Mobility 2020 initiative wants fewer cars on the road

AUSTIN -- Talk to anyone who lives in Central Texas and their biggest gripe is likely traffic. A new partnership is looking to reduce the number of cars on Austin roads over the next six years.

Reducing traffic during peak times could mean starting with employers. That's the idea behind Mobility 2020, an initiative to get 20 percent more employees to stop making single-person car trips to work by the year 2020.

"Obviously if 20 percent of the people telecommute or use staggered work hours that would have an effect," Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. "It would not in my opinion make every road like driving down a boulevard."

Leffingwell, Capitol Metro and the Austin Chamber of Commerce are asking businesses to commit to putting programs in place that would encourage their workers to stagger work hours, telecommute, carpool, bike or bus. It could be easier said than done.

"My schedule doesn't really allow me to do that," commuter Tina Salazar said. "I would probably take public transportation, but some of the time during the day I do have to go off site to various locations, so I really do need my vehicle."

"I take my son to school which is just east of downtown, so that's part of my thing," said commuter Eric Freeman. "If there was a closer bus from my house or a rail or something, I might take it. It's just by the time I get to the bus to where I could take it downtown, then I might as well drive."

Some downtown companies already pledged to getting more of their employees to stop driving alone are getting creative.

"If they have a doctor's appointment, we have a corporate account," Lynda Lerma of Netspin said. "They get a Car2Go and go to their doctor's appointment. If they have to get home to a sick child, we've already got bus vouchers for them to use."

If the ideas catch on as slowly as traffic rolls, businesses that sign up for the challenge can get a jump start by gaining access to consultants.

"We help companies actually work with their employees to understand how to do behavior change," said Glenn Gadbois, the executive director of Mobility Austin. "How to try something new and how to actually make that stick."

This year, Mobility 2020 is encouraging people to bike, train, carpool or work from home the week of Oct. 20 through Oct.24.


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