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Promoting better commutes

23 January 2017

Commuting is something the vast majority of adults have to contend with on a daily basis and, with average commutes taking at least 30 minutes, the morning journey plays a key role in setting the tone for our workday.  

Steer Davies Gleave’s recent work with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and 'iCommute', the agency’s Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program, has shown that companies are increasingly interested in helping to shape their employee’s commuting habits and providing flexibility in how they get to work. Companies understand that the next generation of young professionals want more flexibility in their personal mobility and better balance in their lives, and that starts with making commuting easier.

In 2014, Steer Davies Gleave helped SANDAG initiate a program refresh for iCommute. Some of the key principles for motivating employers to participate have yielded impressive results, so we’ve compiled our…

Top strategies for commuter engagement

1. Targeted outreach: iCommute has determined that each Account Executive can engage with about 50 companies at a time. With over 1,000 large companies in San Diego, iCommute targets companies with over 200 employees and conducts research to identify which factors will motivate each company to start a discussion about employee commuting.

2. Proactive engagement: Commuting is rarely top of the list of key corporate initiatives, so proactive engagement to raise the profile of commuting is important. Along with targeted outreach, since 2014 iCommute has used cold calls, networking and referrals to connect with over 200 companies, developing ongoing relationships with many of them.

3. Motivational Interviewing: Steer Davies Gleave trains iCommute’s staff in Motivational Interviewing – a conversational, person-centered engagement technique that empowers participants to identify transportation challenges that affect them and develop personalized solutions. Using this technique, 85% of employers have participated after an initial conversation.

4. Building relationships: iCommute’s ethos of valuing the relationship has proved to keep employers engaged and motivated to participate and to do so over time; over 65% of participating employers have been active in the program by hosting an on-site event, conducting a commuter survey, communicating with employees to promote alternatives to solo driving or participating in regional events and seminars.

5. Measuring results: An early requirement for participating companies is to conduct a commuter survey, so that Account Executives can recommend solutions based on employee travel habits and potential motivators for change. The data and mapping that emerge from the survey helps create targeted, cost-effective and efficient commuter programs by identifying the top modes of interest among employees. In the 24 months since iCommute has been motivating companies to conduct surveys, over 45% of participating employers have completed one.

6. Recognition: iCommute has a long-held tradition of recognizing employers for their efforts in enabling alternative and sustainable commuting. iCommute’s Diamond Awards focus on three factors that help employers achieve an award: commuter program participation, annual event participation, and mode share. The greater the success in each criterion, the more points gained, and the higher the award level. Since 2014, 69 companies (40% of participating employers) have achieved an award and 17 have achieved the highest Platinum level. In addition, iCommute helped 7 Platinum level employers achieve the national Best Workplaces for Commuters distinction as well!

In the two years since full implementation of iCommute’s refreshed Employer Outreach Program, engagement has been a huge success:

  • 79 companies, representing 187,000 employees, have completed commuter surveys, providing iCommute with a dataset to plan future outreach and monitor progress over time. 
  • 9 companies have completed a follow-up survey (recommended every 18-24 months), with an average 18% reduction in single-occupancy vehicle mode share, providing an optimistic future for iCommute's flagship outreach program.

Steer Davies Gleave continues to support the program and to provide innovative ways to engage and motivate employers to shift travel behavior.

About the author

Geoff England's picture
Geoff England
Geoff is a transportation planner with expertise in transportation demand management, transit facility design and multimodal integration within transit-oriented communities.

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