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!