or transit when he can. So, this makes a big difference when it comes from the top having executive leadership, it makes all the difference.
This is also to say that we are compelled to do this work because we have regulatory requirements that compel us to do the work. The work we do is supported by our executive and they also have to support it which is great which is not necessarily the case everywhere but Seattle Children’s has chosen we have this regulatory requirement and we plan to meet it, and we’ll make the commiserative investments to do so.
I want to talk a little bit now about how we do this work. We have sort of covered why we do it and how we are performing but this about a framework for doing the work. There are a couple different frameworks out there and sometimes we toggle between them but this is a really instructive one I think for certainly my team, and others who are either embarking on this work or want to think about how to enhance it.
So, these are spheres of influence. When you get started in this work it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. I would say start close to home. Start where you have the most influence. As an employee you have relatively speaking more influence within your organization than elsewhere. Policy change policy alignment policy development is a really great place to start:
- Because you’re organization owns it.
- Generally speaking it’s a very low cost place to start.
What this means is look for the places that you can align your organization policies around doing this work. I’m going to give you some examples in just a minute. This is where you have the most influence. The second area of influence is how can you enhance or change the amenities that are in your workplace or in your building? What do you need from you’re facilities department to put in lockers, showers, and bike parking and other amenities. In some case employers own that right they own their own building and own that process, so go partner with your colleagues there.
If you don’t own your building and it’s a property owner or property manager go and talk to your property manager you’re their customer and they should be listening to you and then lastly, external infrastructure. We’ve made a lot of progress with external infrastructure and relationships. I’ll come back to that in more detail but that’s really about your local transit agency or department of transportation.
So, think about your influence you may have some others but his is a great way to think about how can I affect change rapidly?
So, some examples here of policy change is one of the most productive policy changes we have at Seattle Children’s it’s been in place for at least a decade. We have no free parking all of our employees pay for parking every single day of the year wherever it is they park. I will emphasize this lot in the last part of this presentation.
Eliminating free parking is the most productive policy change and programmatic change that you can make that will affect the drive alone rate. So, now free parking at Seattle Children’s other than for our patients and families they get to park for free but our employees pay for parking. Another policy change that we made related to parking is that we’ve eliminated monthly parking permits; about ten years ago we eliminated them.
Those of you who have been doing this work for a while you are probably aware of the fact that monthly parking permits if you have them undermine your programs to reduce drive alone commuting. That’s because when people buy a monthly parking permit they’re often paying whatever the rate is hundred bucks two hundred bucks three hundred bucks whatever, it is for that monthly parking permit.
So, they are making that personal investment up front every month and they are very motivated to get their monies work so they will park every day. If you eliminate monthly parking permits and have just daily rates that sort of breaks that relationship between that investment and wanting to maximize it, and people think about how they are going to commute on a daily basis because now there’s a force to think about spending that money on a daily basis.
It allows people who might otherwise drive most of the time on the day they don’t need to drive, don’t have meetings don’t have whatever it is that compels them to drive that day or maybe not drive, but take the bus or do something else. So, it helps you’re population be sort of more multi-modal and not just drivers. Another thing that Seattle Children’s does is provide variable parking rates, we don’t charge for the duration of the person parking stay we charge by the time of day that people arrive to park.
During the commute hours between six am and nine am we charge our highest rate so eleven dollars and fifty cents. Off peak we might charge as little as three dollars and twenty-five cents, but the point here is that we’ve got variable parking rates which really affect behaviour. We review parking rates every year, and in fact we also do market comparison to make sure that we are not behind market rates or not too far ahead of it but kind of right there at market.
People in our workforce know it and they expect it so it’s fairly easy at Seattle Children’s to raise parking rates. The beauty of charging for parking is we now have revenue and this revenue is invested back into our Transportation Demand Management Programs and is a fundamental part of what we do and how we do it.
