Commuting is the Office’s Worst Enemy. But CBRE Can Help

June 1, 2023 4 Minute Read

Traffic moving on bridge

The return to the office is facing a major roadblock: the daily commute.

When it comes to the prospect of working from the office, employees are discouraged by long transit journeys and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Many are choosing to work from home, even if it means missing out on team bonding, networking and career-building opportunities.

Companies are struggling to make the case for the office.

But CBRE Location Intelligence’s team has a solution: Commute Optimizer, an interactive drive-time analysis tool that is helping businesses understand how to make employee commutes more efficient.

“In a few clicks, decision-makers can calculate commute times and assess the impact that moving to a new location might have on their employees commute times and costs,” says CBRE Canada Senior GIS Manager Naz Ali, who is spearheading the Commute Optimizer effort. “This could make the difference between an underwhelming day and a vibrant office environment.”

New Era of Mapping

Commute Optimizer enables brokers and their clients to input location data points to calculate and optimize commute times. While using GIS to assess commuting time is not new, the interactive nature and mobile-friendliness of the Commute Optimizer is a game-changer, according to Ali.

“We used to input employee postal codes on a static PDF map to see how many people lived within a five-, 10-, 20-minute drive time of each existing or potential office,” she says. “Commute Optimizer lets us showcase all this information in an interactive web-based format.”

Users get searches started by using the geographic centre feature – the average of all employees based on their geographic distribution – which displays the ideal office location based on where current employees are commuting from.

Users can then add new potential locations by either clicking on the map or searching for an address. They immediately get commute information for that location, which includes average commute time and costs for employees to travel to that particular location.

Users can also get a better understanding of the impact of a move from their existing offices to any proposed location: the number of employees affected, the change in drive times, and the overall impact on a scale from low to high.

“We also have the ability to add in demographic data for clients looking for additional labour, so they can tailor their location to be closer to their target workers,” says Ali.

For instance, adding a layer for a white-collar labour force or for a given education level would help companies select offices closer to their desired worker pools.

“It’s been such a differentiator,” says CBRE Vice Chairman Kevin Nelson, who heads Vancouver’s High Technology Facilities Group. “We revealed it to a couple clients last summer and they were blown away.”

The tool has given his office clients the ability to compare locations in real time, while backing up recommendations to executives with commute analysis data.

“It’s a collaborative consensus building tool,” Nelson says. “We’ve used it in several pitches, and it’s helped us drive conversations to conclusions in the boardroom.”

Mapping Real Estate Solutions

Beyond the Commute Optimizer, CBRE’s Location Intelligence team is hard at work creating new tools that are giving our brokers and clients a clear advantage in understanding the marketplace and acting on that intelligence.

“Each project is unique since every line of service has different needs,” says Ali. “We’ve developed a variety of tools to address this.”

The team recently worked on a comparative foot traffic analysis of Toronto’s bustling Queen Street West using mass mobile data to show the area’s quick recovery from the ravages of the pandemic.

They’ve also used the tool to help landlords and retailers at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and along Vancouver’s Fourth Avenue create better customer experiences by analyzing foot traffic, travel times, dwell times and seasonal patterns.

The Location Intelligence team is also working on 3D interactive market overviews showing vacancies across office buildings, with information on surrounding workforce diversity, amenities, transit access and walkability.

Another tool allows clients to dive into neighbourhood demographics, such as the average age, income, education level and spending habits.

“GIS technology is evolving fast, so we’re learning new ways to help our clients every day,” says Ali. “I’m excited to see how AI and machine learning can be integrated into Location Intelligence to help process large amounts of data and bring our tools to the next level.”

Find out how CBRE’s Location Intelligence team can help optimize your real estate decision making today!

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