With a goal of having 10,000 fewer cars on the road in Austin by the end of the year, Movability Austin, a nonprofit that promotes alternative transportation modes for commuting downtown, is looking to expand its reach, Chairman Jim Pledger said.
On March 7, Movability Austin celebrated its one-year anniversary during an event with the Downtown Austin Alliance at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. Eighth St., that spotlighted three downtown employers that encourage employees to use different modes of transit in getting to and from work. Encouraging any option where employees do not commute downtown alone in their car is crucial in helping relieve congestion and parking in the area, Pledger said.
There are 125,000 people who go into downtown Austin every day, and 70 percent of commuters drive alone to downtown, according to Movability Austin's 2012 report.
"There is no magic wand to fix traffic congestion issues in the city, much less Austin," Pledger said. "But even small changes can have a big impact."
Movability Austin worked with South by Southwest Music and Media Conference, which has less than 150 employees, to create a game that encouraged activities such as riding the bus to dinner and learning what bus route took the employees to work. Fourteen employees participated in the game for three weeks, resulting in 70 multimodal trips, or trips that use more than one mode of transportation, Movability Austin program coordinator Lauren Bennett said.
The game is a way to make people more familiar with using different forms of transportation, Bennett said.
Tim Burris, director of worldwide facilities and central services for Silicon Labs, and Rob Spillar, director of the Austin Transportation Department, spoke at the March 7 event about what actions their business or department have taken to encourage employees to use alternate forms of transit. The actions include:
• Taking a travel survey to understand how employees are getting to work
• Offering secure bicycle storage and showers
• Encouraging flexible work schedules
• Permitting work-from-home days
Movability Austin is interested in working with many more businesses in 2013, Pledger said. Membership is $250 per year for businesses with 50 or fewer employees and $1.50 per person, per year, for each employee above 50.
"We do believe a program like this can have a real impact that we will be able to see on a daily basis," Pledger said.