Then lastly I just thought I’d mention because we have no free parking we charge for parking and in so doing it reduces demand for parking, and because we reduce demand for parking it allows us to avoid spending millions of dollars on building parking lots so we’ve been able the organization avoid parking cost. The next policy I’m going to share with you is unique and not necessarily available to every organization, but because we must affect performance meaning lower our SOV rates we decided to make a big investment in that and created a policy which is we will pay our staff not to drive alone to work.
This is pretty unusual and every day that someone does not drive alone to work we pay them $4.50 a day; we call that a Commute Bonus. It’s very meaningful and valuable and our employees can make up to a thousand dollars a year by not driving along so it’s a very strong incentive. You can imagine it’s one of our employees favorite commute benefits.
So, two policy type influences that have been very productive at Seattle Children’s – I’m going to pause for a minute because I think maybe I did not allow time for another poll. Were we having another poll at this point?
BARRIERS TO SUCCESS
Do you want that now?
Jamie: We’re going to pause now and do another poll. I don’t think I paused earlier for this. Kelly is sending out another poll:
- Barriers to success
- Leadership buy-in
- Employee engagement
- Lack of data
- Administrative challenges
- Policy implementation
- Demonstration of ROI
- Getting started
This is great but I don’t know if you are all seeing it in real time but the leading barrier is Leadership Buy-in followed by Budget and Employee Engagement. Okay, thank you and I’ll keep that in mind as we move along. Next I would like to talk about Commuter Amenities which is sort of the next sphere of influence.
What can you do in your own work place that can help you’re employee think about not driving alone and using these other commute options and making them more attractive. Seattle Children’s also deeply subsidizes a transit pass and that’s a really broad benefit that a lot of people at Seattle Children’s can use. It’s also among the top benefits that our employees like most. We provide carpool and vanpool matching services, premium parking locations for those van pools and carpools. We provide transit screens for real time transit. Transit screen is a brand a company that provides visualization on real time transit when King County Metro and other transit agencies are going to show up. We have a free employee shuttle; you’re seeing a picture of that shuttle. We encourage our employees to ride that shuttle not only from offsite parking lots that we have but inter-facility and we very much encourage them to commute on our shuttle to. Our shuttles are integrated on one bus away which is a “Track Your Bus & Track Your Shuttle” much like the transit screen so that you have real time information about our shuttles and our local transit.
We provide personal commute planning and I mentioned earlier that every new employee gets a commute plan and each one of our employees on demand gets a new commute plan if they have moved, changed jobs, or locations, we provide that level of detail for them. Other commuter amenities are free company bikes. We give out a free bike to any employee who commits to bike commuting two days a week, every week year-round and we provide free bike tune ups.
We have a full service bike shop which is the picture you’re seeing on the slide that provides services, products, that keep our bike commuters rolling day in and day out. We have secure bike parking, lockers, and showers. We even provide a bike 101 class. We have many people at Seattle Children’s who say they are interested in bike commuting but they haven’t been on a bike in ten years so we give them a refresher course. We have a commute calendar which you’ll see in a minute. We have lots of contents and promotions that we are always engaging our employees with to keep them thinking about ways to commute other than driving alone, and rewarding and engaging them for those things.
Let me speak a little bit about our commute calendar. This is probably similar to some commute calendars that many of you use at Seattle Children’s it has many different values to us.
- It’s simply a commute calendar and our employees go here every single day and drag and drop the icons at the bottom up onto their commute calendar, and that is how they earn their commute bonus.
- They tell us how they get to work and are paid $4.50.
When they drag and drop it there’s an underlying transaction that happens because of the calendar which I’ll talk more about in a minute. This calendar also receives you’re parking activity so at Seattle Children’s when you do drive to work we ask you to scan you’re badge at a badge reader at the parking gate the active scanning your badge creates a parking event and that parking event is then automatically populated to the commute calendar. So, you’ll see some Red Peas here on the calendar and that’s when a parking event happened.
