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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why Public Transportation Matters

We've done a lot of work these past two weeks culminating in the press release yesterday of a new shuttle service serving the Thomas Nelson campus in Nashville. The Donelson Shuttle is a free service provided under a six month grant from the Rail Transportation Authority (RTA) in Nashville and has been in discussions between Nelson HR and the RTA for about three years. The service will connect the fledgling Music City Star rail service and two Metro Transit Authority (MTA) bus lines to the front doors of our three Nashville buildings. So why does an HR department care about such things? How is this related to our departmental mission? Don't we have better things to do? All good questions, and deserving of an answer.

The HR department's interest in public transportation is a strategic move in enhancing employee satisfaction, improving diversity, being a good corporate citizen, and positioning the company in alignment with the values of those young professionals who share our other corporate values.

Satisfaction - Commute time, stress level, compensation, and work-life balance are major themes in determining employment satisfaction. Reducing commute time, turning that time from wasted drive-time into either productive time (laptop time) or personal time (reading, studying for self-improvement, etc...) and having someone else get you there reduces stress. For working parents, especially mothers, non-driving commute time may be the only time they are "off-duty". In combination with a future intiative to expand flex time and alternative work schedules, enhanced public transportation can reduce the commuting expense and increase disposable income of our workforce with little cost to the company. That's a win for everyone.

Diversity - In Nashville, our airport location and this city's underdeveloped public transportation system make it difficult to employ people who don't drive. A 40+ minute bus ride from downtown makes almost any location around the city's core a better alternative. Reducing commute times (such as a 20 minute train ride) and connecting bus lines mid-route as opposed to all the way into the land port and all the way back out, increase the number of people from no-car or one-car households who have access to our facilities. Public transportation connects our company to all neighborhoods, not just those that are local or where people can afford multiple automobiles.

Corporate Citizenship - The unfortunate government-think that guides public transportation in Nashville is that you build a piece of a system, see if its utilized, and use that as justification to build another piece. The reality is that you have to build an entire system to achieve high utilization, but that takes a belief in mass transit that doesn't exist in this very Southern city. Since mass transit is good for the economy and the environment, companies need to support the fledgling routes we have right now to facilitate further funding for a comprehensive system.

Alignment with Professional 20-Something Values - Community and environment are important to this demographic. Public transportation is green, and connecting communities together and with the company helps align us with an emerging workforce that will be needed to feed talent into the company's system.

So there you have it. Taking an interest in how people get to work is a new HR frontier for us, and maybe for Nashville. Companies in larger cities have been giving rail pass and bus pass benefits for quite some time, but usually to offset the high cost of downtown locations, parking ,etc... Our interest is more comprehensive and we hope it will pay off in making us an attractive employer for a diverse and talented group of professionals.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very well thought out and very well put. It is too bad more people in power don't think this way.

Anonymous said...

Have many of your employees taken advantage of it?

I know it's serving other employers as well. Just wondering.