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How Nonprofit Employees Get Around



By Hilary Reeves, Communications & Strategic Advancement Director, and Erin Kindell, Minnesota GreenCorps Member (TLC)


Photo Credit: Metro Transit (Flickr)

Late last fall, in collaboration with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Transit for Livable Communities sent a survey about transportation habits to nonprofit employees in the Twin Cities metro area. Our goal was to find out how respondents get to work, how they get around for other trips, and what amount of travel they have during the day. Survey results will inform our new program to certify and celebrate nonprofit transportation leaders in the Twin Cities. The survey generated 1,328 responses—and some interesting results!


Nonprofit workers live close to work

Over 50 percent of nonprofit employees responding to our survey live within 10 miles and 30 minutes of their jobs. Living near work can mean a wider range of options for getting there.  About 50 percent of respondents live within the I-494 beltway, ranging from southeast of Lake Harriet to Roseville and Falcon Heights, and from Columbia Park to West 7th in Saint Paul. The three biggest zip code clusters (together about 17 percent of respondents) are from the areas around University Avenue in Saint Paul (incorporating Summit-University, Thomas-Dale/Frogtown, Hamline-Midway, and Union Park district councils) and the Powderhorn, Seward, Longfellow, and Howe neighborhoods of Minneapolis. 



A multimodal, innovative group

While 72 percent drive alone to work, many people indicated they choose other ways to get around for other trips or at least have tried them before. These nonprofit staffers might be more open to commuting by modes they generally use for other trips or recreation, (e.g., walking, transit, or bicycling).

About 30 percent have tried some form of car sharing, (e.g., HOURCAR, car2go, Lyft, Uber, or taxis). This shows a willingness to try new things, perhaps capturing the nonprofit propensity for innovation! These employees may be the most willing to integrate a different mode for a day or two a week.





Common commute window

Most survey respondents work Monday to Friday during “typical” work hours (8-9 a.m. to 4-6 p.m.). Since transit service is at its highest levels during the peak commute times, these people should have more options for using different modes. In addition to the bus or train, common commute patterns present a big opportunity to carpool, walk, or bicycle with others.

Appointments during the day, stops before or after work 

About one-third (34 percent) said they often have work-related meetings, appointments, or events away from their main work site. And a little under half (46 percent) said that several times a week they have other places they need stop on the way to or from work (e.g., child care, school, activities, appointments). About 75 percent do not have children under the age of 16—a common reason for not using other modes.

These stats leave a significant group who are mainly just responsible for getting to and from work every day. While our survey showed the majority of nonprofit respondents have a car, there is an opportunity to save money by leaving the car at home, especially on days they do not have multiple meetings or errands. Employees also could have an opportunity to get in the habit of walking, busing, or bicycling to scheduled or reoccurring meetings when it is easy to do so.

  Piechart3How do these stats compare?

There are similar questions on the Metropolitan Council Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI), which also is based on a survey of metro-area residents. While about the same percentage drive alone to work (72 percent of nonprofit respondents, 75 percent in the TBI), we found that nonprofit respondents take transit more (10 percent versus 6 percent in the TBI) and bicycle or walk nearly twice as much (3 percent walk and 3 percent bike in the TBI versus 6 percent bike and 5 percent walk in the nonprofit survey).

This suggests that nonprofit workers already are above average when it comes to choosing sustainable, green transportation options. But, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits salary survey indicates that benefits are not keeping up with commute patterns. While 30 percent of nonprofits pay the cost of parking or share it with employees, only 4.6 percent have a transit benefit and 1 percent or less financially reward those who arrive by carpool, walking, or bicycling.


Recognizing nonprofit transportation leaders

This year, nonprofits along the Green Line—those already ahead of the curve and those who want to be—can enroll to be certified as transportation leaders. These nonprofits can show they care about equal benefits for employees and the community benefits of diversifying transportation choices. These benefits range from reduced pollution (each mile we drive puts a pound of CO2 into the air) to workplaces that reflect and attract a more diverse workforce. And that’s not to mention the reduced stress and extra exercise that come from getting out from behind the wheel from time to time. Certified organizations will be recognized at the 2015 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference. To enroll or find out more, click here.





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It would be interesting to see this data displayed for urban employees vs. suburban employees. I suspect that the numbers using transit who work in suburban locations and counties other than Ramsey and Hennepin would be much different but I don't know that.

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