So, the calendar collects that commute data and charges our employees for parking and creates a credit for them and provides that commute bonus. You can see on the right hand side we’ve got charges for parking and credit for commute bonus and so it’s also very visual very engaging to our people to come into this calendar every day to report their commute options.
They can receive a commute bonus and then be engaged along the way with levelling up for bike commuting or carpooling. This also represents that we can communicate to them as well. On one hand this is where they come and are engaged. It also acts as a business platform for us where we collect our parking revenue and give out our commute bonus. This platform is powered by Luum and allows us to scale our program, automate our program and talk to all the business functions that sort of underlie this commute calendar. This is really our business platform in how we manage and scale our program.
Lastly I just want to talk about is Improving External Environments, another sphere of influence here. This is just to say that Seattle Children’s and other employers have been very successful working with local transit agencies and DOCs. In our case we’ve been able to improve the proximity and frequency of transit. We actually bought Transit Service for about ten years because the local bus that went by the hospital only came every 30 minutes. We thought that was inadequate so we bought more service that would come by every 15 minutes.
Obviously we buy bus passes for people we engage in stakeholder groups whether it’s with our local DOT or transit we’re very engaged with these agencies to make sure they are aware of our needs and help design solution. So, wherever you can I would suggest reaching out to your transit agency and they may be more responsive than you might think and they seem to appreciate our input. So, that’s the three spheres of influence.
Here is a picture of something else that we did just sort of own our own property and that’s improve external environment. We have a very robust regional bike path that is approximate to our hospital and it’s kind of like a big bike and pedestrian highway expect we didn’t have an on or off ramp to the highway so we built it. This is a connector from the hospital to that trail and that’s really improved bike commuting to Seattle Children’s and our employees really appreciate it.
So, I’m just going to begin wrapping up here. I’ve shared a lot today and I think what I would like to describe is this image. This image is really how we sort of think about and implement our Transportation Demand Management Program. You’ve seen a holistic and very detailed set of programs but fundamentally how we think about this is about parking. Parking really needs to be part of your commute program because the competition is a unique commute program.
So, fundamentally addressing parking specifically “No Free Parking” is sort of the foundation to performance and moving the dial on SOV. On top of that of course we address every motile subsidy and we subdivide all of these other modes to make them more attractive, convenient price, time, and amenities. How do we make it more convenient and easy in our work environments? Then lastly in the case of Seattle Children’s sort of this green cherry on top of all of this which is the commute bonus.
I now want to turn to maybe how to get started if you’re thinking about creating your own program or enhancing or refreshing your program just some ideas about that. I often am asked “What should I do first? How do I get started? What can you recommend? What is the most impactful thing to do?
I would say conduct a baseline commute mode survey. If you don’t know how people are commuting today this is probably the single most important thing to help organize your thoughts, and program development. What you’re people are doing today? It’s hard to know where to go if you don’t where you are today, so conduct a survey share the findings with your:
It’s very powerful to know how people are commuting today. Obviously I have mentioned this before which is one of the most single productive things you can do is eliminate:
- Free parking
- Eliminate subdivided parking
- Eliminate monthly parking permits
My guess is if you just do these three things you will see some progress in your mode splits in reducing demand for parking, even better is if you can reinvest that parking revenue into your programs because that’s really great when you have funding. Provide free parking and convenient parking for vanpools and carpools.
Some more sort of additional things that you can do, but these cost money but it’s also really powerful and that’s to subdivide transit passes. It has broad value for your employees and is very well received by employees in general. Conduct a benchmark survey so I think from the poll that we took earlier many of you said:
- You’re biggest barrier was buy-in from leadership
Well I think if you did a baseline survey and implemented a few of these suggestions and then did a benchmark survey a year or two later or whatever you’re time frame is and you could show that the program implementation that you did had an effect that’s really powerful for leadership is to understand that these investments work.
