How to Get University Employees to Carpool

Helpful tips for getting university employees to carpool more often

Universities face a unique set of challenges with regard to car-based commuting. At educational institutions, administrators often face rising year-over-year demand for limited parking facilities. Building new parking structures is very expensive. Given that reality, a growing number of schools are using their resources to get more university employees to carpool instead.

While some schools have overlooked employee carpooling and commuter programs in the past in favor of focusing primarily on student transportation needs, that is quickly changing. Administrators are realizing that employee carpool initiatives provide several key benefits. They offer excellent starting points like being convenient, engaging frequent commuters, and delivering outstanding cost-to-benefits ratios.

Colleges and universities typically employ hundreds if not thousands of staff and faculty members, giving them large communities to work with. This means university carpool programs are an excellent option to get more employees to carpool, especially when supported by proven strategies like:

  • Premium parking. Give vehicles used in carpools access to convenient parking spots. This also generates visibility for your rideshare programs, showing other university employees the popularity of carpooling.
  • Parking cash-out option. Offer employees financial benefits in exchange for giving up their parking privileges and watch participation rates soar.
  • Commuter rewards and challenges. Engage community members while promoting carpooling as an alternative to solo driving through commuter rewards initiatives and campus-wide commuter challenges.

Engage more employees through strategic communication

Administrators will also enjoy better success in their efforts in encouraging employees to carpool when they strategically promote the availability of ridematching resources. Here are some easy, effective ways to do that:

  • Build awareness through signage and email campaigns.
  • Mention the availability of commuter support programs, like rideshare matching, during new employee orientation sessions.
  • Draw attention to your program through periodic challenge and special events like rideshare month.
  • Promote rewards and incentive programs that encourage ongoing participation.

One particularly effective strategy used by a growing number of universities is to create commuter rewards programs that allow employees to rack up points every time they log a carpool trip to or from work. These points can then be redeemed for a wide variety of gift cards or other merchandise via a mobile app or commuter portal, which gets keeps people engaged for the long term.

Looking for more tips on how to deal with the parking crunch at your school?
Be sure to check out our free e-book on reducing campus parking demand.

If you need further advice on how to get university employees to carpool more often, or if you want a free, objective evaluation of your existing commuter programs, the RideAmigos team is here to help. Get started today!

3 Strategies to Engage Commuters

Strategies to Engage Commuters

When asked, many commuters claim to be open to using smart transportation alternatives but, in practice, they are reluctant to try. To overcome this challenge, organizations need to really engage commuters and give them compelling reasons to skip the solo drive.

Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few engagement strategies come and go. If you need to dramatically shift commuter behavior, strategically-designed incentives are the key. But it’s also crucial to provide commuters with convenient tools for accessing your programs and transportation choices.

Here are three strategies that work in the real world, and will actually help you engage commuters and generate higher levels of participation in your commuter programs:

 

Blue Dot 1

Commuter Rewards Programs

Reward programs that offer commuters points for each trip they take are increasingly popular and incredibly effective. Users earn credit for approved trips and can then redeem accumulated points for rewards and prizes. This strategy is most effective when you offer premium incentives, such as gift cards, that appeal to a broad cross-section of interests. Improve and diversify the rewards you offer and watch your participation rates climb.

 

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Commuter Challenges and Gamification 

Another proven way to engage commuters is to appeal to their sense of friendly competition – with others, or with themselves. Gamification and challenge programs can kindle a cooperative team spirit, increasing camaraderie among team members. Both general commuter challenges and mode-specific challenges like bike-to-work programs are effective ways to get people to create initial engagement and try a new mode that just might become a habit. Follow up your challenge with an ongoing reward program for maximum long-term impact.

 

Blue Dot 3

Go Mobile 

Giving commuters easy access to smarter commuting choices is vital to the success of your initiative. Mobile commuter engagement apps reach people where they’re already spending a lot of their time: on their smartphones. Use these apps to link commuters with mode options and resources, provide easy ways to discover and participate in rewards and challenges, review progress toward incentives, and more.

