Nonprofit Organizations Take On Transportation Leadership

New best practices recognize and welcome multimodal options


St. Paul, MN (October 8, 2015)—Springboard for the Arts added indoor bike parking. The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation and Minnesota Public Radio held transportation and wellness fairs for employees. The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota set up an organizational membership with HOURCAR. Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota invited car2go to talk at a staff breakfast and is changing its wellness program to include an incentive for employees who use multimodal forms of transportation. Arts Midwest created an internal transportation team.

These organizations are among 18 Twin Cities-area nonprofits who stepped up this year to be certified as Transportation Leaders. All agreed to adopt transportation best practices in the workplace—changing policies, benefits, amenities, and practices to welcome all ways of getting around.

All organizations at the highest level of certification—Multimodal Max—agreed to compensate employees who get to work in ways other than driving alone, for example by paying a share of the cost of transit or providing perks or extra pay for arriving by bicycling or walking. The organizations certified at the highest level are The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, Fresh Energy, Hope Community, Lifetrack, The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Minnesota Literacy Council, Minnesota Public Radio, and Operation de Novo.

“Transportation—decisions about how we all get around—have a big impact on air quality. Particularly with the recent announcement that the Twin Cities is hovering near the acceptable federal limits on smog, it is a very good time for organizations to step up and be multimodal. These organizations are setting a new standard,” said Hilary Reeves, the Transportation Leadership program manager at Transit for Livable Communities. Transit for Livable Communities partnered with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to develop transportation best practices in the workplace and certify nonprofit Transportation Leaders. This is the first year of the program, with special focus on organizations along the newly opened Green Line or other high-frequency transit.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to participate and grow in this area. There is still much to learn,” said Reubenna Cooley of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, adding, “Since our locations are throughout the state we are looking forward to extending our support of multimodal transportation in all parts of our organization.”

Lutheran Social Services was one of six Transportation Leaders at the second level, Multimodal More. The others at this level are Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, Neighborhood Energy Connection, Springboard for the Arts, and The Trust for Public Land. Three organizations were certified at the minimum level: Arts Midwest, ISAIAH, and the Minnesota Land Trust.

The organizations’ decision to be more multimodal is motivated by a number of factors. One is to attract and retain a more diverse workforce. Use of transit and interest in bicycling are higher among communities of color. Surveys of millennials show a desire to work in places that have options. For nonprofit organizations, being multimodal is part of recognizing that their employees and often the communities they serve rely on multiple options for getting around.

Ryan Ellis, Director of Operations at Operation de Novo, said “It has been imperative that de Novo be centrally located, with access to multiple forms of transit to accommodate a large portion of our client base. In addition to our clients, members of our staff rely on mass transit and bike to get to work.”

One minimum step all Transportation Leaders agreed to implement is multimodal directions on their web site: noting what transit routes serve the location, nearby bicycle routes, where bicycle parking is located, and any nearby bicycle- or car-sharing hubs, along with how to get there in a car.

Staff from each of the organizations attended a workshop that covered how to be multimodal.

“Most of us are familiar with what it means to jump in a car, but not everyone grows up knowing how to take the bus or what’s a walkable distance or how to combine bicycling with riding transit,” said Reeves of Transit for Livable Communities. “The workshops covered a lot of material, but the best part was having people from different organizations learn from each other, comparing policies and exchanging tips about apps and routes.” The workshops included direct experience of each mode—taking the bus, going for a spin on Nice Ride bicycles, finding out about car-sharing options, and taking a walk to see the features that make it more or less pleasant to arrive on foot.

Health and economic reasons also back up decisions to be more multimodal. Employees who take transit or even occasionally bicycle to work have better health outcomes, according to many different studies. Learning to rely on other options can also be much cheaper than car ownership. Transportation—the cost of getting around—takes up 20 to 40 percent of income in metro households, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology and census data.

As workshop attendees learned, there are ways to mix and match options. Doing so can make it possible for a household to shed a car or leave it at home. For example, Michael Noble, the executive director at Fresh Energy, takes transit to work and uses HOURCAR and car2go for appointments not reachable by transit or walking. For others, if the daily commute is hard to change, it can be possible to walk to lunch or take the train or bus to appointments during the day.

Each organization agreed to implement six minimum steps to be certified. Organizations could be certified at higher levels (Multimodal More and Multimodal Max) by agreeing to four or six additional steps. The 18 organizations were recognized as Transportation Leaders earlier this month at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference in Saint Paul. This month, a series of advertisements with some of the steps being taken by the certified organizations are running in Green Line trains. For more information, visit

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2015 Transportation Leaders

Multimodal Max
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
Fresh Energy
Hope Community, Inc.
The McKnight Foundation
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
Minnesota Literacy Council
Minnesota Public Radio
Operation de Novo

Multimodal More
Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa
Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota
Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota
Neighborhood Energy Connection
Springboard for the Arts
The Trust for Public Land

Multimodal Minimum
Arts Midwest
Minnesota Land Trust

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