Survey Says: Area Nonprofits Are Thinking Beyond Driving

Survey Says: Area Nonprofits Are Thinking Beyond Driving

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By Hilary Reeves, Development & Member Engagement Director

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With early signs of spring showing up around us, it’s a good time to think about the changing seasons and changing commuting patterns.

Last year, a number of nonprofit organizations asked their staff to take a travel behavior survey focused on how they got to and from work and, if they went anywhere during the day, how they got around. The surveys, part of a TLC program to certify organizations as Transportation Leaders, paint a picture of “mode share,” the transportation term for the percentage of people who use various ways of getting around. Now that the results are in, what did these surveys reveal?

Nonprofit Commuters Are Multimodal

Chart-shows-Tranportation-Leader-commutes-are-more-multimodal-than-regional-averageAcross the metro, about 25 percent of people get to work by means other than driving alone. In the case of Transportation Leaders, about 27 percent use other modes, exceeding the regional average for using transit and bicycling.

The chart shown here compares the survey of Transportation Leaders to the Metropolitan Council’s regional Travel Behavior Inventory survey and a survey of metro-area nonprofits that TLC conducted with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits in late 2014. (Note: These surveys were not identical, but they all asked about the commute to work, offering these modes as options. Not every employee at the organizations took the travel behavior surveys.)

A goal of the Transportation Leadership program has been to see if it would be possible to lower emissions by having people choose options other than driving alone for their commute trips. A more detailed look at our 2015 survey results affirms that employees at the Transportation Leader organizations are using a variety of modes. Transit and bicycling are most popular, followed by carpooling and working from home.

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Location Matters

Another goal of the program has been to track and encourage more use of the Green Line. As our map shows, many of the organizations that participated in the survey are located along this new light rail line.

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Top Multimodal Nonprofits

The bar chart below shows the different ways employees got to work at each participating organization. The higher the bar, the greater use of modes other than driving alone.

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Among organizations along the Green Line, the highest transit use was at Fresh Energy (37 percent), Springboard for the Arts (24 percent), Minnesota Public Radio (20 percent), and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (16 percent). Yet, Arts Midwest, located in Uptown and served by several bus routes, had the highest transit share of all (42 percent).

In terms of overall rates of bicycling, Hope Community (located at the intersection of Franklin and Portland Avenues in Minneapolis) led with 25 percent, followed by ISAIAH (20 percent), Fresh Energy (15 percent), Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (11 percent) and The McKnight Foundation and The Trust for Public Land at 10 percent each.

Two workplaces in downtown Saint Paul were in the top three on the list of places employees walked to reach: Fresh Energy (8 percent) and Minnesota Public Radio (4 percent). The Neighborhood Energy Connection (located on the Green Line near University Avenue and Fairview) was second, with 5 percent walking to work. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (3 percent) and Arts Midwest (2 percent) complete the top five in walking. It will be interesting to see if walking increases as more housing is built along the Green Line and in downtown Saint Paul. Certainly Uptown is a very walkable, destination-rich location.

Greatest use of carpooling was noted among employees at ISAIAH (20 percent), Arts Midwest (15 percent), Minnesota Public Radio (8 percent). Lifetrack, The McKnight Foundation, The Neighborhood Energy Connection, and Springboard for the Arts weren’t far behind with 7 percent carpooling.

 Many Factors Influence Transportation Choices

There are many reasons why commute patterns vary, ranging from the location of home and child-care needs to the nature of work and office culture and practices.

Even if one’s work is located near good transit options (or good bicycle routes or within the car2go service area), home might not be. Our metro is very spread out. If neither work nor home offers access to frequent transit service, it can take a long time to transfer between routes. One way to deal with this is to use a bicycle to replace one part of the journey, putting the bike on bus or train for the longest segment. Carpooling or getting a ride to frequent transit is another option.

Work days vary. At one organization, 60 percent or more of employees are moving around all day, making home visits. At another, the staff moves between different centers, some of which are on good transit but others not. And at some organizations, staff members travel around the state. Some jobs require carrying heavy equipment.

Workplace culture and amenities can help address some of these barriers. This has been a focus of the Transportation Leadership program. For example, some organizations got Nice Ride bike sharing memberships or bought transit passes for staff to use during the day, making it less necessary to drive to work. Others got organizational memberships with HOURCAR and found it was cheaper than the IRS reimbursement rate for day trips to places like St. Cloud or Stillwater.

The survey results validate the importance of thinking beyond driving. Please give a round of applause to Transportation Leaders, organizations that have embraced this conversation and are setting a standard for what it means to approach everything from directions to purchases to policies in ways that support multiple modes.

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