At a recent ULI Breakfast a panel of large tech employers all agreed “transportation is becoming the single biggest challenge in their ability to grow.” Well smart tech guys and gals, let us point you to a public sector employer that is moving forward with solutions: Travis County deserves big kudos for contributing to transportation relief.
As we’re fond of saying, the old days of looking to the transportation agencies to fix transportation problems are gone. The old math has ceased to work and the only new equation that works is one where we reduce “drive alone” travel during rush hours by 20 percent or more.
First, the Commissioners Court approved an expansion of unreserved parking to all its downtown facilities, a change that will make more efficient use of the existing parking infrastructure, eliminate a long-standing waitlist for employee access to parking, and may even help open more parking for public access. At the same time, the Commissioners Court approved a new Employee Commute Options Benefit Program, where employees can chose to receive a monthly cash stipend instead of a parking spot. This means employees can now choose to use travel options without also being penalized by giving up a benefit (parking) worth $140 per month.
A recent survey of Travis County employees showed a significant interest in alternative transportation. “According to a recent survey, 35 percent of employees are interested in the new transit pass program the Court approved this year, and 900 employees have already taken advantage of signing up for transit passes,” said Mark Gilbert during a staff briefing to the Commissioners Court. “Additionally, 28 percent of the 2,000 downtown county employees expressed interest in the Commute Options Benefit Program.”
If fewer County employees use parking spaces, the County has the opportunity to lease spaces to the private market. Travis County hopes the policy changes will be a win for everyone. Movability hopes Travis County will become a model for how both public and private sector companies can take an easy role in solving downtown’s transportation challenges.
Public sector employees alone make up more than 25 percent of the downtown employment base. Public sector employers support for alternative commuting can thus have a significant impact on downtown congestion and availability of parking. But, we – downtown collectively – still need private sector employers doing their part.