The nation’s first privately-run electric bus fleet began service in Chicago in December 2016, and it's not run by the City of Chicago—it’s run by the owners of Aon Center and Prudential Plaza. The Fleet, as the buses will be known, represents how building owners are going beyond the walls of their properties to address the goals of their tenants’ corporate social responsibility platforms.
601W Companies, a New York-based private real estate investment company that owns Chicago office towers Prudential Plaza and AON Center, announced that the Prudential Plaza-Aon shuttle system will convert from eight existing diesel buses to 10 zero-emission electric buses, leased from Proterra, the world’s leading innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation.
The program represents a joint effort between 601W, JLL, the property manager for both buildings, and Telos Group, LLC, where we lead marketing and leasing efforts for both buildings. Through trends in our business, we’ve observed that today’s office tenants are seeking progressive work environments, sustainable design, and energy-efficient services.
At Prudential Plaza we recently completed an $80-million redevelopment designed to attract a more modern workforce. Likewise, Aon Center is scheduled for a similar transformation scheduled to begin in 2017. The electric shuttle bus system represents the next phase of the transformation of these iconic office buildings to address the community we serve. Together, these changes have helped us attract new corporate headquarters, including Wilson Sporting Goods, to downtown Chicago.
Sustainable Buildings, Sustainable Commutes
Companies are increasingly using sustainability initiatives to drive employee engagement, and research shows employees who are more engaged make companies more successful. CSR programs are also growing in importance for companies’ recruiting efforts, particularly among the millennial generation.
Many corporate sustainability efforts have focused on new approaches to the built environment – developing and redeveloping office spaces to be more energy efficient and obtain LEED certification, as well as programs involving employees in reducing waste and energy use at work. Now, companies are beginning to look beyond the spaces they work in and toward how their employees get to and from work.
This first-of-its-kind zero-emission shuttle service will run 82 daily routes between Prudential Plaza and Aon Center in the East Loop and Chicago’s major Metra railway terminals and provide approximately 35,000 rides monthly to individuals who work in the two buildings. The buses will significantly reduce environmental impact from the diesel buses, contributing to Aon Center’s and Prudential Plaza’s LEED certifications.
Rebranded as The Fleet, the buses are cleaner and quieter in traffic than the diesel buses they will be replacing, providing a better experience for the riders and community alike. Inside, the buses feature luxury interiors and are equipped with WiFi and GPS tracking to keep tenants’ commutes productive. Outside, the buses feature eye-catching exterior bus wraps that will play to the Fleet’s nautical theme.
A Public-Private Path to Clean Commutes
The initiative is funded in part by Drive Clean Chicago, an incentive program from the City of Chicago aimed at creating a greater alternative fuel transportation network for the city’s commuters. Drive Clean Chicago supports Mayor Emanuel’s mission to make Chicago the most livable, sustainable and competitive city in the world.
Public-private partnerships like the Prudential Plaza-Aon electric shuttle system are a cornerstone of the program’s endeavors. Through similar federally funded incentive programs, the city has helped deploy more than 400 cleaner vehicles for Chicago-area fleets and 220 alternative fuel stations since 2010. These vehicles and stations have taken the place of 200,000 barrels of oil and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2,850 tons.
On the individual employee level, the benefits will be immediate: better service, quicker trips aided by app-enabled planning, and cleaner air for the city. For our corporate tenants, the ability to improve their employees’ commutes while meeting their sustainability goals is a boon as well. The implementation of the nation’s first, zero-emissions private shuttle system will lead the way for other corporations to follow.