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Charleston Business

If we want the business community to continue to thrive, we must change our driving habits

By Anita Zucker

Traffic congestion is a critical challenge affecting the quality of life and productivity of our three-county region’s workforce. Addressing it is a priority issue for leaders throughout our region.

We all know long-term congestion solutions involve investing in critical multimodal transportation and creating more affordable housing closer to job centers. For decades, investments in infrastructure and housing haven’t kept up with our region’s steady and stable population growth. 

To paint a picture: our regional population is 788,000. It is projected to be a million within 10 years. To accommodate that population size, it is estimated the region will need 90,000 new housing units at all price points, or 7,500 annually. The Charleston metro benefits from sustained economic success. Since 2010, our community has created more than 50,000 new jobs, with another 35,000 expected over the next five years.

If we are to create and sustain a community where people and businesses thrive for generations, where we nurture our environment, character, and culture, we must invest in infrastructure and housing—and we must remake how we commute.

Eighty percent of us drive alone in our car to work; 60% of us commute between 6-8:30 a.m. Each of us can immediately be part of the solution by altering how and when we commute and encouraging our employees to do the same.

Over the past year, the Economic Leadership Council (ELC) of Charleston Regional Development Alliance has worked with public, private, and academic stakeholders to understand current commuting patterns, alternative strategies for employers and employees, and the benefits—to employers, employees, the environment, and our region’s economic competitiveness—of changing greater Charleston’s commuting behaviors. 

The ELC is comprised of 20 of the three-county region’s top CEOs and largest private-sector employers. This CEO leadership group represents more than 10 percent of the region’s workforce and is committed to a more prosperous, forward-thinking, globally competitive Charleston region.

I’m pleased to share the result of the ELC’s effort: Reboot the Commute. 

Reboot the Commute is an employer-led traffic mitigation campaign encouraging other employers to reduce regional traffic congestion. It includes an online Reboot Guide organizations can use to begin implementing positive changes by encouraging alternative commuting strategies like telecommuting, staggered start times, ridesharing, and connecting to local transit resources like CARTA and Lowcountry Go.

The goal is for employers to use the guide as a starting point for enacting workplace-friendly policies that benefit them and their employees and protect our region’s competitiveness and quality of place.

Leaders from Charleston area businesses and institutions large and small should feel empowered to adopt commuting strategies that improve the work experience for their employees and alleviate congestion on our roads. 

One size doesn’t fit all. Some strategies are not viable for certain companies and occupations, but there are many ways to modify your commute and avoid traveling during the most congested times. 

Every small change—whether it’s staggered shifts, a new policy on telecommuting, changing your approach to in-person meetings by holding them at off-peak times or making them conference/video calls, or incentivizing a companywide carpooling program—will have a significant impact. 

Imagine: if just 4% of us change our commuting behavior during peak times, we could completely clear an entire line of I-526 for all 19 miles.

If you’re ready to give ridesharing a try, Lowcountry Go promotes flexible work schedules and alternative commuting options to reduce traffic congestion and provides a powerful metric for employers and commuters alike.

The Reboot the Commute Guide goes into more detail on each solution and offers executives a step-by-step process on factors to consider when enacting these programs. 

We’ve also created a digital badge for participating companies to use on their websites and in marketing materials identifying their company as a commute innovator. Commuters can also use the guide to make individual changes and begin discussions within their organizations. Working together, we can all Reboot Charleston’s Commute.

Eighteen organizations with a collective local workforce of more than 39,000 have committed to Rebooting the Commute by doing their part to reduce traffic congestion and implementing new policies. They are:
  • Benefitfocus
  • Boeing South Carolina
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Charleston Regional Development Alliance
  • Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
  • Charleston Southern University
  • Charleston Trident Association of Realtors
  • The Citadel
  • College of Charleston
  • Evening Post Industries
  • Google South Carolina
  • The InterTech Group
  • Kiawah Island Golf Resort
  • MUSC
  • Roper St. Francis
  • South Carolina Aquarium
  • Trident Health
  • Trident Technical College
My family and I are proud to support Reboot the Commute and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. We are thrilled to witness the collaboration of business leaders, government officials, and the Lowcountry’s world-class workforce in an effort to generate immediate and measurable results to the traffic congestion challenges we face. 

It is this combination of creative thinking and outstanding leadership that will continue to position the Charleston region and South Carolina as a premier destination for businesses and families.

I encourage all area employers and residents to make changes in your commutes and use the Reboot the Commute Guide to start a conversation within your own organization. Small changes can make a big impact. And each of us has the power to make a real difference in our community!  

Anita Zucker is CEO of The InterTech Group and chair of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance’s Economic Leadership Council.