Transportation and Travel

Passenger vehicles are one of the largest contributors to California’s greenhouse gas emissions, representing 27% of all emissions, and many of those passenger car trips are workers’ daily commutes. One of the most effective ways that a company can reduce its overall carbon footprint is to promote alternative commuting habits among its employees, whether it’s public transportation, carpooling, bicycling, or walking to work. The potential savings from transportation actions aren’t limited to commutes, either. Companies that maintain car fleets can improve the efficiency of their fleets through smarter vehicle purchases and improved maintenance practices, and there are many ways to reduce the environmental impact of business travel.

The Alliance created a matrix to help you assess the cost effectiveness of each of the following strategies by comparing the level of operational investment to potential environmental impact.

Periodic Action  Property Manager Involvement
Habitual Action  Lower-Impact
Policy-Driven  Higher-Impact

 

Encourage Use of Public Transportation

Start Companies can encourage employees to use public transit for their daily commutes by posting information on the nearest bus or train stops, schedules, etc., and by subsidizing some or all of the cost of a public transit pass. If your company is currently paying for employee parking spots, offer to use that money to go toward the cost of a bus pass instead (or require employees to pay for their own parking spots if they wish to continue driving).

Google Maps integrates with many public transit agencies’ routes and schedules, enabling employees to easily plan their routes and time their departures and arrivals accurately. A list of transit agencies covered by Google Maps can be found here.

Many transit agencies offer programs through which employers can give their employees discounted public transit passes or vouchers. A list of all major California public transit agencies’ websites can be found here.

There are also services available to enable employees to pay the cost of monthly passes with pre-tax dollars (which can also help the company save on payroll taxes). A list of third party services which manage public transit pass programs and help companies obtain the tax benefits of such programs can be found here, along with a description of how such tax benefits work.

Promote Walking and Bicycle Commuting

Encouraging walking and bicycling has dual benefits of reducing emissions from vehicles and promoting employee health and wellbeing. Companies can encourage employees to bike to work by providing a secure place to lock up bicycles. Some companies provide shower and locker facilities for employees who want to change into work clothes after their walk or bicycle commute.

Companies couls also puchase bicycles to be stored at the office and used by employees for local business travel or lunchtime errands. Some communities have bicycle rental programs which are perfect for short journeys around town; a company could purchase a membership or vouchers for such a program to have available for employees. A list of bicycle sharing programs in California can be found here.

A great way to encourage employees to try out bicycle commuting is to participate in community- sponsored Bike to Work Day (or sponsor one for your own company), help employees figure out the logistics, and make it a fun event with prizes for participation. Before the event, have a bike-savvy employee hold a little brown bag refresher course to teach colleagues about basic bike safety and maintenance. Help employees find safe routes to walk and bicycle to work using Google Maps.

A list of bike-friendly maps of California cities can be found here.

Promote Carpooling

Companies can promote carpooling among employees by providing and publicizing a carpool sign- up bulletin board (either physical or virtual on the company’s internal website or a simple Google Docs spreadsheet). Employees can list whether or not they want to drive, how many people they can hold in their car, what direction they are coming from, and their typical arrival/departure times. This is a great option for companies which aren’t located in an area accessible by walking, bicycling, or public transit. Carpooling can also be encouraged for non-commute employee travel, such as travel to business meetings, conferences, and company events such as holiday parties. An easy way to promote carpooling for such events is to include a link to a Google Docs carpool sign-up sheet within the Outlook calendar meeting notice. 

Establish a Guaranteed Ride Home Program

Provide employees who choose alternative commuting options with peace of mind that they will be able to get home safely and quickly in an emergency or special circumstance by creating a Guaranteed Ride Home Program. These programs typically involve a promise that the employer will reimburse the costs of a taxi ride if the employee has to unexpectedly work late or there is a personal or family emergency. These programs are estimated to cost employers just a few dollars per commuter per year, but greatly reduce a significant barrier to alternative commuting for some employees. For a detailed guide to creating such a program click here.

Enable Teleworking

In certain circumstances, teleworking can reduce an organization’s environmental footprint by eliminating commuting and reducing the amount of energy used for office equipment and lighting.

Provide Electronic Fax Capabilities

Set up electronic fax capabilities so that all incoming faxes are sent directly to email in PDF format and outgoing faxes can be sent directly from the computer. Some companies that provide this service include eFax, MyFax.

Establish Sustainable Business Travel Practices

Air travel is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Opt for train travel when possible. Non- stop flights use less fuel than connecting flights because planes are most efficient at cruising speeds. Purchase carbon offsets for each flight (an added cost of approximately $9 for a roundtrip flight between Los Angeles and New York). Carbon offsets can be purchased through organizations such as: http://www.carbonfund.org/ and promote investment in clean energy technologies and forest renewal. Encourage employees to take the bus or train to and from the airport or to carpool. Select eco-friendly hotels that are located near public transit so employees don’t have to rent cars. Orbitz has a list of eco- friendly hotels.

Promote Use of Web-based Presentations and Videoconferencing

By reducing business travel through the use of web-based presentations and videoconferencing, companies can make a significant reduction in their environmental footprint. These online tools are particularly useful for internal meetings and training sessions in large, multi-office companies. Some of the top web-based presentation and videoconferencing services include www.WebEx.com and www.GoToMeetings.com.

Purchase and Maintain Fuel-Efficient Fleets

If your company owns vehicles, upgrade to fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids or those powered by E- 85 ethanol blend (flex fuel), diesel, biodiesel, or compressed natural gas which have fewer emissions. Select the appropriately sized car or truck to do the job; larger and more powerful vehicles tend to be less fuel-efficient. Installing GPS units on fleet vehicles may reduce wasteful fuel usage by helping drivers get to their destinations by the most efficient routes. The California Public Utilities Commission and other state agencies have financial incentives available for fleet managers to increase the sustainability of their fleet. 

Promote Good Driving Habits

Educate your employees about the importance of car maintenance and proper driving habits. Keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure can save up to 1.2% of fuel usage and getting regularly tune-ups and keeping the air filter changed can save up to 3.9%. Gentler driving (avoiding sudden acceleration and stops and not speeding) saves up to 3.2%.

Use Bicycle Couriers

Most major cities have bicycle couriers for intra-city communications, a much greener alternative to using car-based couriers.                    

Relocate Office to a Transit-Oriented Development or Other Transit-Friendly Locations

Transit-oriented developments (TODs) are mixed-use developments including residential buildings, offices, and retail that are designed to minimize barriers to use of public transit by making the area surrounding the bus stop or train station very pedestrian friendly and attractive and by keeping the population dense enough to justify frequent transit service. Many studies have proven that employees who live and/or work in TODs are far more likely to commute via public transit on a regular basis. Locate TODs in your area on this map.

Alternatively, check your office neighborhood’s WalkScore and TransitScore to see how your location compares to other neighborhoods in your city in terms of walkability and transit-friendliness; a walkable and transit-friendly office location encourages employees to take public transit and enables them to walk to lunch and to complete other errands such as trips to the bank, post office, grocery store, etc.

WalkScore (all cities in California).

Resources:

Commute Cost Calculator: Calculator that allows employees to calculate how much their commute is really costing them, to compare to the cost of using public transit or to enable cost-sharing among carpoolers.

Tips on Marketing Alternative Commuting Options to Employees

Regional Carpool Finder Sites: San Diego regionLos Angeles/Orange County/Ventura County/Inland Empire region

Calculate and purchase offsets for your company’s total commute and business travel carbon footprint with CarbonFund.