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By Loren Snyder
Facilities Management Article Use Policy
For years, the main consideration for vehicles on facility campuses was simply having enough parking. But with changing transportation needs making things like car sharing and electric vehicles more common, new demands are forcing a recalculation of what accommodations need to be made.
Americans — especially younger generations — are shunning the car with increasing regularity. Students are waiting well into their 20s to earn driver's licenses. Millennials are forgoing car ownership completely. Forbes magazine recently ran a story about "Peak Car" — the notion that car manufacturers' marketing efforts are gearing less towards niche markets, and are increasingly focused instead on marketing the mere idea of car ownership.
But American society, living in an infrastructure mostly built during the automobile age, and conditioned to use cars for more than a century, can't simply drop the use of them altogether. Consider how heavily car sharing networks has been marketing services to college students. College students are ideal targets for these efforts because in addition to being less likely to own a vehicle, they are often the early adopters, the ones willing to participate in collective consumption and carry it into the workplace with them.
And it appears they're not the only ones. Facility managers increasingly burdened by other capital and operating costs frequently see car sharing as a way to re-allocate monies in their budgets. It's a sensible move, allowing them to divert spending from a constantly depreciating vehicle fleet into something — like a roof — that has the potential to pay back, or at least not lose, money for the organization.
Car sharing is not the only transportation trend that facility managers are grappling with these days. As electric vehicles gain interest among environmentally conscious drivers, facilities have to decide, not only whether to install charging stations for those vehicles, but also to whether to purchase electric vehicles for their own fleets.
So, if America's transportation tactics are evolving, so are the tactics of savvy facility owners, who are turning to alternative transportation choices for their organizations.
If the installation of EV charging stations is still getting sorted out on many campuses — collegiate and corporate alike — car sharing has been around for a while.
For Karen Lee Kimber, transportation coordinator for Seattle-based Swedish Health Services' parking and commuting service, a decade of car sharing was jumpstarted by Washington State law, but has come to illustrate a certain freedom for the organization's employees.
Washington's commute trip reduction law was enacted in 1991. The law targets workplaces with 100 or more full-time employees in the most congested areas of the state. As an employer in Seattle, Swedish developed and manages its own programs based on local goals for reducing vehicle trips and miles traveled.
Part of that solution included car sharing.
"Single occupancy vehicles are monitored during daytime hours to reduce congestion," says Kimber. "If you normally take something other than your car, you can use the (shared cars on our campus)."
At the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus, an in-house transportation demand management program has led to the adoption of car sharing as well, with an aim of reducing traffic.
"From 2006 to 2011, vehicle traffic on all major campus corridors was reduced by at least 5 percent," says Morgan Johnston, transportation demand management coordinator for the university.
As one might expect, the reduced traffic trims UI's long-term maintenance needs, but it had another unexpected effect. It reduced the student parking permit sales. At first blush that might sound like lost revenue. But Johnston says that the reduction in student cars on campus also mitigated any need for additional parking structures on campus.
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