But what’s missing is a sustained, large-scale effort to assure businesses that a focus on improving the transportation habits of their employees is good for their bottom line. Perhaps even better for those CEOs and businesses to hear is the message that getting non-driving customers into the store is a formula for success.
Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council recently released an impressive report down this path entitled Transit Means Business. It features case studies of efforts by McDonald’s, Caterpillar, Bosch, Method, Revolution Brewery, MB Financial, Motorola Solutions, and other businesses and universities throughout Illinois to locate near transit as a way to survive and compete.
McDonald’s had been headquartered in the Chicagoland suburbs for 40 years before making the decision to relocate the West Loop earlier this year.
“McDonald’s couldn’t get people to apply for jobs anymore. Ninety percent of their employees were driving to work. They moved downtown in May to help people take transit. Now 90 percent of their employees take transit,” said Audrey Wennink, transportation policy and planning director at the MPC, during a roundtable discussion this week at Transportation For America’s Capital Ideas conference in Atlanta.
From the report:
McDonald’s planned only 295 parking spaces in its new building for its 2,500 employees and employees must pay to park. Before the move, employees were encouraged to drive downtown at rush hour one day to experience the commute by car. While before the move only one-third of employees planned to ride transit to work, now more than 90 percent of workers arrive via non-auto modes, mostly Metra and CTA.
And it’s not just companies moving their headquarters to a new, transit-friendly location. Take State Farm Insurance, which closed up tons of small offices across the country to consolidate into bigger spaces near transit in Atlanta and other cities, said Steve Davis, who leads communications for T4A and Smart Growth America.
It remains a mystery why McDonald’s and others have waited so long with their corporate moves. After all, they know their storefronts do really well near transit, so why wouldn’t they consider also placing their headquarters there? According to a former McDonald’s senior director, the consistently top-performing U.S. and international locations are the “Rock & Roll McDonald’s” in downtown Chicago and Moscow’s Pushkin Square. It’s no coincidence that those are extremely transit-friendly places.
To hone in on helping businesses embrace transit-oriented strategies,Wennink said that communicating about “return on investment” hasn’t seemed to resonate; hence, the MPC’s strategy to produce a beautiful, glossy report with real-world business examples of success that others can emulate.
McDonald’s is already attracting larger numbers of high-quality job applicants since its move to the West Loop. Company officials have called its discovery of the wonders of transit “a culture change.”