When Stanford Research Park launched its Transportation Management Association three years ago with the goal of reducing traffic and providing new commuting options for its 140 companies, nearly three-quarters of the area's roughly 29,000 employees drove to work alone.
To get some of these employees to switch to transit and other transportation modes, the research park introduced new carpool and vanpool services, launched shuttles and created a rewards program for those who bike or take transit to work. It created a "guaranteed ride home" program, set up a website to help employees plan their trips and hired a full-time transportation manager to work with companies on new commuting programs.
In just the past year, the research park began running shuttles for employees who live on the west side of San Francisco and around Santana Row shopping center in San Jose. And to address employees' lunchtime needs, the research park introduced an afternoon shuttle between the corporate campuses and the retail area along California Avenue.
"We continue to fill the gaps in service with commuter buses," said Jamie Jarvis, director for sustainable transportation programs at Stanford Research Park and the architect of the park's program, which is known as SRPGO.
The results appear to be bearing fruit. According to survey results that Stanford presented to the City Council Monday, the percentage of employees who drive alone has dipped from 73% in 2016 to 63% in 2019. Meanwhile, the share of employees who carpool or vanpool to work has gone up from 8% to 13% over the same period and the percentage of those who take transit has gone up from 8% to 13%. About 8,000 employees are registered with Scoop, a startup that facilitates carpools through its app.
Not everything has gone swimmingly. The vanpool efforts had failed to gain traction until recently, according to Jarvis. Now, the vanpool program is popular with commuters from Tri-Valley cities such as Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon. And despite SRPGO's effort to promote biking through free on-site bike tune-ups and parkwide Bike to Work Days, only about 4% of the employees bike to work — a smaller percentage than SRPGO officials would like to see.
Jarvis said that while she feels comfortable about encouraging people to take transit or carpool, she is not as aggressive in encouraging people to ride their bikes.
"I will not twist somebody's arm to get them on a bike if they're uncomfortable," Jarvis said.
SRPGO is one of two transportation management associations to emerge in Palo Alto in recent years. The city in 2015 formed the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association, which focuses on the downtown area and which has recently concluded a pilot program in the California Avenue area. Last year, the Palo Alto TMA became an official nonprofit. This year, the City Council agreed to raise its annual funding commitment to the association from $480,000 to $750,000.
While the two TMA programs share the same goal, they differ in both their means and methods. While the small downtown program relies on public funding for survival, the much larger SRPGO program benefits from significant investments by Stanford and the large companies in the park, including SAP, VMware, HP Inc. and Varian Medical Systems. While the downtown TMA focuses on low-income employees and mid-level managers, SRPGO has no such income restrictions. And while the downtown program is mostly limited to distributing transit passes to qualifying employees, SRPGO has its own network of buses and shuttles, as well as a team of three full-time employees and eight consultants.
Now, SRPGO plans to increase its visibility by building bus shelters at various locations in the research park and by building an office to consolidate its operations. The new 22,000-square-foot building would go up at 3215 Porter Drive, near Hillview Avenue and Hanover Street. Tiffany Griego, managing director at Stanford Research Park, said the park is looking forward to making the new building a "focal point" of the park's transportation efforts and a place that "increases the convenience and awareness and appeal of the many transportation offerings to employees working throughout the research park."
Jarvis said that to date, SRPGO has had the biggest success with drivers who come from the East Bay and San Francisco. It's had a tougher time with those who commute from other cities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
"Folks from the East Bay and San Francisco — those are our easiest audience because they've got a painful commute. They're looking for ways and fortunately we have a good suite of solutions to offer them," Jarvis said.