“Transportation is a very integral piece of our sustainability program — it’s right up there with design and construction, facilities, environmental services, sustainable sites management — it is a major component.”
Spectrum Health Sustainability Coordinator
Innovative transportation ideas help Spectrum Health meet sustainability goals
What began as a simple recycling/waste reduction program at two of its major Grand Rapids campuses has grown into a significant sustainability commitment for Spectrum Health, and programs offered by The Rapid are playing an increasingly important role in helping Spectrum reach its goals.
“Our sustainability commitment started at our Downtown and Blodgett campuses here in Grand Rapids,” explained Joshua Miller, Spectrum’s Sustainability Coordinator. “Initially it was a waste reduction and recycling study, but the positive results quickly moved us to a comprehensive program focused more at the system level with all seven of our hospitals. Now we’re taking it to our Spectrum Health Regional Hospital Network, some 20 hospitals, and addressing sustainability initiatives.”
Spectrum leadership was quick to grasp two important realities of a comprehensive sustainability program — it’s an excellent way to contain and reduce costs, and it’s an ideal and very visible expression of the system’s commitment to a healthier environment for its employees and the community at-large.
“Sustainability is important to Spectrum Health on a number of fronts,” says Miller. “The most important is that it really helps us prove our mission statement, which is improve the health status of our communities. So reducing waste, reducing energy consumption, reducing emissions — it reduces our impact on the environment and makes the communities we’re a part of much healthier places to live.”
Miller pointed out that sustainability at Spectrum Health, with an employee population of almost 14,000, quickly spreads to the larger community, and Spectrum has encouraged people to embrace the philosophy in their lives.
Spectrum’s initial interest in The Rapid’s Rideshare Program was pragmatic — thousands of employees means thousands of parking spaces and the system was short on them in both on- and off-site lots. But advantages beyond parking soon made themselves obvious.
“Spectrum has partnered with The Rapid on various transportation initiatives for almost three years,” said Miller. “Transportation is a very integral piece of our sustainability program — it’s right up there with design and construction, facilities, environmental services, sustainable sites management — it is a major component.”
The Rapid and Spectrum Health worked closely to develop a company-specific rideshare program, a web-based application that helps interested employees find carpooling partners by searching for others who live near them and have similar work/commute schedules. The program covers the greater Grand Rapids metro area and surrounding counties including Allegan, Kent, and Ottawa.
The rideshare program developed with The Rapid lets Spectrum Health employees/staff ride fixed-route buses to and from work at no cost. A special badge gives employees access to the service and also tracks the number of employees riding The Rapid each month.
“We’ve noticed an increase in the numbers of employees using both programs,” said Miller. “We started with 10 or 20 in the rideshare program and now have upwards of 300-350 employees. And we have other employees carpooling outside of the program, so it’s safe to say that we have more than 300 people sharing rides to work.”
“When the rideshare program first launched in 2007 there were 3,000 rides per month and we’ve pretty much doubled that with an average of 6,000 rides per month.”
Miller said that the health system was now working even harder to convey the benefits of carpooling and ridesharing with even more Spectrum employees —economics plays a larger role than it did, especially when fuel prices rise.
“We’d like to see the numbers come in at about 10,000 rides per month,” Miller added.
Spectrum Health employees are very positive about both programs, said Miller. Along with the growth in number of riders, the health system has noticed another trend, one that bodes well for the future of transportation as a part of the sustainability commitment at Spectrum Health.
“We’ve seen the programs, especially the ride sharing program with The Rapid, drawing a wide cross-section of employees and staff. Physicians, cafeteria workers, physical therapists, physical plant workers, nurses, nutritionists, landscaping employees — everyone is taking advantage of it.”