The mission statements of UNMC, Nebraska Medicine, and Clarkson College focus on patient care, healthcare education, research, and community outreach. Transportation—moving people around—is not a part of any of these institution’s mission. However, to achieve their missions, these institutions’ people (employees, students, visitors, and faculty) must be able to move from one location (e.g. home) to another (42nd and Dewey campus). Thus, as the institutions continue to grow their positive community impact and add new buildings, the demand for transportation increases. Typically, this means more cars.
So what are these institutions going to do about all the additional cars?
They basically have three options (the first one doesn’t count):
- Don’t grow. Not an option for a national healthcare leader.
- Build out. Build more surface parking, which requires tearing down buildings and creates sprawl.
- Build up. Build more parking garages at over $20,000 per parking stall.
- Get creative. Find ways to get people to campus without using their cars every day.
If transportation is approached with the assumption that everyone will drive, parking becomes the obvious solution (Option #2 or #3). But when an organization sees transportation as fundamentally about moving people, driving a car and the parking that is required as a result becomes just solution of many (and an expensive one at that as reported in Parking Problems? Transit Programs As a Cost-Effective Solution). When this comprehensive view of moving people is combined with an increased emphasis on wellness, millennials driving less, and a new Dodge St. BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), there is an opportunity to expand their positive impact without the burden of providing as much parking.
True to form in their leadership and innovation, UNMC, Nebraska Medicine, and Clarkson College got creative. In June, they rolled out the new TravelSmart program which saves money for employees and the institutions, improves employee attraction and retention, supports a culture of active living, and improves air quality in the city.
TravelSmart is available to all employees and students at UNMC, Nebraska Medicine, and Clarkson College. The program promotes transportation options that will decrease parking demand, including activities such as walking, biking, carpooling, and taking the bus.
A comprehensive employee engagement approach was undertaken to ensure the TravelSmart program met the real needs of the instititions’ people. It included surveys, focus groups, forums, and other engagement activities to select and refine the right components of the program.
One key finding from this process was that active transportation isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Some employees or students have limitations on how they get to work based on where they live or their schedule. However, there are enough people willing to shift their travel mode to active transportation when the infrastructure and programmatic support is in place. This group is large enough to reduce the need to build more parking.
As a result, these are a few ways the TravelSmart program makes it easy for people to use active transportation options:
- Free online service to help connect carpool partners
- Free carpool parking passes
- Free Omaha Metro bus passes
- Free secure, indoor bike parking and access to lockers and shower facilities
- Free guaranteed rides home in emergency situations
- Daily-rate flexible parking for the days a participant needs to drive alone to campus
Already, employees are choosing to become TravelSmart participants and leave their cars at home.
Other benefits of the TravelSmart program include a more active lifestyle, less stress, fewer costs associated with driving and parking, and improved environmental conditions. Employees and students are not the only winners: patients, families, and community members also benefit when these institutions use their property to carry out their core missions, rather than for parking lots.