Archive for January, 2019

Katy freeway (I-10) in Houston, Tx

So, How’s the Commute?

Why do we pick one job opportunity over another? That is if you are lucky enough to have more than one offer at a particular time. What are the priorities in that decision-making process? Are these priorities changing as more millennials enter the workforce?

Traditionally, a candidate would select the job that pays the most money. Yes! “show me the money.” You want a job that fits your skills and ambitions, and one that provides more opportunity for advancement. It is a common perception that nothing else really played into the decision.

Well, as the transportation geek that I am, I propose there is much more to it today than money. I am not arguing money is no longer important, especially in areas like the DC Metro where I live, but other factors are becoming increasingly important. And, again, in the DC Metro area which has some of the worst traffic congestion in the county, the commute is a prime factor in that decision.

 

Traffic

The common scenario at one time was you take the high paying job in the city, but you buy a house far out in the suburbs where housing is much cheaper. As properties become more expensive, the further out you live, you put up with a commute that may require two to three hours per day sitting in your Single Occupied Vehicle (SOV). You just have to deal with it. Well, that may be becoming less the case with the current work force.

Several years ago I was out of work and landed a position on temporary assignment. A few months later, the company offered me a permanent position but I was also offered a second job from another employer, a local government. I actually drew up a matrix to compare pros and cons for each of the jobs. The length of the commute was a key factor. Unfortunately, both jobs were at locations over 20 miles from my home, but one job required a 20 minute shorter commute than the current job I had. I took the new job.

 

drawing of van

But I am not referring to just the length or hassle of the commute. Candidates consider other commuting options that would be available with this new company. What other commuting options would I be referring to? Well does the company have access and/or opportunity for an employee to use:

  1. Transit (light rail, commuter rail, or bus)
  2. Ridesharing ( carpools or vanpools)
  3. Biking or Walking to Work
  4. Telework
  5. Flexible Work Hours

And there are also the incentives (financial or other) a company can provide to help employees consider other commuter options? These may include:

  1. Pre-tax subsidies
  2. Discounted passes
  3. Incentives for non-parking
  4. Shuttle access
  5. Guaranteed Ride Home
  6. Employer Assisted living

I recently read a tweet from Michelle “Shelly” Parker who manages the regional GoTriangle TDM program for the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area.

She posted her article from a local business publication in which she notes that with low unemployment in many areas across the country, companies are looking at ways, some may be viewed as extreme, in attracting talent for their open positions. While many companies are limited in what they can provide, a company that provides commuter benefits and a strong commuter options program can go a long way in recruiting much needed talent.

It is clear that commuting considerations should not be dismissed as something just for “green conscious” companies or companies in large metropolitan areas. Ms. Parker referenced recent research that suggested employees having left their job due to commuting challenges or are beginning to look to their employers to help them address their commuting challenges. A number of companies in the Research Triangle Area offer financial support to cover employee commuting costs, as many do here in the Washington metro area, so it seems like a no-brainer that companies should consider incorporating commuting benefits as part of its bottom line. If they don’t, they could be left behind in attracting talent.

commuteSo what can a company do? The first step is the company should survey its employees. Find out what their needs are. It’s also good if employers use free TDM consulting services to identify commuter options specific to their company location, employee schedules and travel options. These consultants use carpool, mass transit, biking, walking and telework best practices to develop commuting-assistance programs for businesses and provide guidance for selecting and implementing programs as well.

The first question employees consider before accepting a position is, “How am I going to get to work?” If a company includes commuter benefits in human resources and personnel practices, that company can add value to compensation packages and help their workers integrate a work-life balance at a new level.

During my long career I have had opportunities to take metro rail into work, bike to work during nice days in the summer, and even take flex days off. I have to admit that I was happiest at work when I was able to examine a number of options for commuting. At one position, I had a subsidy to help cover the cost of using metro rail, as well as a pre-tax benefit when the subsidy began to not keep pace with rising Metro fares. I also had a  position in which my employer provided facilities for locking and storing bikes and providing showers, so I didn’t stink the entire day. That went a long way in improving my satisfaction with the position.

So, if an employer asks his/her employee “how was your commute?” that employer should consider how they themselves can influence that response. The company may not only attract worthy candidates with a comprehensive commuter benefits package, but also keep them for the long-term.

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.

Money-Capitol-Hill

The importance of Financial Stability

Individuals and families are faced with the challenges of an economic crisis, while trying to maintain or achieve financial stability. Majority of people in the United States are either low and middle class, while 1% includes the upper class that makes up 40% of the nation’s wealth. In addition, almost 80% of families live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to maintain financial stability in the event of an emergency. For many this means receiving financial aid from federal, state or private funded programs.

One common goal for many individuals and families is to obtain financial stability; but, how can you achieve this goal, when you consistently face economic challenges? Many families are faced with limited income due to the lack of personal savings. No one’s situation is the same; however, many are faced with similar circumstances. Financial stability can also affect businesses.

What does this mean? This means that everyone is trying to survive economic loss without compromising their lifestyle. There will always be economical challenges, however individuals and families need to better prepare financially in the event of an emergency.

Financial Stability is being able to still pay your debts, bills, personal savings, financial goals and savings in the event of an emergency. One way to achieve this goal, is by implementing the following steps below:

• Make your finances personal
• Understand that the most important investment is yourself
• Earn income by doing something you enjoy
• Start a budget
• Live below your means
• Create an emergency fund
• Pay off your debt
• Invest for retirement
• Make sure you have some fun
• Stick with it!

Take charge of your personal finances to live life on your terms without living paycheck to paycheck. This seems like an unreachable dream, but it is very much within your reach. While I won’t make specific recommendations here, your local library has books that can help you reach your financial goals and add some financial stability to your household. Use the resources available to you to lighten the burden during economically hard times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New Year – Same Goal!

Happy New Year! I hope that your holidays were absolutely perfect and you are walking boldly into and excited about the year ahead of you.

design-2019-2018-to-reach-new

As you know, the onset of a new year is a time to reflect on the past, prepare for the present, and make plans for the future. Things are no different at Nspiregreen. While we relish in our success from the previous year, we realize that there are certainly opportunities for improvement in our business. One area that we are consistently working on is relationship building.

I have a confession. I am a business card hoarder. I can count the number of untouched business cards that I have collected at events over the years. Each of these cards represents an opportunity for a new relationship and opportunity for collaboration. Admittedly, sometimes the day to day of the business gets in the way of that followup; but, I, Chanceé, vow to do better this year. In fact, I have set aside weekly time just for this. It’s one of a few improvement areas that I am stretching into and certainly one where I think many of us can do a bit better.

What about you? Is there an area of improvement that you want to focus on for your business? What is it and how are you approaching it? Tell us about it in the comments.

Focus on making this your best year yet!

 Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

 





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