Consider variable parking rates. I think in the earlier poll people’s biggest issues were parking capacity, and charging for parking, and getting the right variable for parking and helps reduce demand. So, if you’ve got a parking problem today not enough parking definitely look at increasing you’re parking rates.
Seattle Children’s has onsite parking for a very few number of people on our campus and we charge on rate. We have remote parking meaning offsite parking and we charge a lower rate and people really respond to that. We are able to pull demand off of our onsite parking to our offsite parking lot. Then think about how to scale your program. It depends on why you’re doing this work and if this is imperative and you must generate performance then you probably need a way to scale your work and support your program so; think about an enterprise platform like something like Luum. It is hard to do this work and scale this work without something to automate it otherwise; you are adding a lot of staff and manual administrative work.
I’m just going to leave you with some Learnings maybe before we open it up for questions. Connect your work you’re commute trip reduction work to business motivators. If you don’t know what those are go and ask you’re leaders what they are trying to solve to, and then connect this work to that.
I like to tell employers who have to do this work they have influence but you can move the dial on drive-alone commuting. It’s proven, there are proven ways to do it and you can do it if you need to do it. Baseline you’re existing conditions by doing a mode split. Determine the scope and magnitude of the goal. If you’re not sure or what you need to do or how much progress you need to make on reducing your drive alone rates ask you’re leaders. That will help you scope how big this needs to be and it will also shape the size of the investment that needs to be made as well.
Leverage spheres of influence like some of the things I showed you today. Eliminate free parking because it’s the most productive commute program you can have. I’ll stop there and open it for questions and hand it over to Kelly.
Thank you Jamie that was Jamie that was excellent. There are a lot of questions so I’m going to attempt to group the questions in some sort of sections that make sense. So, first we have some that are around just general goal setting and your program just in general. Some of this you may be able to answer and some you may not, but people were curious about:
Q: How many people are on your transportation team and roughly what is your budget and what does that come from revenue and parking? How much autonomy do you have in implementing policy from the Transportation Team?
Jamie: Okay those are a lot of questions all rolled up into one. I will start by saying we have a fairly large team, we’ve got about forty-five people on the Transportation Team at Seattle Children’s. I need to qualify that a little bit, but about thirty-five of those folks are shuttle drivers. We offer sixteen shuttle day sixteen hours a day. It’s a big operation and we have chosen for various reasons to keep that in-house as opposed to outsource it to many capable providers out there but we keep that in-house and that’s the majority of our people.
We need to make some significant change and we needed to move the dial about thirteen percentage points so some of the strategic planning we did was, okay we’ve got twenty years to do that. What kind of change do we need to seek every year to ensure we have every year?
So, we broke it down by year, and if we can’t do thirteen percentage points overnight so we kind of broke it down and then we sort of knew the magnitude of our effort. That also helps determine how many people we need to help make this happen. Like I said about thirty-five of our staff are shuttle drivers and the other ten our folks that help design our program so:
- Transportation planners
- Customer service folks
- Financial person
So, those ten really help the design, monitor, and improve our program. What were the other questions?
Kelly: They asked about budget and revenue parking.
Jamie: So, about a third of our budget comes from parking revenue and so the parking revenue is significant. The rest of it comes from the organization there making an investment in it. So, let’s just say our program is many millions of dollars and that are required to make this change.
This is where leadership is really important and they know that we need to make this change and where willing to make those investments so; several million dollars a year devoted to this. Just to give you a sense our biggest costs are our commute bonus. Second biggest cost is our transit pass followed by our shuttle program.
Kelly: A few questions around the CTR commute trip reduction survey and general goal setting. I’ll summarize from a few attendees. Why do you survey every two years? How is that thirty percent goals sort of set? Is there any consideration you might lower it given you are pretty close in your scale ten years out?
Jamie: We survey every two years and that is a requirement a regulatory requirement from the city and state that we must survey every two years. They are the ones telling us we must do that.
Kelly: How is that 30% chosen and might it get lowered?
