Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

How our bosses can make transportation more sustainable

December 5, 2011 - 03:22 PM
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Your workplace wants you to leave the car at home. (Photo: flickr/brownpau)

Sustainable transportation isn't always easy but there's one big asset you can potentially have on your side — your boss. Our daily transportation inevitably and intrinsically is tied to work, more times than not. We commute, and our travel to and from the workplace comprises an enormous fraction of travel. Yet our method of commute determines a lot, including our trail of greenhouse gases. Who better to influence our commuting style than our office superiors?

Bosses are influencing D.C. transportation, and the District government recently highlighted some of the ways.

The District Department of Transportation has, in recent times, extended its influence in an initiative called GoDCGo, which "focuses on the reduction of single-occupant vehicle travel and promotes the use of more sustainable modes of transportation, such as bicycling, walking, carpooling, vanpooling and using public transit," according to its website. GoDCGo has become a familiar presence online with its blog entries and regular tweets. Considering that, as the EPA says, transportation is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in the U.S., the initiative has some serious bearing on the future.

Recently I stumbled onto a presentation that GoDCGo program director Katie Sihler gave at the GreenGov Symposium five weeks ago (not to be confused with the GOVGreen conference from last week). Sihler presented audiences with some chilling stats about how transportation contributes to greenhouse gases, such as: "Transportation accounted for 27% of greenhouse gas pollution in 2008 but is projected to rise to 36% by 2020. Cars and trucks contribute to 55% of all transportation related green house gases."

Breathing easier already, huh?

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But maybe it's not so bad. Sihler emphasizes the positive accomplishments that GoDCGo is working toward, and in that spirit, shares several ideas for how employers can make their employees' commutes a little bit greener. The D.C. metro area statistics are much more encouraging and a good first step toward reducing those greenhouse gas numbers, via the Commuter Connections 2010 State of the Commute:

• 74% have a commuter benefits program
• 65% offer a transit or vanpool subsidy
• 37% provide carpool incentives
• 28% encourage biking and walking programs
• 23% offer a Formal Telework program

Many employers, it seems, are already on the right track when it comes to the spirit of smart commuting. Washington, D.C. offers many commuting alternatives, from the Metro to biking to Zipcar to its many sidewalks, so it makes sense that employers would promote these methods — they are, in many cases, healthy for both the environment and the individual as well as convenient (Metro delays notwithstanding). Our city's workers know this well, and nearly 200,000 households in the D.C. metro area get by without owning cars.

If you're particularly proud of how your own company handles its employee transportation, you can nominate it to be specially honored. The best among them will be recognized in the 15th annual Commuter Connections Employer Recognition Awards. Employers are recognized for the three categories of Incentives, Marketing, and Telecommuting. Check out the submission form here. The deadline is January 31 and winners will be announced this coming summer in a ceremony and in advertisements. The 2011 winners are the American Occupational Therapy Association (for incentives), private real estate firm B. F. Saul Company (for marketing), and Clean Currents (for telework). More bosses need to take lessons from these ones. I have faith that the District can do even better than the stats Silher offered at GreenGov.

Getting to work may be a chore ... but at least for some it can be sustainable.

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