SRI, the nonprofit research consultancy in Menlo Park, generates less than 50% of the peak traffic predicted by standard Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) traffic models, according to material in preparation for a major campus rehab project.
SRI employees drive much less, helped by a highly successful Transportation Demand Management program. 41% of SRI employees get to work without driving – about 15% take Caltrain frequently, encouraged by the deep-discount Go Pass, free parking or bus passes to get to the train. In addition, 7% bike to work and 4% walk. SRI’s employees drive much less than other employers in Menlo Park, which average a 78% drivealone rate.
Transportation Manager Sandy Hinzmann says that the transit perks are extremely popular with employees at all ranks of the organization up to the VP level. SRI is a nonprofit, so its salaries are lower than private sector, and the transportation benefits are a big help in recruiting.
SRI’s approach is all carrot and no stick. The 41% mode share is achieved even though the campus has massive amounts of underutilized free parking. The site currently hosts 1800 employees – about 1500 who work for SRI, and 300 who work in companies renting space on the campus. The site has 3224 parking spaces for those 1800 employees.
As part of the remodel, SRI plans to reduce the parking to 2444 spaces, of which 519 will be in a parking structure, while growing employment on site to 3000, which will be less than the historical high occupancy of the site. The parking will still more than needed, if SRI continues its current travel pattern. Freeing up the land used for parking and consolidating buildings will increase the the landscaping by 37 percent, according to Tom Little, SRI’s director of support operations.
SRI plans to replace 33 old buildings with 13 new buildings. About 80 percent of the buildings on the research campus were built during the 1940s and 1950s, according Tom Little. The oldest buildings on the 62-acre campus were originally part of the Dibble Army hospital built in the 1940s.
The new buildings will take up the same 1.38 million square feet as the existing campus buildings. Total floor space will be 11 percent less than the maximum allowed by SRI’s existing development permit.
Despite the low driving rate, Menlo Park still plans to assess the environmental impact of the site using the driving rates in the ITE handbook. The city’s policies consider it conservative to forecast driving at a rate that is double the rate actually measured. Also, although over 40% of the organization’s employees don’t drive alone to work, the mitigation funds for the (overestimated) traffic impact will be dedicated to increasing vehicle capacity, because of policies derived from Menlo Park’s current 1992 General Plan.
Menlo Park is heading into a cycle to update its General Plan in the coming year. Hopefully it will update its policies to take into account the existing transportation patterns of some of Menlo Park’s leading employers.