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Aug 09

A Green Travel Plan for Your Workplace

If you are in the fortunate position that you manage or work for an expanding company, then it probably won’t be long before travel issues, and specifically parking woes, start to arise. If you’re located near good public transport links or where there’s ample free parking spaces, then this issue may not be a pressing problem. Even under these circumstances, reducing reliance on car usage can only be a positive thing for the environment and should be managed and encouraged.

The increase in companies using shift working has also exacerbated parking problems as when shifts changeover there is effectively a very short-term need for twice the number of parking spaces! If your company does move to shift working there will probably be the temptation to either double the size of the car park (never a cheap option) or a willingness to see many of the nearby green spaces ruined by temporary parking. New build offices tend to have much less parking than was the case even ten years ago, so if your business moves to new premises, the chances are that restricted parking will be a headache.

Whether your motivation for dealing with parking and travel issues is out of necessity or because you want to run a greener business, the first thing you need to do is develop a Green Travel Plan. In trying to persuade staff to use their cars less, there is no point in just using the stick approach and demanding that some people lose their assigned spaces or fall back on a first come first served allocation. If you do this, all that will happen is that you build resentment among those who have ‘lost’ their space – they will also simply end up parking nearby. This doesn’t solve the problem but moves it down the road, quite literally!

Having helped in two medium-sized organisation (100+ staff) where travel and parking issues have arisen, there are a number of considerations key to getting acceptance from staff and producing a successful green Travel Plan:

  • Communications – tell people why you need to restrict parking spaces – business expansion or improving the company’s image and green credentials. Point out the cost of providing parking spaces; some companies might have direct costs such as contract parking. Others may have less obvious costs like land/rental expenses and facility management items such as parking bollards, traffic barriers and swing gates
  • Set a good example – if some of the senior managers start car sharing or using public transport it will show staff that you are serious and fair about the Green Travel Plan
  • Do a survey looking at where everyone lives and pointing out the possibility of car sharing.
  • Be flexible – if it means that someone has to slightly adjust their hours so as to car share then encourage this to happen
  • Support staff to experiment with new ways of travelling – people considering using alternatives to the car might be prevented if they are concerned that they will have to forego their parking space.
  • Introduce a charge for new staff, but exempt anyone who car shares. Explain that all funds raised from the parking charge will go towards some form of staff benefit or even to a local charity. Free parking is effectively subsidised by the business, and this may pave the way to widening those who will have to pay in future
  • Reduce the parking fee for anyone willing to car share at least once a week – you want to avoid ‘locking’ staff into always travelling by car and some people who might be prepared to car share once a week might find it’s not a bad as they think.
  • Reserve some car park spaces as ‘Car share only‘ spaces

In some larger organisations it may be worthwhile having a Green Travel Plan consultative group where firm guidelines can be put down and disputes resolved. You want to avoid issues of perceived unfairness or where one person in the organisation, say the Facilities Manager, can simply ‘award’ a parking space. This leads back to my first point that communication is the key to encouraging general acceptance of the plan as well as other steps to make your business greener.

Bio: Rick Bloomfield is the website editor for The Workplace Depot, one of the UK’s largest workplace supplies companies.

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