Today I'm going to walk through the Nunes-Ueno mobility model at a high-level. Maybe in later posts, if people are interested, I can get into the details a bit more.
Before we start, we should discuss why try to forecast your future mode share? Who cares how people will get to work in ten or twenty year's time?
If you are planning the future of your companies campus or your college campus or a district in your city, the assumptions about access and mobility actually have a huge impact in what you build and what kind of place you provide for your employees, your students or patients or visitors.
The vital sign for this kind of planning is mode share: the proportion of users in each transportation mode. The average American mode share is more that 80% driving alone. But average in this case and actually in everything that matters is pretty meaningless.
It's much more important to understand what the mode share is for your campus and from there make decisions about what you WANT it to be in the future.
To help us visualize the impact of commute mode share on a bunch of different variables like cost to build parking, cost of mobility programs, green house gas emissions and others, I've been working on this Mobility Model.
The idea is to calibrate the model with starting assumptions on population, mode share, parking supply and then in real time adjust the demand for driving or transit or biking up and down and test the impacts on program costs or emissions, or even parking permit prices. Check out the model and let me know what you think.
How will people get to work in 10 years’ time? The answer might be more important than you think.
When OHSU was facing complex decisions about their campus growth, mobility and access proved to be one of the biggest challenges. Working with Nunes-Ueno Consulting, Brett Dodson created a model to test how different solutions would play out in the future. Check out Brett’s interview with Paulo to learn more about how he used the Nunes-Ueno Consulting Mobility Model to craft a consensus for action and create one of the nation’s most innovative mobility programs. Also *coming soon* is a video demo of the model.
Brett runs one of the nation’s most sophisticated mobility operations at Portland’s Oregon Health Sciences University complete with a gondola. He recently led the creation of OHSU’s TDM Plan featuring a move to daily parking and incentives. Paulo was a member of the team that put together the plan. Check out his conversation with Brett below. Find out the surprising nexus of TDM and snowy mountains.
Brett second from left celebrates OHSU's Bicycle Friendly University designation by the League of American Bicyclists.
WHAT’S YOUR ACTUAL TITLE?
Director of Transportation and Parking for OHSU.
SO HOW DID YOU FIND YOURSELF DOING THIS JOB?
I was running ski area in north Idaho that had several ski lifts and 3.2 mi gondola. When OHSU needed someone to run their Tram, I happened to have the experience that made sense to transfer from north Idaho to Portland.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW A GONDOLA?
Well, I grew up in the ski industry so it was probably pretty early.
DID YOU THINK THAT WAS GOING TO BE THE LIFT INTO YOUR ADULT CAREER?
No, not at all. That was for play and sliding up and down the hill. I never thought I would have a career running a tram or gondola.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR JOB IS MANAGING THE WHOLE MOBILITY THING? HOW MUCH IS GONDOLA.
It’s transitioned over the years. When I was first hired at OHSU it was 90% aerial tramway, 10% bike and walking access. Over the years I continued to add responsibility on the mobility side of things and now focus much more on overall access for the OHSU community. I’ve now got a team that runs the tramway and I only get involved if we’ve got issues. Which hardly ever happens because it runs so well.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU GUYS TO KICK OFF THE TDM PLAN
Over the years we’ve had 2-3 parking plans for OHSU done by different consultants that highlighted where to have garages and gates, how to manage our operations, who you should charge and how much, basically parking best practices. But as we started to look at expansion and constructing new buildings we began to ask if we should put in another parking garage. That led us to the conclusion that we need to take a step back and look beyond just parking. Access was our biggest challenge and we determined we need to get a TDM plan in place to see what we really needed to make this whole system work rather than just a parking plan.
THAT ASSUMES GREATER FOCUS ON ALTERNATIVES? HOW DID YOU MAKE THE CASE INTERNALLY FOR THE GREATER FOCUS ON MOBILITY? WAS IT PRESSURE OF DEVELOPMENT?
It was a couple of things: pressure of development and capacity of current solutions. We have neighborhood plans to meet in terms of access, and city caps on maximum parking that we can put in. In the past we made it work. But the only reason it really worked well was because we had the tram that got us out of the hole. But the tram was getting to capacity and we couldn’t leverage 5K more people on it. We had to have access for people to get here on different modes in order to make everything work together. As we worked on the TDM plan It became clear pretty quick that we needed to shift work times, expand carpooling and working from home, and other alternatives that had never been dealt with by our Transportation and Parking Department.
HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM BEING A PARKING DEPARTMENT TO DEALING WITH SCHEDULES, POLICIES OF WHO GETS TO WORK FROM HOME. HOW DID YOU BRIDGE THAT CONVERSATION?
The key to our success in the last 10 years was having main people from benefits, HR and other groups on our different steering committees including the TDM plan development. As these issues came up, they saw the need for alternative solutions. With their support, we were able to expand our department and bring some of those programs in and align them with the other things we offer. It’s given us the ability to have some input and control over things that transportation and parking traditionally don’t get involved in.
SPEAKING OF DATA YOU WERE PROBABLY THE MOST SOPHISTICATED USER OF THE MOBILITY PROJECTION TOOL. HOW DID YOU USE IT?
We loved it. The dashboard was great for looking at data and being able to do the ‘what if?’ What if we change the parking rate by this much. If we don’t build these spaces at this location the dashboard gave you the impact. Since we were able to enter our current situation into the tool everyone was able to visually see our current situation and understand the impacts of some of their decisions on the campus from a mobility stand point.
HOW DID YOU USE IT WITH DECISION MAKERS?
We took snippets from the model and turned it into powerpoint slides. It was super helpful when we were sitting with executives because you can say that the cost per stall is $60K or $70K and it doesn’t seem like that much but it changes the conversation when you throw it in the tool and show the impact at different mode shares and you can graphically see the costs of that and the impact on debt, the SOV rates or our parking to patient bed ratios.
We also used it live at meetings. Someone would throw out a growth rate for employees and the provost would say 3% growth for patients for example. And while they argued, I could punch it into the model and show people the impacts of these changes on our operations and different areas of the institution.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR YOUR COUNTERPARTS AT OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHO ARE THINKING THEY NEED A MOBILITY PLAN OR A TDM STRATEGY.
Don’t be afraid. The benefits outweigh all negatives. Now at OHSU we have a core group of 60% of employees that are using alternate modes at least one day a week. And the amount of community that we built up around commuting is huge. A biker is not a biker. There is no OHSU parker anymore because so often they are is riding transit one day, taking the tram two days and only parking two days a week. They are all just OHSU commuters.
HOW DID THE WHOLE TIGHTENING THE CABLE THING GO?
[The OHSU Tram had to be shut down for preventive maintenance this Summer.]
It was amazing. We’ve been planning for it since we opened. We knew that at the 12 year mark it had to be done. It’s been on the books for years and we’ve been able to adjust the budget through the years and see what it cost in other locations. Two years before we completed the work at OHSU we went to Jackson Hole and Snowbird and actually helped out with their track rope slipping project. This gave our team first-hand knowledge of what work had to be complete and during the track rope slipping process.
TELL ME ABOUT THE PLANNING FOR THE TRAM SHUTDOWN?
The last 18 months before we shut down was all focused on how we are going to move the 10K riders that use the tram daily between our 2 locations. Our focus was finding new and different options for people to get between work and home over the scheduled 5 week closure period. Improving bike lanes, better and easy access to bike parking, pedestrian bike crossings and obviously lots of shuttles were all key parts of our mitigation plans. We set up a couple of pilot programs with electric bikes so people could use them to ride up to the top of the hill and we then we shuttled their normal commute bike up the hill for them so they had it as the end of the day in order to ride home. They were a huge hit and several of our daily commuters have now purchased an electric bike because of our pilot programs.
SO HOW DID IT TURN OUT?
We were done early and under budget. We budgeted five weeks for it and ended up pulling it off in 2 ½. It exceeded everyone’s expectations. The team we brought in from Europe and North America were amazing and worked seamlessly with our local Tram staff in order to make the project such a success. It was a great project and lots of fun to get it done when we said and meet people’s everyday needs.
THERE MUST BE TWO PEOPLE, 1 ½ PEOPLE, WHO CAN DO THIS JOB IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY... WHO CAN RUN A GONDOLA, MANAGE THE WHOLE MOBILITY PROGRAM AND DEAL WITH PARKING, AND THE INTERNAL COMMUNICATION AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT.
