Many Nonprofits Are Rethinking Transportation—Are You?
By Hilary Reeves, Strategic Advancement and Communications Director
This year, Transit for Livable Communities is working with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to rethink transportation in the workplace. Specifically, we’re asking nonprofit organizations located along the Green Line (or other high frequency transit) to enroll to be certified as Transportation Leaders. As part of this new initiative, we will be establishing transportation best practices.
It is exciting to hear what some organizations who’ve signed on already are doing. Their experiences and challenges will help us together set a new standard for the ways transportation decisions impact mission, benefits, and interactions with the communities that nonprofits are there to serve.
Access & Choice
One of the first organizations to join this new initiative was Fresh Energy. Executive director Michael Noble said Fresh Energy is “committed to all-of-the-above transportation” that provides access and choice to their employees. It’s why they signed on to be a Transportation Leader. When Michael uses his phone to reserve a car2go, for example, a question pops up: “Is this a Michael Noble reservation or a Fresh Energy reservation?” That’s because, he said, “Fresh Energy has an organizational membership in car-sharing, making it easier for staff to get to meetings around town without owning or using their own car.” Organizational HOURCAR memberships are also an option. In either case, this enables staff to commute by transit, bicycling, or walking, even if they anticipate driving to a meeting during the work day.
For some organizations, the motivation for rethinking transportation comes from the stark picture of air quality along major highways, such as I-94. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership signed on early. Their executive director, Steve Morse, takes the Green Line every day, while other staff bicycle to work along the nearby Charles Avenue bikeway.
When we met with the Minnesota Literacy Council, Associate Director Debbie Cushman immediately thought of their seven sites across the metro. More than 2500 volunteer tutors participate in more than 100 trainings they host every year. Transportation decisions affect not only their staff of 45 but also all the volunteers who need to get to their sites.
“I’m committed to helping our organization reduce vehicle usage whenever possible,” Debbie said. “I love walking to and from work, which I’m able to do about 20 percent of the time. Our staff are already pretty dedicated to the wellness aspects of biking and walking, and the communities we serve are often reliant on public transportation. We’re fortunate to have 4 of our 7 sites on or near high frequency routes. As we gain an understanding of air quality concerns in the Twin Cities, all these efforts are taking on more urgency. There’s always more we can do.”
Health & Happiness
Interestingly, the Minnesota Literacy Council and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN)—our partners in the Transportation Leadership program—share the same landlord. The tenants have formed a green team to work with their landlord on various changes. Clark Biegler, a Policy Analyst for the Minnesota Budget Project at MCN, who bikes to work and serves on the office green team, affirmed:
“The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is working with several other nonprofits to better our collective offices and work as a unified voice for our shared environmental and wellness priorities, including introducing more bicycle racks. MCN supports these efforts because they want to make our office a healthier and happier place to work.”
Staff at the Minnesota Land Trust also bicycle to work. At an organizational level, they also are taking other steps that fit with their nonprofit’s needs and cut down on drive time. Barbara LaMott, director of communications and operations, explains, “Because our work takes us all over the state and often requires flexible scheduling, we just adopted a new cloud-based solution to help all of our staff seamlessly work anywhere—home, office, or on the road. In addition, our location on the Green Line and on a bikeway makes it very easy to offer transit options for volunteers, board members, and staff."
Other organizations signing on to be certified as Transportation Leaders include Minnesota Public Radio, Operation de Novo, Neighborhood Energy Connection, and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity—and the list is growing.
As we talk to diverse organizations in the metro, we’re hearing about different ways to approach benefits, innovative ways to get visitors to events, and ways that people are using the Green Line for the commute and trips during the day. We are excited to recognize the strides many of these nonprofits already are taking and help them take these efforts to the next level, while also getting new organizations engaged for the first time. Nonprofits enrolling in the program will receive an assessment of their current conditions and options, attend a Transportation Options workshop, and create an action plan with goals for shifting trips and encouraging options other than driving.
We’re having a whole new conversation about how to get around and why it matters. Join us! If you work at a nonprofit in the Twin Cities or know someone who does, urge them to sign up today.
Pictured, from top: Clark Biegler, Minnesota council of Nonprofits; Michael Noble, Fresh Energy; Debbie Cushman, Minnesota Literacy Council; Kristina Geiger, Minnesota Land Trust.