Creating a sustainable commute

by FM Media
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Creating a sustainable commute.

The work commute is a major contributor to Australia’s carbon emission levels. KEVIN ORR reveals how facility managers can utilise twists on traditional carpooling to help building users cut down on their impact.

Climate change is a significant issue in Australia; an issue receiving significant attention as governments, businesses and consumers look to reduce their impact on the planet. This has led to a focus on developing sustainable buildings, which are designed to minimise their impact on our environment while improving liveability in our urban environments.

In the Australian FM industry this has mainly centred around building operations, whether that’s in terms of energy efficiency or green credentials. Facilities managers can take this a step further and look at the wider impact their building may have on society and, more importantly, carbon emissions.

Making accessibility sustainable

To ensure your facilities continue to maintain their sustainability credentials, accessibility needs to be taken into consideration and will likely become a key criteria as we move forward due to increasing congestion and focus on climate change.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 79 percent of commuters travel to work by private vehicle, as it offers greater accessibility, flexibility and convenience. Making matters worse is that many of these commuters travel alone. The Climate Council’s Waiting for the Green Light: Transport Solutions to Climate Change report reveals that road-based transport pollution contributes to a greater proportion of emissions in Australia than the global average at around 85 percent.

In the long-term, this will impact the liveability of our cities and regional centres, with many calling for Australia to tackle the unsustainable commute. As greater focus is placed on Australia’s emissions, the commute will inevitably become another pillar to measure the sustainability of our buildings.

Shifting from single occupancy to shared

How, as FM professionals, do we address the commute within our industry? How can we improve connection with our facilities and do so in a sustainable way?

First and foremost is reducing the single occupancy commute through initiatives such as carpooling. While carpooling isn’t exactly a brand new concept – its history dates all the way back to the 1950s – it has come a long way since then largely thanks to the introduction of smartphones. In today’s app-driven era carpooling has become easier, simpler and more convenient than ever before.

Thanks to the ease of use, carpooling is quickly becoming an important way for businesses to help reduce carbon emissions and local congestion, as well as alleviate pressure on high-cost assets such as parking.

Monash University has done exactly that by introducing a carpooling initiative. The initiative encourages students to travel together to improve their overall commute and make a positive environmental impact. Using the Liftango carpooling app, students and staff are able to match with others taking the same route and share the commute, with carpoolers receiving free parking as an incentive.

By combining carpooling and parking, the university has seen the number of cars on campus decrease, improved access to parking and a reduction in CO2 emissions. It has significantly improved the facility’s sustainability credentials while helping to improve the commute for thousands of staff and students. Carpooling in 2019 is worlds apart from what it was like in the 1950s, or even a decade ago. The app-driven era of carpooling has removed all of the behavioural barriers that have previously prevented adoption. Armed with a smartphone app, carpoolers can now be completely flexible about when, where, who and how they share trips. The convenience, ease and flexibility carpooling now provides will enable facility managers to implement a sustainable transport option for commuters, whilst helping reduce local congestion.

Taking it one step further with on-demand transportation

The accessibility of carpooling today is a fantastic option for conscious car commuters, but it’s not for everyone. While it will appeal to those who must commute by car, other potential users would still prefer better access to the public transportation network.

On-demand transportation is helping plug this gap, as new on-demand transportation platforms better connect buildings to the public transport network.

This is currently being achieved through on-demand buses and microtransit services. Essentially, these services operate within a set area – typically between eight to 12 kilometres of the end destination. Commuters can order the service from their smartphone and the on-demand bus will collect them and take them to their endpoint.

For example, if your facility is eight kilometres away from the nearest train station, during peak commuter hour you could put on an on-demand minibus for workers. Commuters can then request pick-up when their train arrives at the station and the minibus will complete the last portion of their journey.

This opens up the public transport network to a larger number of commuters, is cost-effective (as it only needs to operate during those peak hours) and can even generate revenue for the facility. You could even partner with other local businesses and facilities to generate significant demand for the service, alleviating congestion in the local area and reducing carbon emissions.

In 2019, there’s no excuse for us all to have such a big, individual impact on the environment just because we have to get to work. Encouraging on-demand services and carpooling are two convenient, sustainable ways that facilities and organisations can encourage workforces to reconsider the effect they’re having on the planet, as well as achieving a more convenient way to travel.

The FM industry can help lead our businesses towards a more sustainable future by not only improving the green credentials of our buildings but ensuring the way we connect with them is sustainable too.

Kevin Orr is CEO at Liftango.

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