Creating efficiencies through vanpools at Alectra Utilities
Alectra Utilities (formerly PowerStream) is committed to implementing strategies and initiatives to help protect the environment. With suburban office locations and a workforce that often commutes long distances, Alectra wanted a high occupancy vehicle solution to get its staff to work.
How we helped
Through the Smart Commute program, we partnered with Alectra Utilities to set up what is now Ontario’s largest vanpool program. Starting off with a pilot of two vanpools, the program has now expanded to 10 vehicles carrying 70 riders along 6 different routes in the Greater Toronto Area. Such is its success and popularity, there are plans underway to expand the program.
The benefits to staff are clear. They can share the burden of driving to work with their colleagues, and enjoy reduced fuel costs, a fixed schedule, access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes, reduced wear-and-tear on their personal vehicle, and the chance to get to know their colleagues better. This leads to benefits for Alectra Utilities through increased employee productivity and retention.
The vans are owned by Alectra Utilities and users pay the ongoing cost of operation and maintenance, which is usually $60-110 per month. For most commuters, this is considerably less than the cost of driving alone to work in a personal vehicle. During the day, the vans are made available for the company to use.
The employee vanpool program eliminates over 300 tones of greenhouse gases each year by taking employee personal vehicles off the road during the morning and evening commutes.
Supporting employee relocation at RBC
RBC relocated 1,600 employees from their downtown office to York Mills Centre. Prior to the move, a large proportion of employees chose alternatives to driving alone for their commute to work. RBC wanted to give employees the support they needed to continue their sustainable commuting habits at the new location.
How we helped
Through the Smart Commute program, we:
- Provided employees with a customized Commuter Options Guide that showcased the transportation options available at the new workplace
- Provided additional support to employees through personal travel planning
- Held town hall events and surveys to collect data on desired GO Transit route changes among staff and presented this information to GO Transit
- Office relocations are periods of change that are often stressful for employees. We helped reduce commuting-related stress by giving employees the resources they need to make informed choices about their commute.
The Commuter Options Guide was an effective solution that helped RBC employees to continue their healthy commuting habits after the move, fostering wellness, productivity, and job satisfaction. This service benefited RBC as an employer by supporting retention and recruitment efforts and helping to achieve sustainability targets. Post-relocation, the proportion of sustainable commuters remained high at 83%, even though York Mills Centre is less accessible by public transit and active transportation.
Promoting sustainable commuting among students
To raise awareness of sustainable commuting options among students at Seneca, we piloted a ‘Commute Concierge’ service from May to November 2017. The pilot aimed to explore new ways of reaching students by providing commute information that would not only help to increase the number of students taking sustainable modes but also to improve commute satisfaction.
How we helped
Students were provided with a personalized commuter guide detailing their transportation options, including possible routes and the cost break down. Over 350 students were engaged at our outreach events across both the Seneca Newnham and Seneca@York campuses.
The pilot was successful, with 66% of participants stating it increased their awareness of commuting options and 21% changing their commute as a result. In 2018/19 we plan to expand the scope of this project and reach a wider audience by including the commuter guides in orientation packages for staff and students.
Improving commutes to Consumers Road Business Park
Located between highways 404 and 401, Sheppard Avenue East and Victoria Park Avenue, Consumers Road Business Park is one of Toronto’s most concentrated areas of office jobs.
The ConsumersNext Transportation Master Plan requires mitigation efforts to manage growth in the area. A key recommendation is to increase awareness of utilization of programs like Smart Commute to accelerate the uptake of non-SOV modes, while avoiding major congestion issues.
How we helped
Smart Commute NTV engaged businesses in the area and hosted a Transportation Forum in January 2018. The forum introduced the various transportation challenges in the area and offered solutions, including opportunities for carsharing, carpooling, and GO access, with local businesses able to get involved through discussion opportunities throughout the event. The Forum was an important first step in getting support to implement EcoMobility hubs within the Consumers Road area, which include elements such as carpool parking, electric vehicle charging stations, carshare, pick-up/drop-off points for transportation network companies (TNCs), shuttles, transit, and bikeshare. We are excited to continue working on this project throughout 2018/19.
