An office park that successfully created a “culture of public transit”

A lot of people would want more Americans to consistently use public transit. But one writer suggests a San Ramon, California office park where “33 percent of the park’s 30,000 workers leave their cars at home” might hold some answers. Here is a look at how this office park’s transportation center tackles logistics, focus on the multiple benefits of using public transit, and has “evangelistic zeal”:

1. Logistics: the office park was built in 1978 and needed to competed with other office parks. The office park purchased a fleet of buses, found ways to subsidize costs, and coordinated bus schedules with other nearby mass transit options. Today: “There are now 13 different bus routes running to the park, and the connections to BART and various local train and express bus services are coordinated. On its website, the Ranch now pitches its transit program as a competitive advantage.”

2. Pitching the multiple benefits of public transit: it’s not just about money but improving health and reducing stress. Today:

Marci says that once riders begin leaving their cars at home they go through a stressful period of two weeks or so where they feel that they’ve lost the control they had in the car. But within three weeks they notice their overall stress levels are lower. “Transit requires that you go at a different pace. You have to wait. If there were roses, we’d smell them,” she says, “There’s not much of that in our lives.” She says HR people have called her saying some of their meaner workers have become pleasant people after switching to transit.

3. The office, particularly its program manager, aggressively push the program and look to engage people in conversations.

Overall, this sounds interesting. But I am a bit skeptical about whether this is a possible solution to energy and transportation issues:

1. Even with all of this work, 67% of the workers still use their cars on a regular basis. (This is based on data the story provides.) Is this the best we can hope for outside of really dense urban areas like New York City? It really is difficult to fight a culture that prizes individuals being able to drive themselves.

2. There is no mention in this article about the cost of this program. It could be cheaper in the long run (if all the possible costs are accounted for) but I imagine some money might need to be spent up front for similar programs with the reduced costs coming down the road. The article suggests this program helped this office park compete – how much did it help?

3. Is this three-pronged strategy viable on a larger scale? Or does it only work under certain conditions?

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