Stanford Research Park gains traction in effort to shift workers' commute habits

SRPGO expands shuttle, prepares to build headquarters

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.


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3 people like this
Posted by reduce that footprint
a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 9, 2019 at 1:32 pm

reduce that footprint is a registered user.

What a great lesson for all of us worried about congestion and safety on Palo Alto roads: Making options to solo driving more viable for more people by implementing a comprehensive trip reduction campaign available to all can make a dramatic difference in as little as 3 years. Here's a link I just discovered to see how SRP employees are engaged and encouraged to check out their options: Web Link

Yes, making options viable for more people takes money, but also key to success is staff committed to reduce the barriers to choosing more sustainable choices about how people choose to get where they want to go each day. It's encouragement with fun events but also solid information and assistance with trip planning and finding out how shuttles can meet some part of connectivity needs.

My questions are for the City of Palo Alto: When will City budgets reflect a serious effort to meet our ambitious GHG emission reduction goals in 2030? Where is the engagement with local employers outside the SRP? Why not consider partnering with Marguerite shuttles to provide options for residents and employees other than those working for Stanford entities?
The bonus is that an integrated program like that of SRPGO can reduce demand for parking spaces -- freeing up spaces for those for whom driving solo is truly their only option.

4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

How many new employees / commuters are hired each year?

1 person likes this
Posted by Sophie
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2019 at 8:02 pm

I remember they sent out the survey about preferred transportation to all the workforce in this area. In the first I thought it was a formality, but wow, congrats with the result! Stanford did a good job to influence people to adopt a more environmental friendly commute.

4 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:37 am

Boy, talk about dancing around the root cause: The only deep fix is stop dinking with symptoms and get to the source of commuting: Jobs and housing are stupidly located far apart. Sprawl.

Flip a third to a half of the industrial park’s acreage from industrial and office buildings into housing. Start with Palo Alto Square, the closest to CalTrain and the El Camino buses from a Smart Cities POV, but use flipping properties in the industrial park to finally begin acting seriously about fixing the housing/jobs imbalance, the root cause of sprawl, which of course is the root cause of unnecessary commutes.

The coolest thing about this idea is: building housing in the industrial park and on the Palo Alto Square site doesn’t harm any existing neighborhood... NIMBY-ism should be light, as it would also be if Palo Alto was similarly visionary about East Embarcadero.

(But again, this IS Palo Alto we’re talking about so maybe not...)

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