Between my ski industry experience and my time in Europe operating productions facilities I’ve learned a lot about both private industry and public organizations and making the two work together. It’s an interesting combination that I enjoy. The experience of working at the only American company in Latvia and dealing with the local chamber of commerce, the prime minister and their cabinet have given me the tools to thrive in my current position.
But it’s Interesting that you mention the ski industry. Because there ARE some people there that have to have these skills. Because they operate on Forest Service land, they have ski lifts that go into the city centers now and they are being forced to deal with the ebbs and flows of traffic and parking especially in summer time. When I think of folks in Aspen and Park City there are people that are dealing with similar issues of balancing the modes and making it all work together.
Check out Paulo's editorial for this quarter's Parker Magazine from the Canadian Parking Association.
Imagine that you went to a restaurant and the menu only had only one item on it. Cheeseburgers. Not a problem. You like cheeseburgers. On further inspection, though, you notice that there are in fact other items on the menu. Hmmm. Let’s check out what else they’ve got. But the non-cheeseburger options are in tiny font in the back page. And what's this? The cheeseburger is nearly free but everything else seems kinda spendy? Plus, each of the non-cheeseburger menu choices has a paragraph-long explanation with some ingredients that you don't recognize... French? The server comes over and you say, I’ll have the cheeseburger, please. Of course.
No one would be surprised to learn that this particular joint’s bestseller is the cheeseburger.
This is not too different from the way we run our transportation system. The menu features the ‘house special’--driving alone--in large bold letter, for free or very cheap, everything else is expensive, hard to understand and whiffs of danger. And yet we’re surprised when our streets and parking lots are choked with cars.
This blog is a recipe book for a more varied, more interesting, more choice filled transportation menu. In keeping with the food metaphor, we are going to be talking about ingredients, recipes and menus. We are going to get to know some ‘chefs’ who are serving up interesting and varied fare for commuters in cities, corporate campuses and universities in north america and around the world. Hopefully this will inspire you and others to vary your ‘transportation diet’ and expand your palate. Perhaps getting to know some of the chefs curating interesting transport menus will inspire you to try your hand at one of these recipes.
As a consultant and a transportation leader in organizations, I’ve had the opportunity to help cities, universities, hospitals and corporate campuses reduce their reliance on cars and provide effective transportation solutions that increase choice for their commuters.
These cities, universities, hospitals and corporate campuses were moved to find new ways to provide mobility to their commuters for many reasons. Sustainability included, of course. But honestly, it is hardly ever the main reason. In almost every case, the burning platform that causes leaders to think of about this thing that they’ve never paid any mind to is much more mundane: they can’t fit anymore cars in their parking lots or congestion is grinding their streets to a halt. Or both.
I’m sure it says something about human nature that despite knowing full well that we are ruining the future for our children and grandchildren what actually makes us change are the nuisances bugging us today. But does it really matter why we saved the planet as long as we, in the end, actually do it?
In many ways geometry has already locked us into this path. Typical 1980’s offices had 3-4 people per 1000 square feet. Today, it is not uncommon for offices to house 6-8 people in the same space. And here's the catch: the parking garages have not doubled in that time. And neither have roads. So the good old ‘recipe’ that called for 90% of people to drive alone just doesn't work anymore now that there are almost twice as many people in the same space.
Just like interior designers have found smart ways for people to collaborate and be productive in shared office spaces we need to find the smart and innovative recipes for more people to get to work or school or wherever they are going using the same amount of space in our roadways and parking lots.
And if, as a byproduct, we happen to save the earth from burning into a crisp then... bonus!
Over the course of the last 10 years or so, I’ve developed a transportation menu shorthand to make sure no key ingredients are left out. I guess like a chef might think, I’ve got to have a vegetable, a meat or protein and a starch this cheat sheet has helped cities, universities, hospitals and large employers balance their transportation program.
The ingredients are: Culture, Cost, Convenience and Concrete. The idea is that when building a transportation program, or menu to stick with our metaphor, you need to have a bit of each of these ingredients in order to make the whole thing work. In my experience, in fact, if you have nothing in one of these ingredient categories then the whole recipe will fail.
