Simmons College - Boston, MA
FAST FACTS ABOUT: Simmons College - Boston, MA
Types of TDM: Modal shift
Keywords: Transit subsidy, Parking Management, Incentives, Disincentives, Shuttle
Employer Demographics: Located in a dense, area of Boston, MA that is well served by transit.
Program: $65 T-Pass subsidy, increased parking costs
Cost of Program: ESTIMATED COST?
Staff: 1 (Director of Auxiliary Services), contributes approximately 20 hours a month to transportation program and has assistance from other staff.
Results: 27% transit usage, 41% SOV, 32% carpool, bike, walk
Contact: Roy Schifilitti, firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Meetings at the Parking Garage
Simmons College is a small, nationally recognized, private university located in the Longwood/Fenway neighborhood of Boston. Surrounded by a variety of universities, cultural institutions and medical facilities, Simmons College is well served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) transit and subway service, otherwise known as “the T”. Though parking is limited in the area, Simmons College attempted to stand by a “low-cost-parking-for-all-faculty-and-staff” policy.
Most of Simmons’ 740 faculty and staff prefer to drive to work, park in the Simmons owned lot and come and go at their leisure. In an effort to maintain popular parking benefits, Simmons College provided faculty and staff a parking spot on request. A year of parking cost employees a mere $200, far below the cost of utilizing transit or the nearby subway. As parking demand grew, the College recognized the need to change their parking policy. Yet, limiting parking or raising rates were not options under consideration.
By raising the cost of parking while
simultaneously increasing the attractiveness of transit, travel behavior
could be changed and the parking crises could be quelled.
In 1998, as parking demand increased, the parking situation became critical. Staff and faculty often waited in the parking garage entrance for a half hour before getting a space. Faculty began scheduling student meetings in the garage while they waited. Others used cell phones and laptops to remotely work from their vehicles. Frustration escalated and college leadership began to fear losing employees. As the situation worsened, the Director of Auxiliary Services researched similar problems and uncovered possible solutions. The research pointed to the economic reality that given a fixed supply of parking, demand could be influenced by changing price. By raising the cost of parking while simultaneously increasing the attractiveness of transit, travel behavior could be changed and the parking crises could be quelled. Yet, upper management remained opposed to increasing parking costs.
Incentives and Disincentives
In 1998 leadership at the college changed and support for a parking management program grew. The Director of Auxiliary Services met with the new Executive Management staff and demonstrated that the parking crisis could not be solved without raising rates and supporting alternative modes. The College began to slowly increase the cost to park and also introduced a 25% transit subsidy, or T-Pass. Unfortunately, these techniques did not change travel behavior. The transit subsidy appealed to existing transit users and the parking increase was not enough to discourage parking. Over the next five years the College continued to both increase parking costs and transit subsidies. Eventually they got to a price point where transit was more appealing. Today, faculty and staff are eligible for a 60% T-subsidy (up to $65.00 a month) and parking has increased from $200 a year to $1200 a year.
Two main goals drive the Simmons College transportation benefits program. First, Simmons leadership is committed to reducing vehicle miles traveled. Few parking structures exist in the Longwood/Fenway neighborhood and the large medical center presence results in the need for ample patient and visitor parking. Furthermore, the City of Boston’s strict parking development requirements inhibit future growth in parking. Therefore, Simmons College and other nearby institutions have made a community commitment to each do their part in reducing vehicle miles traveled and manage parking well.
Second, Simmons College strives to be a good employer by providing a wide array of employee benefits. The transportation benefits program compliments other employee benefits and promotes the College’s commitment to employees. All new employees are introduced to the employee transportation benefits and the transportation coordinator sends out newsletters and bulletins reminding employees of their transportation options. Employees can opt for the T-subsidy at anytime.
Faculty and staff of Simmons College must choose between paying for a parking space or receiving the T-Pass. Simmons College provides a 60% Subsidy for all MBTA transit passes, with a limit of $65.00 a month. This provides plenty of support for most of MBTA’s pass programs and only those with commutes from New Hampshire accrue out of pocket costs. If faculty and staff opt to drive to work, they can pay $1200/year for a parking space in the faculty/staff parking garage.
All T-pass holders, carpoolers and cyclists are eligible to participate in one of two Guaranteed Ride Home programs. As part of the transportation benefits program, Simmons created their own Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) program. The Simmons program is open to any employee in need of an emergency ride home. Additionally, due to a partnership with the local transportation organization, MASCO Commuter Works, a second GRH program is included in the benefits program. Though rarely utilized, the MASCO Commute Works GRH provides an added resource to commuters. In addition to the GRH programs, Simmons College provides 15 free-park day vouchers for T-Pass holders. Many faculty and staff take advantage of educational benefits and/or teach night classes. The vouchers allow employees to drive on those days, park and get home safely.
Additionally, as a member of the local TMA, MASCO Commute Works, Simmons College faculty, staff and students can utilize Commute Works’ shuttle system. The shuttle system features six shuttles serving the Longwood/Fenway area, Cambridge, Chestnut Hill, University of Massachusetts and other destinations. Simmons College pays 60% of the shuttle pass for staff and faculty. Two shuttles transport commuters to and from the Ruggles and JFK T-stops. These shuttles are fully supported by MASCO Commute Works and are free to all riders.
The hiring of a professional parking management company rounds out Simmons College transportation program. During the first week of classes, on graduation day and on other days throughout the school year, Simmons College experiences peak period parking issues. The parking management company manages parking during these peak periods by providing valet parking and other parking services. Additionally, the company limited parking in the parking garage to faculty and staff. The surface parking lots became student parking lots. Frequent in and out student trips are easier to manage on a surface lot. The parking management company works closely with Simmons College and neighboring institutions to minimize parking problems.
Simmons College utilizes two tools to evaluate the success of their program. As the transportation coordinator works with the parking management company to track the parking demand. The ability to manage the lot and keep up with demand is a key indicator of success. To date, they have had far fewer parking problems and the demand has reduced by 20% over the last five years. The transportation coordinator also includes a few parking and transportation related question in the annual employee satisfaction survey. Negative comments regarding the T-Pass program rarely appear on the surveys, implying the program is working. The coordinator is open to feedback and constructive criticism about the T-Pass program. The transportation benefits program has significantly reduced drive-alone parkers at Simmons College. Today, 41% of faculty and staff park on campus, 27% use transit and the remainder carpool, walk or ride their bike to work. Although no one currently uses vanpool, the transportation coordinator is open to supporting any non-single occupancy vehicle mode usage with the 60% subsidy (up to $65.00 a month).