Is your goal to reduce drive-alone rates?
Calculate the percentage of employees who primarily drive alone to work. This is your drive-alone rate and the number you may want to target for reduction. Be realistic about what you can accomplish – perhaps by setting a goal to reduce the drive-alone rate by three to five percent in the first year – and monitor how your program performs.
Are employees using any commute alternatives already?
Employees who already use a commute alternative are generally more open to adding another day or using a different mode. Consider encouraging this group to bump it up one more day a week by offering an incentive if they increase their use of a commute alternative.
Where are your employee commute clusters?
Using employee zip code information, identify groups of employees who live near each other but drive alone to work. If many of your solo drivers live near the worksite, focus on a walk and bike campaign. Carpooling is a good option for people who may need flexibility but want to share rides at least a couple of times a week, while vanpooling works well for groups of six to 15 employees with regular schedules who travel more than 20 miles each way. Take the time to research high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and express lanes and Park & Ride lots that could serve specific employees, and include this information in your outreach.
Do you want to promote public transit?
BART, Caltrain, SMART, ACE or ferries are good alternatives to promote if enough employees live near stations or terminals, but you should also consider how employees will get to and from these stations – often referred to as the “first mile” and “last mile.” Many employees want to drive from home to a station or terminal, but they need adequate parking at the station to do so. Others can take a bus to get to their station, but need discounted transfer fare to afford it. Take a little time to explore whether parking is available, whether there is secure bike parking, or whether the transit agencies offer special incentives (like carpool parking) or inter-agency transfers (many do!). Make sure to include this information in your outreach.
What do employees cite as the largest barriers to using commute alternatives?
One common barrier for employees is uncertainty in the event of an emergency. Be sure to promote any guaranteed ride home programs available in your county. Some programs require the employer to register before employees can sign up, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the requirements. If you have worksites in multiple counties, you’ll need to take the time to research the programs available in each. Check out The Ultimate Commute Program Resource, select your county and look for information on guaranteed ride home.
Another common barrier for employees is their fixed work schedule. If your company does not offer flexible schedules, talk to your management about whether this could be an option. Allowing employees some flexibility opens up more possibilities for carpooling and vanpooling.
Now You’re Ready to Start
Once you’ve considered these factors, you’re ready to start putting together a commute program tailored for your employees. The program you design may include the following:
- Information – This can include transit and shuttle schedules, resources for finding carpools and vanpools, details on HOV and express lanes and other infrastructure supports, tips for successful bicycle commuting or even policies to allow telework.
- Assistance – This can include hands-on trip planning with an employee to review their commute options; this can be tremendously helpful in encouraging them to overcome barriers to trying an alternative. If you don’t have time to do this one-on-one, consider offering group commute consultation sessions on a regular basis, e.g., every other Monday at lunchtime.
- Supports – These can include infrastructure supports such as lockers, racks, and showers for bike commuters, or programmatic supports like finding a carpool partner or helping a commuter get home in an emergency via a guaranteed ride home program.
- Incentives – These come in all forms and can range from ongoing benefits to one-time rewards. Ongoing incentives include a pre-tax transit benefit program or vanpool subsidies, or possibly preferential parking for carpools and vanpools. A one-off incentive could be a reward that program participants earn or win. One-off rewards can be financial, but some employers may find it easier to offer perks like extra vacation time.
One more note: Employees with alternative fuel vehicles often believe they are already doing their part by not using a “gas guzzler.” While this definitely helps reduce their carbon footprint, it does not reduce congestion, which also contributes to air pollution. Alternative fuel vehicles on the road still result in extra cars on the road, increasing idling time for conventional vehicles. Encourage these employees to consider taking a passenger – eliminating not one but two conventional fuel vehicles from the road while also reducing congestion.
Visit The Ultimate Commute Program Resource for links to a variety of how tos and best practices in designing your commute program.