In the 1990s, Washington State implemented a Commute Trip Reduction law that required employers with greater than 100 day-shift employees to have a comprehensive transportation mitigation plan. Plans must establish goals to reduce 1) traffic congestion, 2) fuel consumption, and 3) air pollution. A self-described “everyday cyclist,” Stephanie Innis encourages alternative commute methods for over 3,000 employees across four Children’s Hospital worksites.
Occupation: Commuter Services Coordinator, Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center
Hometown: New Palastine, IN
Alma Mater: Purdue University (undergraduate) and University of Washington (graduate)
Commute Distance: 12 miles round trip to Queen Anne
Describe your role at Children’s Hospital
I provide educational and logistical assistance to discourage single occupancy vehicle commutes. My duties also involve administering our bike facilities – including several bike cages, showers, and lockers.
The CTR law is effective because most peak-hour driving is work-related. Employers are in the best position to reach and motivate commuters. Children’s wants to minimize its overall community impact; traffic is often the most visible impact, so our program is community-driven. But my personal interest is from environmental sustainability: saving children’s lives requires that we protect the world where they live.
How do you perform such a difficult task?
New hires receive information on bussing…we promote an internal rideshare system, as well as [King County] Metro’s RideShareOnline.com…last year, we added 10 new vanpools, bringing us to 32 total vanpools.
Still, there are challenges; for example, with the median home price over $400,000, some of our employees cannot afford to live within five miles of our worksites, which is what the State would like to see.
How does cycling fit in the alternative commute mix?
I talk about cycling a lot. Cycling is often a very positive experience for commuters – especially for women who make up the majority of our workforce. I’m very involved in coordinating Children’s Bike To Work event; I’ve also been a volunteer on Cascade’s formal Bike To Work Committee.
Right now, we’re investigating an internal Bike Buddy program – modeled after the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s program.
How successful are your efforts?
Regionally, 70% of commuters drive alone; the state goal is to reduce that number to less than 55%. Based on our in-house surveys, less than 40% of Children’s staff drives to work alone. Four percent of commute trips are completed by bike (I’d like to see us reach 10%). 20% of employees carpool, 12% vanpool, and 12% travel by bus.
How do you convince people to give up the luxury and convenience of automobiles?
I balance incentives and disincentives. As a nonprofit, we don’t have a huge budget, but we do charge employees $50 per month for parking. If you walk, bike, carpool, or telecommute – you can pocket that $50 monthly. (Bus commuters receive a Metro flex pass, which is charged to us based on usage).
Employees express concern about getting home on time; many of our staff have variable schedules, which makes car/vanpooling difficult. In those cases, we reimburse for taxis when necessary.
That’s another reason that I like cycling: I can go home whenever I want; bicycling gives me huge flexibility.
What is your commute?
About six miles from Queen Anne. I ride my bike three days per week and bus other days; I will drive some days too. It’s only 30 minutes by bike, but its 45 minutes by bus.
How else are you involved in cycling?
I’ve been a member of Cascade for about five years…because they support all kinds of riding for so many people. It’s a great support mechanism. Recently, I’ve been very impressed with the Club’s advocacy efforts.
I volunteer doing helmet fits for the Education Foundation. Children’s sells a few hundred helmets annually to children, and their parents.
This year, I also joined Team Group Health’s women’s race team. I’d like to find more mid-week training partners, but it has been great at improving my fitness and bike handling skills.
I’m also a member of [City of Seattle’s] Bicycle Advisory Board. I participate in many external task forces; for example, recently we met to focus on Rainier Ave S, and issues like the two-way Mercer in South Lake Union.
How can other employers encourage bike commuting?
Facilities for storing bikes and gear, as well as an area for cleaning up, are a necessity, especially for female employees.
If you could do one thing to improve bike commuting, what would it be?
More designated bike lanes. There’s really not a complete network of trails in Seattle; Cascade’s Complete The Streets is trying to accomplish that. Bike lanes legitimize bike commuting and provide a sense of safety for many new commuters. They also set expectations for cyclists and drivers.
Stephanie pedals around town on a Specialized Stump Jumper and a Bianchi Giro.
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