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Downtown Saint Paul Commuter Survey Results and the Future of Commuting

A lot has changed over the course of the pandemic, but what about how we get around? What should cities and employers consider about commuting as they look to the future?

Move Minnesota recently partnered with the City of Saint Paul to design and implement a Downtown Saint Paul Commuter Survey. The goal of this 2021 survey was to help the City develop modern policies and projects that support evolving transportation needs, by better understanding changing commuting patterns, specifically those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This survey will be administered again in 2022 to get longitudinal data and to keep up with evolving return-to-office plans. Noting that this survey was intended for employees working for major Saint Paul employers and that many downtown Saint Paul workers likely did not see this survey, let’s talk about what we learned as well as our policy recommendations.

Key Takeaways

Both cities and employers have an important role to play in shaping the future of commuting in ways that impact our workforce, our climate, and our communities. And as employees return to the office, flexibility is important both in work schedules and transportation options. Here are some strategies to move forward as a transit-centered community that are informed from survey responses. 

  1. Promote telework work policies that allow flexibility and decrease overall commute travel needed
  2. Provide transit assistance 
    • 41% of respondents replied that an employer-provided transit pass would help them to get to work by transit. The My Fare Card List is a flexible option for employers who are seeing employees in the office less frequently, allowing employers to refill Go-To Cards as much or as little as their employees need on a monthly basis.
  1. Transition monthly parking contracts to a daily market rate
    • 62% of respondents said they would be willing to pay a daily parking fee.
    • 70% of employees with monthly parking contracts said they would be willing to switch to a daily contract.
    • One of the biggest areas of opportunity for changing transportation behavior is transitioning parking fees from monthly and yearly contracts to a daily market rate. By switching parking fees to a daily model, you give commuters choice and flexibility for transportation modes with each trip.
  2. Support bicycle infrastructure
    • When asked what would assist commuters in getting to their workplace by bicycle, the most popular response was “increased bike paths and infrastructure.”
    • 36% of employees who responded said that they would be willing to try biking to their downtown workplace. 

Other Relevant Survey Findings

Recommendations for Strategies to Reach the City’s Goals 

All recommendations are based on the goals set out by the Saint Paul Climate Action Plan and the Saint Paul 2040 Plan. Both of these plans identify transportation emissions as one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in Saint Paul. Both plans call for the reduction of vehicle miles traveled by 40% by the year 2040. These recommendations are further informed by changing travel patterns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the responses from Saint Paul employees to this survey.

Key Recommendations:

Employers can be encouraged to: 

Pandemic-related shifts in commuting and the need for proactive approaches to sustainable transportation and climate-resilient cities extend far beyond downtown Saint Paul. We hope these insights and recommendations inspire action locally as well as in many other workplaces and communities!

Learn more about Move Minnesota’s ongoing work with Saint Paul employers and properties.