I found a rather interesting article about how to create a culture of public transportation today. It was about the Marci option, an ongoing campaign in California, USA. Outside San Ramon, almost 40 miles from San Fransisco, there is a big office park with some 30 000 workers. 33% of them choose public transportation for the commute. The article is in the Atlantic by the way.
Wait a minute! 33%? that’s a huge number. Really good. Especially in such a car centered culture as the American. Some 90 % of the Americans commute by car, so getting 10 000 of a total of 30 000 office workers to change to a greener commute is fantastic. It is so good I can hardly believe it. How on earth have this come to pass?
This office park have the Ranch’s Transportation center, and its program manager Marci (ie the name Marci option) to thank for this. She, her coworkers and the companies around the park have managed to create a whole new transportation culture. Using transit is a choice, not a sacrifice. And it is easy in this area apparently as there are lots of bus lines that go through or close to the office park. Availability is a key for making public transportation really well used and popular. It also makes it possible to save lots of money on gas, insurance and other costs. More importantly is the fact that if it is easy to access it will be easier to switch to a greener commute as a lifestyle choice. Weather this is a “stress less” choice or for the environment doesn’t really matter, one will lead to the other. Like health, wealth and a better planet. I wonder where you heard that slogan before…
I find two major things interesting here;
1) The fact that the program got almost 10 000 of 30 000 employees to switch to public transportation, and buses at that. I have gotten he impression that buses are for the poor while rail in all form for the middle-class in many Americans minds. Not only that but it takes a while to get used to public transportation. The article in The Atlantic mentioned two weeks. For someone to hang on to something they mistrusts and dislike for two weeks is quite impressive. And the workers seem to have noticed that they save money and live a more environmentally friendly lives as well.
2) The health results. To quote the article
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.
In other words, there are some serious carrots for employers AND employees to lobby for better public transportation. If it is possible it might even be an idea to throw in good bike parking (with security cameras/locked doors to avoid theft) in the lobbying as well. Who doesn’t want to reduce stress and stress-related diseases and symptoms.
Commute Greener! is running a campaign at Lindholmen Science park in Gothenburg during April and May. Health wealth and a better planet are central words for Commute Greener! We too focus on lifestyle choices. It is really nice to see that similar campaigns are running with great results. Climate change is a huge and foreboding problem. We will all have to pitch in and do our part in controlling this monster. Small steps matter a great deal, and the commute is something that can be easy to affect. You can save lots of CO2 by simply taking the bus instead of driving, and you will get calmer (once you get used to it) and save a few bucks in the process. If these guys can, we can too!