The trend of companies moving to urban areas in search of younger talent has challenged some suburban based companies, landlords and suburban governments in the Chicago area and across the country. Earlier this year, I posted a blog examining the trend of urban migration in Chicago and nationally: Corporate Office Urban Migration – Chicago & Nationally. While the Chicago area is well connected with mass transit (including an extensive rail system), the challenge has been for commuters to get to and from the rail line. That’s particularly been a detriment for suburban companies trying to recruit “car-less” millennials whom live in Chicago. While there’s train service for reverse commuters, the transit from the train to suburban office parks is a challenge. Recently, however, a Chicago area based company, along with the support of DuPage County and the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), has piloted a car-share solution at a local train station to improve transit connectivity.
DuPage County has seen its share of companies move from the suburbs to Chicago and while recognizing that there is a robust train service to attract reverse commuters, the missing link has always been how to get commuters from the train to the office. This car-share company, Innova EV, started a pilot program with a local commercial property owner, Hamilton Partners, to provide small electric cars as transit to and from their office complex in suburban Itasca. Like other suburban office owners, Hamilton Partners lost some major tenants that moved downtown to tap a younger talent pool.
This Innova EV program, which operates from an App on your smart phone, will cost less than a traditional ride share service (i.e., Uber of Lyft) and, being 100% electric, offers the benefit of environmental sustainability. In fact, it can help companies enhance their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) ratings. Innova EV was recently featured on Chicago’s WGN news. Here’s a Video Clip.
DuPage County is working with the RTA on creating “mobility hubs” near major train stations to streamline the commute with such services as Innova EV, buses, van pools, bikeshare, etc… While this post focuses on the “Last Mile” for reverse commuters, DuPage County and Innova EV offer solutions for the “First Mile” of getting commuters from their residence to public transit. To learn more about what DuPage County is doing along these lines, please see Choose DuPage.
While this will bridge the gap for some reverse commuters, companies may still feel the pull of an urban location due to:
- Suburban locations being an added commute for the City resident;
- The City offering proximity to other customers and partners for external collaboration; and
- Some suburban office locations lacking amenities within walking distance.
With the continued rising costs in Chicago compared to the suburbs, as well as other fiscal issues, time will tell if the big city cost premium is worth it. It also remains to be seen how well these last-mile solutions will be embraced.