Since 1991, the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) law has proven to be key in reducing Seattle’s drive-alone rate to historic lows. Every other year, the law requires worksites with 100 or more employees to submit a program report outlining the benefits, amenities, and facilities they offer. These offerings help contextualize employee commuter habits and regional commuter benefit trends among Seattle’s largest employers. This year’s findings reveal some of the biggest shifts in commute behavior ever recorded – read on for a summary of the 2020 program reports!
A note on COVID-19: The CTR law requires large Seattle employers to mitigate the traffic impacts of their business by working to reduce drive-alone commutes to their sites. Due to COVID-19, a high volume of worksites have transitioned to remote work, have lower building occupancy, are utilizing altered operational protocols, and have altered transportation programs. Respondents were asked to fill out the survey as accurately as possible based on transportation elements currently offered at the time of submission. Program Reports were completed via an online survey (submissions are referred to as “responses”) between September and October of 2020.
What’s the response breakdown?
A total of 236 program report responses were received; below, these are broken down by industry.
COVID Impacts: How has COVID-19 impacted the worksites in the CTR Program?
COVID-19 turned our lives upside down in countless ways, including how we go about our workdays. A significant number of worksites transitioned to remote work – some temporarily, while others are considering long term shifts to more flexible options.
72% of respondents reported that less than half of their employees are working in the physical workspace.
Due to this, we have seen an increase in the number of workplaces considering changes to their lease, office location, size of office space, or the number of floors occupied. In 2018, 7% of workplaces were considering these changes – in 2020 it jumped to 15%.
Yet, there are still plenty of vital roles that cannot be performed remotely. By far, “Health & Hospitals” and “Life Sciences, Biotech & Research” have the highest percentage of essential workers who must be present in the physical workplace. Commute Seattle is committed to helping these workers get to their jobs as safely and swiftly as possible. If your workplace could use assistance improving the commute, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.
To dig deeper into what types of changes COVID-19 has prompted, respondents were asked:
As 2021 begins, workplaces anxiously await a vaccine and the leveling out of COVID-19 cases to bring staff back into the office safely. Visit our COVID-19 Business Resources web page for resources on return to work, transit schedules, and more.
How is transportation info communicated to employees?
Your company can reduce drive alone commutes by offering amenities that encourage sustainable transportation. However, the amenities offered are only effective if employees are aware of them and able to utilize them. Therefore, communicating these amenities is critical to an effective employer commute program.
As seen below, the most popular method for displaying ETC information is via an employee website, with break room posters as the second most popular. To distribute commute information, most employers utilize an intranet or employee newsletter/email.
What flexwork options are being offered?
Historically, allowing employees to work remotely has been a great way to reduce the number of people on the roads, reduce employee’s time in traffic, and build trust with staff. We have seen a consistent increase in the number of workplaces offering remote work between 2016, 2018, and 2020. The pandemic has caused a huge spike in temporary remote work – please reach out to Commute Seattle for assistance in implementing an official remote work policy for your workplace.
It’s also common for worksites in the CTR Program to allow flexible work schedules so employees can avoid peak commute times. Options include the following:
How do workplaces support transit & shared vehicle commutes?
We are happy to report that roughly 3 out of 4 CTR worksites provide their employees with an ORCA pass to ride transit to work (64% Business Passport, 10% Business Choice). As of the 2019 mode split results, 46% of downtown workers rode transit to work!
Though the pandemic has caused a significant decline in ridership, transit still sees an average of 150,000 trips per day and will certainly continue to be vital in moving people to and through Seattle in the future.
Regarding Vanpool and Vanshare options, our data show an increase in the percentage of workplaces using these modes since 2016:
What active transportation amenities are offered?
Active transportation is a key piece of the commute puzzle – but active transportation usage is only so good as the amenities offered to support it. When a building has secure bike/scooter parking, lockers, and showers, it greatly boosts the experience for users. This helps to increase the number of people active commuting.
45% of companies responded that they have secure bike storage in the building, while 35% have lockers and 39% have showers. This number will need to grow in the coming years to accommodate the surge in people bicycling. If your company is interested in adding or improving these amenities, you can reach out to us for resources.
Offering subsidies for active transportation can also significantly boost the number of people choosing this mode. As of 2020, 22% of workplaces offered an active transportation subsidy (for biking, scootering, running, walking to work).
How do workplaces manage parking?
The single most effective way to reduce the drive-alone rate at a workplace is to move away from monthly parking passes. This prompts staff to stop and think “Do I really need to drive today?” when they pay per day. Besides, it allows for flexible schedules – drive one day, work remotely another day, take the bus another day – without money going down the drain on a monthly parking fee.
As seen below, roughly 4 out of 10 workplaces do not offer free parking, parking subsidies, or general subsidies to be used for parking.
COVID-19 has uprooted the commuting landscape and caused a shift towards driving alone for the time being. If your company anticipates dilemmas surrounding parking availability or employees getting stuck in traffic, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to discuss what options are available to help them get to work smoothly and safely.
One thing is certain: in 2020, more employees than ever before have adapted to working remotely. Companies adopted remote work policies, worked hard to improve the experience, and continually evolved their strategies as the pandemic pressed on. These temporary changes have become deeply engrained routines for many, which will lead to long term shifts in many company cultures.
At the same time, countless employees perform essential work that is critical to keeping Seattle moving; thank you so much for your service. Our hearts go out to those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and Commute Seattle wishes you the utmost health and safety.
Thank you to the ETCs and company representatives who diligently gathered the information to submit a Program Report for their company. In the coming months, keep an eye out for the updated Tableau Dashboard, where you can explore how your programs compare to others in Seattle. If you’re in the CTR program, email us to get your unique access code for the Tableau Dashboard. The next CTR Program Requirement will be the Commuter Survey in Fall of 2021.
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