Jamie: The 30% was not chosen by us it was chosen by the city. The city said you must reach 30% that’s your goal. They did all sorts of analysis you know ten, twelve years ago when we were negotiating our development plan. I don’t know that was a little bit before my time and I don’t know how they arrived at that but I can tell you that was the lowest SOV goal than any other employer in the city and remains one of the lowest most aggressive goals in the city.
We are within striking distance so would we like to lower that? I would say no I think it will be a significant undertaking just to maintain it. The city hasn’t asked us to go any lower however, our development plan goes through 2030 and if want to build buildings beyond 2030 in which there’s some room on our campus to do that the city may say “okay after 2030 if you want to build anything after that we will revisit that target.”
My guess is they will probably lower it but target is not up to us. I have no doubt we will meet it. It is possible we can even get beyond it but there is not mandate right now to go even lower.
Kelly: Just for everyone in the audience to know there are fifty-eight open questions. So, we are going to do a little rapid fire. There are quite a few around your program operation. How did you settle on $4.50 for a commute bonus?
Jamie: Well I’ve been with Children’s for about six years and prior to that about four years earlier there was a commute bonus that was like $2.00 a day then it became $3.00 a day. I arrived when it was $3.25. I think that overtime we have tried to understand what motivates people. The last time we raised it to $4.50 we raised it in conjunction with raising parking rates. So, at the time we decided well if we are going to raise parking rates we want to add a carrot so to the degree that we could bundle those together it seemed like a good and wise strategy. I can’t say that’s happened every time but I think $4.50 we may have kind of hit our limit there and I don’t believe Children’s can go above that with five, six, seven, or eight.
We are a Not for Profit Organization and we don’t have the resources to continue to escalate it. I think we think about it as let’s have one let’s keep it in place but it won’t necessarily scale and change all the time.
Kelly: Why don’t you fully subdivide transit passes?
Jamie: There was a time when we did fully subdivide transit passes. As we have been more successful in lowering our SOV rate our costs go up. Our senior leaders are well aware of that relationship between cost and performance because I bring it to their attention all the time. The more successful we are the more it costs us.
A couple of years ago when our transit costs were really skyrocketing we decided that it will remain sustainable that we could offer and we were going to ask our employee to make a small co-pay and it is a very small percentage of an overall cost for that. That seems to be a good partnership with our employees.
Kelly: Is the commute bonuses for all employees regardless of their SOV status?
Jamie: Currently yes.
Kelly: What do you consider ride-share? How do you incentivize carpooling and vanpooling both with parking as well?
Jamie: We are going to incentivize carpooling and vanpooling in two ways. We don’t have enough parking on our campus and so most everyone like 90% of people have to park offsite. The only folk’s onsite right now is doctors and those who carpool and vanpool and have ADA needs. Our carpool and vanpool is highly incentivized because people don’t want to park offsite and then take the shuttle they want to park right on campus, you know everybody wants to park by the front door. It’s really sort of a premium when carpools and vanpooler can park on campus and we have a way they can do that and that’s automated by our Luum platform.
At Seattle Children’s you can carpool dynamically and you don’t have to declare who your carpool partner is you don’t have to be on some list. The act of swiping two badge-readers at our parking lot allows a carpooler to come in park and the Luum system lists the parking charge between the two.
So, now as a carpooler you’re paying half the parking rate and because you are carpooling you earn a commute bonus. Many people who vanpool and carpool get the benefit of parking on campus with 50% of the parking rate, and they get a commute bonus so a lot of incentives around carpooling, and vanpooling. We also have a carpool and vanpool feature on our Luum site which allows people to go in and look for vanpools and carpools and sign up and understand how to connect with others at Seattle Children’s so that we are making those connections.
Kelly: Was there any backlash with employees or was there a mass exodus from employees?
Jamie: I was not at Seattle Children’s when about ten years ago when the decision was made to go from free parking to paid-parking. I have heard stories from those who were here at the time that it was painful for the Transportation Team and painful or our employees who had not paid for parking and now had to pay for parking.
