A Season of Rethinking Transportation

A Season of Rethinking Transportation

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By Hilary Reeves, Strategic Advancement & Communications Director

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This summer, Amanda Pike, Senior Program Manager at the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, challenged herself to try transit for a week. This was after she and other staff members participated in a “lunch & learn” event about using multimodal transportation for commute trips and travel during the day. Their office is in the Spruce Tree building at Snelling and University in Saint Paul, a location with rich options for getting around. During the lunch session, one staff member said she’d seen the 84 bus every day but had never before known where it runs or how often. Staff also learned that there’s an HOURCAR hub behind their building and they have access to covered, secure bicycle parking in a locked space next to the building’s vehicle parking deck.

For her week of leaving the car at home, Amanda took the light rail most days. For a meeting in Stillwater, she used HOURCAR, billing the trip to the organization’s new account with the car-sharing service.

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Once I felt that I knew what the options were, I felt much more confident in using the various modes of transit. I enjoyed the time in the morning to have my coffee on the train and wake up for the day! I also finally got caught up on podcasts. Although you do lose a little bit of freedom to just go wherever, whenever, with a little planning it wasn’t that hard. . . .  I really feel that the more you use it the more comfortable you get!

Amanda Pike, Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota

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Epilepsy Foundation is one of many organizations participating this spring and summer in TLC’s pilot program, Transportation Leadership Certification.

TLC joined up with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) to enroll nonprofit organizations and establish transportation best practices in the workplace. Each participating nonprofit attends a Rethinking Transportation workshop and commits to completing steps to be certified as a Transportation Leader.

Funded by the Metropolitan Council (through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program) and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, the program is focused on nonprofits along the Green Line or other high-frequency transit in the Twin Cities.

TLC held three day-long Rethinking Transportation Workshops in April and May at the MCN offices in Saint Paul. Nearly thirty organizations, ranging from Lutheran Social Services to Operation de Novo participated. In June, we adapted the workshop into three 90-minute segments for the in-house wellness team at the Wilder Foundation. In August, we worked with the Minnesota Regional Arts Council on a special workshop, focused not only on workplace practices but also on access to arts events planned by MRAC grantees.

Several organizations followed up on the workshop by putting together additional events for staff. The Epilepsy Foundation invited TLC to hold the lunch & learn session Amanda attended. Minnesota Public Radio organized a transportation fair for staff in July. In August, the Wilder Center hosted a transportation and wellness fair for their 400 employees, with tables, presentations, and activities from Transit for Livable Communities, St. Paul Smart-Trips, HOURCAR, Nice Ride, car2go, and Health Partners. Lutheran Social Services held a car2go breakfast presentation for employees—and it was the nonprofit’s most well-attended breakfast presentation ever.

Prior to the workshops, each organization completed a self-assessment—23 questions that gave TLC a picture of each organization’s size, number of visitors, and the kinds of benefits, amenities, and practices they have around transportation. The workshops covered the evolution of our transportation systems, the benefits of incorporating multiple modes of getting around, and the basics of route planning. Each workshop also got out of the conference room and onto the bus, train and, Nice Ride. Participants visited local bicycle shops and, via a walk audit, learned about the kinds of street design that make sidewalks and intersections safer for people walking or using wheelchairs. Attendees reported this opportunity for firsthand, experiential learning was a big hit.

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For us, one of the highlights of the workshops was hearing the discussion between organizations.

Attendees shared their experiences using different modes, exchanging tips—for example, about apps they use on their phones—and their frustrations, including a wish that more offices would say where bicycle parking is located. They shared the policies they already have in place—such as direct payments for arriving by modes other than driving and flexible workplace policies that allow staff to “dress for your day.”

More than one person said they enjoyed transit because of the value of seeing a different world and experiencing their community directly.

These discussions and the pre-workshop assessments helped TLC develop the basic requirements and advanced levels for Transportation Leadership Certification, a list of best practices these organizations have committed to fulfill to continue encouraging multimodal options. Next month, at the MCN annual conference, the organizations will be recognized as Transportation Leaders. Watch for news about these Transportation Leaders in early October!

Inspired to follow their lead? Organizations interested in the Rethinking Transportation workshop and becoming certified as Transportation Leaders, please contact Hilary Reeves. Our next workshop is coming in October.