That means that a balanced transportation menu is actually a multiplication problem not an addition problem. If you recall from elementary school there is a thing called the commutative property of multiplication that says it doesn’t matter the order of the multiplicands. For example 4 * 2 = 2 * 4. BUT any number multiplied by 0 is zero. So 4 * 2 * 0 = 0.
In our balanced transportation equation of Culture X Cost X Convenience X Concrete if any of these factors is zero then the whole thing equals to zero.
In later posts we will explore in depth each of the ingredients, but for now imagine a scenario where the transportation chef at a large tech company has put together a program with three of these key ingredients. Parking is free but so are transit passes and vanpools: check on the Cost ingredient: at least there is a level playfield between driving and the other choices.
There is a website with lots of good information about commute options to work and when new employees get on-boarded they receive a parking permit and a transit pass at the same time. Again check on the Convenience ingredient: a half-day long search in the company’s website is not needed to discover how to get a transit pass. Some friendly person from HR or wherever hands you your pass on your first day.
And there are showers and lockers available for you if you choose to bike to work so we’re OK on the Concrete realm. Check, check, and check.
BUT the employee of the month is rewarded with a rock-star parking spot usually reserved to executives right by the front door. The person’s name goes on a sign that says “Employee of the Month”. Message being, good performers earn special perks the most special of which is a reserved parking spot with the masters of the universe right by the front door. ZERO on the Culture ingredient. Actually maybe worse than zero. Negative on Culture. So following our multiplicative properties any any bunch of numbers multiplied by a negative number is negative right? 4 * 2 * -1 = -8.
Most likely this program will fail in producing a balanced transportation outcome because despite all the good efforts of the chef in making the cost, the convenience, and the concrete pull in the right direction, the company culture has laid a big fat goose egg. Whatever money, effort, political capital and goodwill are being expended to encourage a more balanced commute at this particular tech giant are going to waste because culture ate the rest of our strategy for lunch.
And this is true for any of our multiplicands. In order to create a balanced transportation ecosystem in a city or university campus or large company we need to have at least a positive effect from each of our key ingredients of Culture, Cost, Convenience and Concrete. No goose eggs!
One of the problems with many of the transportation systems we've set up in North America is that they are pretty good at serving the operators but not all that good at serving customers. Among these customer-last practices it would be hard to find a worse offender than parking permits. Prepaid parking is so universal that most people take it for granted. Almost every employer or university in the US or Canada that charges for parking sells pre-paid parking permit. Which does wonders for the operator of parking, but mostly harms commuters.
DO WE REALLY WANT TO RUN AN ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFET?
Ask yourself, how much do I usually eat at an all-you-can-eat restaurant? It’s a stupid question. The answer is in the name of the place. Parking permits are essentially the same thing. They cause people to drive more because the amount of driving is priced in. We’re expecting people to drive as much as they can when we sell them an all-you-can-park permit. The moment you’ve sold someone a pre-paid parking permit, you just took away any incentive they might have to leave their car at home even a few times.
Permits hide how much we are driving and parking. It’s really hard to change an unconscious habit. That’s why in recent years we’ve seen a proliferation of apps and gadgets that help us quantify how many steps we’ve taken, how many hours we’ve slept, how often we took a break from our desk and so on. Because all of those things are small repeated habits that are hard to keep track of, but all together make a big difference in our well being.
By having a set it and forget it approach to parking charges we create an environment of unconscious consumption where it is really hard for people to make changes.
Parking permits go against the principles of a dynamic transportation system because they make it harder for people to make gradual changes. As my partners and I interview commuters all over the country we hear this all the time. “I want to drive a bit less but I still need to drive sometimes. So I can’t give up my parking permit.”
HAVE FUN IN HAWAII! WE'LL KEEP CHARGING YOU FOR PARKING, JUST IN CASE.
Again because it is such a common practice, we don't really think about it, but pre-paid parking essentially forces people to pay for parking even when they don't use it. When I converted the Seattle Children's parking program to pay-per-use there was a really positive response to the idea that we weren't going to charge them for parking when they were sick, or on vacation, or at a conference. We were just going to charge them for parking when they parked. What a relief right?
So the first step in our transformation from static, operator-centric single choice menu to a user-focused, choice-filled, dynamic mobility menu is to decide that we are not going to be an all-you-can-eat joint anymore. Serving a high-quality product--in the quantities that customers want--should be our goal.