Multimodal and Alternative Transit Adoption



November 4th, 2021

Post by Donna Marbury, Smart Columbus Storyteller


Project Leads Alex Slaymaker, Smart Mobility Adoption Manager, Smart Columbus

The Columbus headquarters of CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, was facing a dilemma: an older parking garage with capacity for 300 vehicles was slated for demolition, but many employees depended on those spots daily. Although CAS secured additional parking temporarily, leadership viewed the removal of parking as an opportunity to encourage employees to consider commuting options beyond driving to work alone.

CAS is a scientific information solutions provider with about 1,300 employees. As an early adopter of Smart Columbus’ employer engagement platform, the Acceleration Partner program, CAS is taking big steps towards increasing electric vehicle (EV) adoption among employees and decreasing single occupant vehicle commutes. Embracing Smart Columbus was natural for CAS leadership due to aligned values of innovation, quality of life and sustainability. CAS held two successful Ride & Drive Roadshow events where participants completed 336 electric vehicle test drives in total. The company installed 16 EV chargers on its campus with prioritized parking by the main door as a response to the growing interest in EVs through Smart Columbus initiatives. With a robust ‘drive electric’ response already in progress, the CAS ‘drive less’ initiatives began with a data deep-dive into employee mobility perceptions and behaviors.

Prioritizing ‘Drive Less’

Norm Hall, senior innovation catalyst at CAS and the company’s mobility ambassador for the Smart Columbus Acceleration Partner program, started the CAS drive less efforts with a survey to all employees. Survey data suggested that many employees shy away from carpooling because of lunchtime and after-work responsibilities with children and pets. Every day can pose different mobility needs for personal or work duties. For these reasons, it was important to offer daily, flexible mode shift options that do not require a five-day, 52-week commitment. Hall led a cross-departmental team to leverage survey results to inform a data-driven mobility program rooted in the needs of CAS employees and aligned with the removal of parking spots.

 “Creating an alternative transportation contest that coincided with the decrease in onsite parking was a way to get people thinking, ‘Hey, what else could I do other than just driving myself to work,’” Hall says.

Contest Design & Communication

One of the posters CAS used to communicate 'drive less' messaging to employees


The contest was held over a six-week period, from July 15 to August 23, 2019. Employees were required to log eight alternative transportation commutes in six weeks to participate. Using the Gohio Commute application leveraging RideAmigos technology, provided for free by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, employees were able to track carpool, transit, scooting, biking or walking commutes.

“I think if we encourage people in businesses that you don't have to do it every day, but let's set an achievable target once or twice a week. That makes a big difference,” says Hall.

Employees were able to choose between seven different gift cards valued at $50 for completing the contest.

“We also wanted to give people a choice. The fun thing about giving a gift card is that it gives the person a chance to do what they want and that makes it more personally rewarding,” Hall says.

Hall said communicating with employees was easy, because they were already familiar with the Smart Columbus brand and sustainable mobility goals.

“We have a section on our intranet that features everything about Smart Columbus, including EVs and ‘drive less’ resources. So, when we rolled out the contest it was on the home screen,” Hall says. “We also used our all-staff announcements and monitors and screens within the building to let employees know about the contest.”

Hall also took a hands-on approach to promoting the contest to employees.

“I put a table outside of our cafeteria, and I made big posters with maps on them showing our location. I went to a City office and obtained a bicycle map with all of the bike trails in Franklin County, so I put that up on poster board,” Hall says. “I also included flyers for the two bus routes that are close to CAS so that employees could see the routes.”

Hall also created several posters featuring senior leaders and fellow employees using different forms of transportation. “One of our posters had one of our senior leaders getting on a bus. Another one had a leader who carpooled with me on the back of my Vespa,” Hall says, adding that executive level buy-in has been a critical piece to the CAS success on all mobility fronts.


A poster featuring the benefits of using Gohio Commute


In total, 80 employees completed at least eight carpool commutes in six weeks. An additional 40 employees participated in the challenge but didn’t hit the goal. In total, 136 employees started using Gohio Commute thanks to the challenge.

“Miles logged in August jumped to 12,681, up from 8,200 in July, which was up from 2,107 in June. In addition, we saw a significant jump in the number of employees using the Gohio site in July and August. This is all attributed to the contest,” Hall says. A survey of participating employees after the contest found that many of them enjoyed participating in the program because it lowered greenhouse gas emissions and helped them get more exercise.

“We engaged more with each other, not only by carpooling, but also discussing our commutes and encouraging one another,” says Hall. “We found that we have more in common.”

Another positive outcome of the contest was that more than 100 employees continue to use Gohio Commute app to track their alternative transportation commutes. CAS is still offering incentives to 10 people a month who track their commutes through 2019. Hall says that this points that true behavioral change has set in at the company.

“One thing I tried to tell people, this is not an all-or-nothing thing. Carpool once a month or twice a month. Take the bus,” Hall says. “My goal is 40 percent less each week. That means two bus or two bike rides out of five days.”

Hall says that CAS is considering offering the contest again to employees as a way to continue to build momentum for sustainable mobility options and increase employee engagement.


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