CloseCommute program could ease traffic woes, developer says

Bruce Batchelor says he has honed a concept that could get between 8,200 and 16,400 commuting vehicles — or about five to 10 per cent of the total — off the road within two years in Greater Victoria.

Batchelor said his idea, which he calls CloseCommute Systems, involves “a change of mind, a change of attitude, a change of expectation amongst employers.”

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Employers would consider factors such as commuting distance when hiring and assigning work sites, and paying attention to where people live when internal transfers are made. “You can gradually improve immensely just doing those two steps,” Batchelor said.

CloseCommute Systems combines a website and an app to guide users through the process. The free app is being introduced today through closecommute.com in Greater Victoria and Metro Vancouver.

Batchelor said a mid-1990s project involving 500 employees at Key Bank in Seattle used similar strategies and saw overall commuting distance decrease by 17 per cent within 15 months.

So-called “proximate commuting” proved itself in test runs, but was never adopted by large employers, he said.

Another valuable measure is for multi-location employers to assess where workers live and offer job swaps to decrease commute times, he said. “You could imagine teachers or bank tellers.”

He said teachers have been used as an example group by CloseCommute. Data commissioned from Statistics Canada show four out of five teachers do not have short commutes in Victoria. A short commute is defined by CloseCommute as under 10 minutes in a vehicle or on a bicycle, or under 20 minutes by public transit or by walking.

Shorter commutes can increase productivity and reduce stress, Batchelor said. “Right now would be just an excellent time for a push to get this done for teachers,” he said. “There’s nobody that loses on this.”

One of the features at closecommute.com is a “quick calculator” that allows people to analyze cost, time, carbon-dioxide emissions and distance travelled between home and work, Batchelor said. The site also has tools to help employers understand the concept and draft policies and procedures. “We’re trying to make this as easy as possible to be adopted widely.”

B.C. Transit said in a statement it supports commute-reduction programs like CloseCommute “as a way to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Cutting down commute times simply makes sense, Batchelor said. “Rather than building bridges and interchanges, why don’t you have less people on the road?”

Victoria-based Batchelor has spent three years working on CloseCommute, and said it could take a bite out of the Colwood Crawl. “I guess I got this bee in my bonnet,” he said, adding that he works at home and does not commute himself. “There’s just so much commuting that’s going on that’s entirely unnecessary.

“Somebody has to step up and shake the tree.”

After its launch in Victoria and Vancouver, CloseCommute will be extended in a few months to Toronto, and then to Seattle.

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