At their presentation to Mountain View’s planning commission on September 16, LinkedIn described their plans for new headquarter buildings, where their goals are for only 35% of 8,000 employees to drive. To achieve a steep increase in sustainable commuting, LinkedIn plans to transform incentives for commuters, ending free parking, with higher prices and less convenient spots for solo drivers.
LinkedIn is still working out the details of how priced parking will work – whether it will be cash payments, or some sort of credit system that has economic costs and rewards. Commuters who don’t drive and don’t take a parking permit will get cash bonuses for not driving.
LinkedIn’s 35% drivealone target is even steeper than the 45% goal for Mountain View’s North Bayshore area as a whole. This shows the benefits of Mountain View’s “trip cap” policy in action – LinkedIn wants a higher employee density in its new offices, so it needs to reduce driving further.
These programs will take LinkedIn further down a path that it has been travelling. Over the last year, LinkedIn has already reduced its drivealone rate from 62% to 56%.
To make nondriving options more effective and attractive for commuters, LinkedIn proposes to pay for key commute infrastructure, including a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over US 101, and improvements on Shoreline including a dedicated shuttle lane, and pedestrian and bicycle improvements.
LinkedIn is confident that these improvements will bear results, since “companywide surveys show that employees are willing to try other modes and have a high interest in using commuter bus, public transit and bicycling.”
LinkedIn’s robust set of programs include subsidies for public transit, long-distance shuttles in partnership with the Transportation Management Association, carpool and vanpool programs including a technology platform to help match rides, and robust support for biking and walking, including use of bikeshare for last-mile and on-campus trips.
To make walking and bicycling more practical and appealing, the buildings move away from car-centric suburban office park designs. Walking paths will include direct connections between buildings and winding paths for exercise and leisurely strolls. Buildings will face roadways and plazas rather than parking lots, and even driveways will be designed to communicate that pedestrians have right of way.
Housing and services as part of the transportation solution?
However, there are a few steps that LinkedIn’s proposal does not yet take, which could help further reduce driving. In addition to 8000 employees, the new headquarter complex at 1400 North Shoreline is intended to in addition to a 15-screen movie theater, 5,000 square feet of retail and a health club.
As Mountain View discusses adding housing to North Bayshore, the LinkedIn proposal does not currently include housing. Earlier uses of the site were polluted with trichloroethylene, requiring a massive Superfund cleanup, and the legal process at the time granted release of legal liability for office but not housing. However, the EPA has a newer policy to confirm cleanup which has the potential to address the legal liability issue.
In earlier Mountain View’s environmental review of the city’s general plan, an option that included housing was modelled to have fewer car trips. Similarly, in Menlo Park in the area near Facebook, the City is proposing scenarios with thousands of units of housing, and currently doing environmental review to verify whether this would reduce car commuting overall.
While not everyone who would live near LinkedIn would work there, providing more options to live near work is estimated to reduce driving. If the environmental liability issues could be solved, housing could help reduce the transportation burden.
Also, one of the tools that LinkedIn proposes to reduce trips is to provide “a wide variety of amenities and services to its employees including but not limited to meals, medical/dental, grooming, dry cleaning, vehicle maintenance, bicycle maintenance, shared vehicles, and package delivery.”
By contrast, in Menlo Park’s plans for the area near Facebook, the retail services that are currently provided only for employees in the inside of a gated campus are proposed to be turned “inside out”, to also serve residents of the new neighborhood, and other employers in the area. This “main street” strategy could potentially help LinkedIn and Mountain View as well, by providing services to the new neighborhood.