by Kate Harrington, Austin Young Chamber member, and Outreach and Engagement Manager at Movability.
“Pre-outbreak, Austin’s commute times kept growing in 2019,” blared an Austin American-Statesman headline on Oct. 1, 2020. Six months into a massive disruption in how and where we work and attend school, it might almost be difficult to remember just how much traffic congestion choked the region. But another recent headline reminds us why it’s important to remember and plan now for ways to return to work without returning to traffic: “Austin back to 80% of pre-pandemic traffic rush as more businesses, schools open,” came from a KXAN story in the last week of September 2020.
In the transportation demand management (TDM) field, behavior change is a big part of shifting commutes, and our region has just experienced an enormous – albeit forced – behavior change reset. For those industries and employees who are able to work remotely, the past six months have honed the development of new habits. You don’t have to be an expert in TDM to know that we have a huge opportunity to build on those newly-formed habits as we plan a return to workplaces, whether that return is happening next week or next quarter.
That’s not to say that telework is the right fit for all employees, all the time. We know from surveying Movability’s members that many people are eager to collaborate again face-to-face, and that bringing new employees on board is best done in a shared work setting. But we also know that many employees are hoping to make telework a part of their schedule moving forward.
We know now that employees can very effectively collaborate, communicate, and get work done without having to physically be in an office. And that’s got huge implications for how we allocate our resources going forward. Offering mobility policies with options from transit to telework means employers can save money spent on parking, lost time, and lower productivity. It means employees can save money on gas, reduce their risk of vehicle accidents, and find a better work-life balance.
Traffic congestion wastes huge amounts of time and money: according to the INRIX 2019 Global Traffic Scorecard, U.S. drivers collectively lost more than $88 billion in time, accidents, and pollution associated with traffic congestion. That comes out to an average cost of more than $1,300 per person. Then there are the less-tangible, but still very real, costs: the health impacts of sitting still for an hour or more a day and the stress of driving in stop-and-go traffic.
Not everyone has the ability to change from a drive-alone commute to another type of commute. But the good news is that not everyone needs to – just 20% of the region’s drive-alone commuters using a different mode of travel makes an enormous dent in congestion. And that means that for those who do need to drive, things move a little faster.
We have an opportunity to build on the new habits we’ve started forming. By building mobility policies and plans for their employees that help them move away from driving alone, employers can connect commuters with better options that save time and money. Whether that’s developing a long-term telework plan, implementing flexible schedules, buying transit passes for employees, setting up shuttles and carpools, putting in bicycle facilities, or a combination of those mobility tools, employers have a huge opportunity to make a return to work happier and healthier.
If you’re an employer who wants to learn more about returning to work without returning to traffic, Movability is here to help! Contact Kate Harrington at email@example.com to learn more.
Movability is Central Texas’ first and only transportation management association. We are solely dedicated to working hand in hand with employers and individuals to improve the region through commuter options that save time and money. Movability’s members are employers and individuals from public and private sectors, and hail from all over the larger Austin region. We work closely with members to create mobility plans that in turn let them connect their employees with a wide range of mobility options. Our members leverage mobility programs to reach their business goals, including attracting and retaining top talent, reducing facilities costs, and leading in corporate stewardship. Members also benefit from exclusive events, networking, and educational opportunities.