The Most Effective Way to Reduce Employee Driving

The single most effective way a major employer in Seattle found to reduce solo driving was to charge employees for parking, but ruling-out monthly permits. An innovative method was adopted to charge workers on a daily basis
August 15, 2017, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
Mikhail Kolesnikov

First, *credit goes to the city of Seattle for placing a requirement on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation when they approved the foundation's downtown headquarters in 2008: they "could no longer offer free parking and it had to reduce the number of employees who drove alone to work," reports David Gutman for The Seattle Times. 

At the time, nearly 90 percent of Gates Foundation employees drove alone. A year after the new headquarters opened in 2011, the number was 42 percent. Last year it was 34 percent.

As one might imagine, the foundation's 1,200 full-time employees get plenty of perks to reduce drive-alone commuting, including free ORCA transit cards, bike-storage areas, locker and showers, and a financial incentive to use alternative transportation.

But the single biggest factor in reducing solo car commuting, the Gates Foundation found, doesn’t cost the foundation or its employees any additional money and is easily replicable at workplaces that have fewer resources to devote to the issue.

Charging for parking is critical, but some parking charges are counter-productive. Not only are monthly permits not available, the costs are 'front-loaded' so as to create the maximum incentive to reduce drive-alone commuting.

Every employee, from the CEO down, pays $12 a day to park in the Gates Foundation garage. Fees are capped at the neighborhood’s market rate — $120 a month. So, the first 10 days a month that an employee drives alone cost $12 each; every day the rest of the month is free.

Of course, there's a risk that the front-loaded system could backfire and encourage workers to to drive alone after having paid for ten days of parking. But parking data shows the system is working.

The Gates Foundation has more than 700 parking spots, between its own garage and spaces it leases. On a typical day, fewer than half of them get used.

*Seattle's parking requirement stems from a "1991 state law that requires Seattle and other metro areas in Washington to adopt plans to reduce the number of commuting trips made by employees at large workplaces, " writes Gutman. Eric Jaffe, the former New York bureau chief for CityLab, wrote about the Washington's Commute Trip Reduction program in April 2015, calling it a "model for the nation."

Hat tip to Darrell Clarke.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, August 10, 2017 in The Seattle Times
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email