Construction mitigation along Eglinton Avenue
Eglinton Crosstown construction is anticipated to affect hundreds of businesses along the Eglinton Avenue corridor. In fall 2017 we worked together with Smart Commute Scarborough to launch a construction mitigation project to assist businesses with getting around.
How we helped
The goal during this initial outreach to businesses was to introduce and promote the ‘4Rs’ (Reduce, Retime, Remode and Reroute) to employers and coordinate efforts with Crosslinx, Metrolinx, and City of Toronto Planning and Economic Development teams.
Throughout the fall and winter, we delivered in-person and online workshops to businesses to highlight how Smart Commute can assist with common challenges associated with construction and provide a forum for employers to identify their key issues. The workshops enabled us to each out to businesses and hear their concerns. The Metrolinx Community Relations team co-presented on construction information and planned outcomes to highlight the exciting future of Eglinton Avenue.
As construction continues, we plan to maintain this work throughout 2018-19 by providing further assistance to businesses through helping them develop Construction Travel Plans and supporting their employees.
Encouraging transit by providing last mile options
Consumers Road Business Park and Gordon Baker Road are employment-dominated areas with limited transit permeability making it difficult for employees to take transit to work.
How we helped
Smart Commute partnered with employers and property managers in these areas, bringing them together to establish two multi-employer shuttle bus services from Don Mills Subway Station. Both shuttles run in the morning and evening peak periods, and provide a service to Fairview Mall over the lunch period.
By providing a shuttle bus that connects the first and last commuting mile between the transit hub and the workplace, transit immediately becomes a far more attractive option for employees. The shuttles are a key component in supporting employees commutes, increasing job satisfaction and staff retention, and helping property managers retain happy tenants.
Smart Commute NTV’s shuttle buses were the first multi-employer shuttles in Toronto. They have allowed multiple property managers and employers to enjoy the benefits of a shuttle service, which ordinarily they would not be able to accommodate.
Promoting the subway extension into Vaughan
Single occupancy vehicle use is currently the dominant form of travel in Vaughan with transit representing only 5% of all commutes. The opening of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station and Highway 407 subway stops provided the opportunity for us to promote transit to workplaces in the area.
How we helped
City of Vaughan and TRCA took part in our campaign and we promoted transit to employees through:
- Educational events to speak directly with employees and showcase the subway as a new way for them to get to work
- A webinar explaining the PRESTO card system
- Subway ride-along so employees could experience the subway and learn how to use the PRESTO machines and load funds
All those that attended the ride-along were provided with a free PRESTO card. Individuals who continued to take transit received match funding for the amount they had spent on their PRESTO cards for three weeks following the ride-along.
Connecting tenants to their community
111 Gordon Baker Road is located 4 km north of Don Mills Subway Station. With limited transit options from the subway station and no transit options straight to the front door of the building from Don Mills Subway Station, Stockton & Bush recognized a need for better connections to transit in order to retain tenants.
How we helped
We operate a shuttle bus for employees at 111 and 155 Gordon Baker Rd. which connects the two office buildings to Don Mills Subway Station at several times in the morning and evening and takes employees to Fairview Mall during lunchtime.
Jason Smolar of Stockton & Bush, the property management company for 111 Gordon Baker Road, said joining Smart Commute helped set them apart from other buildings in the area and connects their tenants to the surrounding community by expanding their food and shopping choices in a convenient way.
“Many of our building tenants come from all over Toronto, making accessibility a crucial factor they consider when deciding where to work. It has a powerful impact on how tenants can attract and retain talent,” he said.
In addition to a successful shuttle program, we provided one-on-one support to employees at 111 Gordon Baker Rd. to help them find a carpool match through the Smart Commute Tool. “One of our tenants shared with me how ecstatic she was after being introduced to the Smart Commute Carpooling Tool,” Smolar said, “Her commute time was cut in half and she made a new and meaningful friendship in the process. Now she raves about her commute as they share stories and discuss similar interests including various podcasts listened to on the way to work.”