Where PEI Public Servants Live and Work (and can we get them to leave their cars at home?)

Note: There is a refined and updated look at the same topic, with more complete data, in my post The Government That Swallowed a Pond (Using Open Data and GIS to Inform Policy and Influence Behaviour).

In early September I made a Freedom of Information access request to the PEI Public Service Commission for:

A spreadsheet providing the postal code of the home address of each employee of the PEI public service, across all departments and agencies, and the civic address (or, if not available, building name) of their primary work location.

Well within the 30 day time allowed, the request was fulfilled: I received an email with an Excel sheet with the data I requested on September 27, 2019.

Tomorrow, at the Applied Geospatial Research in Public Policy Workshop at the University of PEI, I’ll present an initial analysis of the data with an eye to exploring how it can be used to shift the commutes of the 4,519 people who work for the provincial government to public transit and active transportation.

According to PEI’s Climate Action Plan, 48% of the provinces GHG emissions come from transportation; the provincial public service accounts for a substantial portion of the Island labour force, and the provincial government, as an employer, has both the motivation and the means to incentivize a shift.

This is “just in time” data analysis, as it’s only been in my hands a week, but the workshop simply provided too attractive a pool of smart geospatial practitioners to dip into for advice and guidance.

My initial investigation focused on the 252 public servants who live in postal codes starting with C1A (a good swath of urban Charlottetown) and who work in the Shaw, Sullivan, Jones and Arsenault buildings in downtown Charlottetown; I found that:

  • 248 (98%) can cycle to work in under 20 minutes,
  • 234 (92%) live within 500 m of a T3 Transit bus stop,
  • 121 (48%) can walk to work in under 30 minutes

The slides and the supporting data for my presentation are online now, and if this is a topic that interests you, you are welcome to attend in person: the session is called “Geospatial Workshop 1: Doing Digital Humanities with GIS Data” and it’s happening in Atlantic Veterinary College room 218S from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. tomorrow morning, October 4, 2019. You do not need to register for the conference to attend; just tell anyone who asks that I invited you.

The parking lot at the PEI Government Admin Buildings

(Image from Google Street View, captured October 2015)


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on October 4, 2019 - 08:31 Permalink

This is the Rukavina gadfly at its best.

The most obvious actions that stem from this info to me are:

  1. Education: Tell the drivers about their cycling, walking, and bus options.
  2. The stick: eliminate parking spaces and distribute the remaining spaces by rotating lottery (or some other fair distribution).
  3. The carrot: pay people to leave their cars at home - either directly, or with tax incentives.

Though I don't want to punish or inconvenience these people, imagine how quickly our public transit infrastructure would improve if this cohort of well-connected people suddenly had no parking at work.

Michelle MacCallum's picture
Michelle MacCallum on October 4, 2019 - 08:46 Permalink

I am a public servant in the far flung C0B postal code and commute over 70kms/day. I sometimes need my car to get to meetings as my client base is scattered throughout the whole province.
But there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to work from home whenever possible. We need to address the addiction to presenteeism and embrace technology.
Wouldn’t eliminating a good chunk of my 350 weekly kilometre commute would have more impact than telling downtown folks to take the bus? (Or how about both?)

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer on October 4, 2019 - 15:52 Permalink

Presenteeism is a definite problem. Agreed. I think I've always had a job where I have meetings during the day in different parts of the city or province. In addition, there were a solid 12 years where I was either picking up kids at childcare, or running them to practices etc from school. I like the idea though, if even half of this cohort was encouraged to take alternative transportation, or option for working from home 1-2 days per week.

Laurent Beaulieu's picture
Laurent Beaulieu on October 4, 2019 - 10:59 Permalink

Based on your study parking space could be allocated only to those who are at a great distance from work in the City or not on a transit route or for health reasons cannot cycle or walk. This criteria has been applied in other cities in Canada great and small and it does work. Working from home is also feasible nowadays.

Cynthia King's picture
Cynthia King on October 4, 2019 - 14:01 Permalink

This is good work, Peter. Especially knowing that if more government employees cycle to work, it may influence decision-making at the government level to better support safe lanes and bike paths. Put those who make the decisions on bikes.

Trent Collicutt's picture
Trent Collicutt on October 4, 2019 - 16:04 Permalink

Any comments about parking, in the pictured lot, needs to take into account that not all those vehicles are government employees nor visitors to those buildings.

Paula's picture
Paula on October 4, 2019 - 20:36 Permalink

I am a federal government employee in charlottetown and we do not have the benefit of free parking nor do other business people working in charlottetown. In halifax cra moved to impute the value of the value of monthly parking to each employee working at dnd because of the value of the free parking to them which was not provided to other government employees. Monthly parking in town is 100 dollars. Maybe if they moved to do this to provincial gov employees in chtown they might find better alternatives to driving.

Brent's picture
Brent on January 14, 2020 - 08:27 Permalink

It would be interesting to see this extended to Federal government employees at some point. I live in Stratford but work downtown, and take the bus whenever I can. Still, I often need to have my car to attend meetings in other parts of the City, because we are scattered about.

I have walked to/from work in the summer (45-50 minutes each way) but the Hillsborough Bridge is really not safe for walkers or cyclists.

Better bus service would help. Presently, T3 seems to be good up and down University Avenue, but its other routes are sparsely served much of the day.

Thanks for this interesting analysis.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 14, 2020 - 10:30 Permalink

I made a similar access request to the federal Public Service Commission, but was redirected to Public Services and Procurement Canada’s Pay Centre, so must now submit a new access request.

I do, however, now have data from Holland College and the City of Charlottetown on their employees.