So, yes I think there was some pain but the good news is that the team at the time had the support of senior leadership and I can tell you from having increased parking subsequently the best way to do that is… I always go to our COO and say “We need to raise parking rates. Here’s why and I would like you to send out an email in our intranet or newsletter that parking rate announcement come from him. It doesn’t come from Transportation?”
It isn’t about transportation this is about the organization trying to achieve a goal, so it’s very useful that that messaging comes from a senior leader. It can only come from a senior leader if it’s connected to our mission, and to our business motivator. If it’s just about parking and parking rates nobody cares and that entire wrap sort of comes back onto the Transportation Department. When we do big changes we always ask our senior leaders to make that announcement.
Kelly: How do you enforce or how do you know people are biking and not walking? How do you know who is driving or vanpooling or carpooling?
Jamie: I’m assuming that’s from a perspective of how do we enforce it. Only those who aren’t driving get a commute bonus. For data purposes and program design we want to know whether you:
But from a commute bonus standpoint we don’t care how you get here as long as you didn’t bring a car to campus. From a commute bonus standpoint we do, do some audits and it doesn’t really matter to us that you said you biked but you really walked to work. It does matter to us if you said you biked to work but you really drove to work. We have some check and balances within the Luum platform and we do a bit of auditing beyond that just to make sure people are complying with the rules on it.
Kelly: What is the tipping point that made you an enterprise platform?
Jamie: Well we had a platform prior to Luum that we designed with a different provider many years earlier that supported all the things we wanted to do which was:
- Integrate parking
- Integrate commute bonus scale
All of this stuff and so we did. We worked with a provider who did that and they did a nice job. Several years later they weren’t supporting the platform and there were problems in the platform and they weren’t very responsive. So, we decided that we couldn’t risk that anymore and we needed to go and find a partner who could replicate that platform and help improve it, be it a development partner and be really responsive and reliable and we found that in Luum.
I’m happy to say that Luum helped us replicate that first platform and has really taken it to the next level and is thinking about thing and features that we didn’t even think of. So, we are just really thrilled it’s a platform that’s well supported and Luum continues to innovate on all sorts of things that we benefit from.
Kelly: What new features would you like to launch in the next few years or what new policies for the program?
Jamie: I mentioned earlier that we have a very robust shuttle service and that shuttle service is highly valued by our employees. At the same time we have a transit partner in King County Metro who runs a terrific transit system and there are gaps in that transit system so that’s why we provide shuttle service, is to fill those gaps.
So, from a strategic standpoint I in program development would like to reduce our investment in shuttle service and rely more on metro. One of the biggest things that we’re doing right now and most important at the moment I think is working with Metro to help fill these gaps and to have more frequency of service in certain corridors that serve the hospital.
That isn’t going to happen overnight so I guess how I would describe that is we are strategically integrating our service with Metro so that our shuttle service is complimentary to Metro but does not supplant Metro. In my opinion we’re a medical facility and that’s our core business and our core business is not about running a small transit agency. I would like to divest from shuttle service over time and rely more on a robust public transit.
Kelly: So, there are many more questions but I will work with Jamie to answer some of those that we can and send via email because there’s still about fifty in there. We’ll do our best to answer those is they weren’t already answered by some of the other questions, but for now I just want to take this moment to say thank you to Jamie.
It’s clear with over two hundred people signing onto this that a lot of people are interested in what you are doing here at Seattle Children’s Hospital and we’re just grateful that you take the time to teach others and share your knowledge and program, and details of that because that’s rare and clearly there is a lot of interest to hear it.
Thanks to everyone who dialed in. Please stay tuned for the next webinar in our webinar series in a couple of months’ time. Everyone take care and stay safe and go vote. We’ll be following up with both the recording and some of the answers to the questions you’ve asked. Thanks for been such an amazing audience and engaged.
Jamie: Thank you everybody.