 

With cutting-edge, cloud-based management software and ready-to-run commuter programs, RideAmigos is here to be your commuter engagement partner. Our industry-leading platform and mobile apps are packed with tools and features for both administrators and commuters, making it easy to implement reward programs, run challenges, connect commuters, and much more. Get started with RideAmigos today!

Using Point Programs to Sustain Behavior Change

Challenges and special events are great ways to get commuters to try out alternative modes of transportation. However, research demonstrates that many challenge participants simply return to their old habits once the event comes to an end. Thus, while events like National Bike Month are very successful at delivering the initial spark that jolts commuters into trying something new, the problem is that the spark too-often fizzles out once there’s no longer an immediate impetus for continuing. Longer-term incentive programs offer a great compliment to shorter challenges, and point programs are among the most effective ongoing incentive options.

What Are Point Programs?

Point programs are incentives that are put in place on a long-term or permanent basis. They allow commuters to earn points every time they log a commute using an alternative to solo driving. Depending on how the program is designed, all modes may receive the same amount of points, or certain modes may be prioritized, such as carpooling or biking. These points accumulate over time, and can then be redeemed for prizes, benefits, and other perks.

Transportation managers and administrators can use specialized commuter management software to track points, manage prize inventory and benefit distribution, and enable employees to log their commutes quickly and easily in a variety of ways.

Applying Point Programs in Your Company

Point programs build on the principles of year-round incentive programs like “emergency ride home” initiatives. Emergency ride home options provide vouchers for motorized transportation, like taxis or ride-hailing services, which are offered to commuters who are unexpectedly faced with the need to get home quickly. They are designed to solve one of the most pressing problems associated with active commuting: what does someone who walks or bike to work do if the weather turns bad, or if unexpected circumstances require them to get home or go somewhere in a hurry?

However, emerging insights show that while emergency ride home programs are a key component of a smart commuting program, they are not usually enough to encourage sustained behavior change on their own. That’s why pairing them with point programs is so much more effective; commuters have a built-in, long-term incentive for using alternative modes of transportation, and they also have the assurance of a guaranteed ride home if they ever need one.

One increasingly popular way for employees to redeem their points is through a commuter store. In commuter stores, enticing prizes are offered at various point levels, with more points “buying” bigger and better prizes. They give employees something to strive for, and greatly enhance their senses of accomplishment and reward. Common prizes include logo gear from the sponsoring organization (sunglasses, t-shirts, notebooks, etc.), gift cards of various value levels, or raffle tickets towards a chance to win even higher-value items. Our recent support article on choosing commuter store rewards provides a more in-depth look at effective strategies for setting up a commuter store.

Point Program Examples

The City of Austin has made use of an effective point program that uses a slightly different strategy. Austin’s initiative allows city employees to exchange points for the ultimate reward – paid time off. It has proven to be a win-win in one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

The University of Arizona also recently launched a commuter store targeted at both students and university employees, to great success. You can hear first-hand from both the City of Austin and the University of Arizona in the video from last month’s RideAmigos Academy webinar about point programs. On the regional level, Commute.org in San Mateo, CA runs an excellent point program called the STAR store, which they shared about during a presentation at CommuteCon earlier this year.

Do you have an idea for a point program, but you’re not sure how to implement it? Are you having a hard time figuring out what kinds of incentives or rewards to offer for maximum behavior shift? We’re here to help! Get in touch, and we’ll be happy to help you work through your ideas and find dynamic new ways of engaging your commuters.

 

 

Scooter Sharing: Coming Soon to a City Near You

A man posing on electric scooter.

If they’re not already popping up in your city, they could be coming soon. A fast-growing group of app-based electric scooter (e-scooter) fleets are racing to solve short distance urban travel and last mile challenges for commuters. The introduction of e-scooters has been the subject of controversy in some cities. However, as part of a mobility ecosystem, they can be a great complement to the set of transportation options available to employees, students or residents. If you have questions about how scooters might impact your commuters, read on to learn more.

What are dockless electric scooters?

In recent months, companies like Bird, LimeBike, and Lyft have made major investments in scooter sharing platforms. Bird is a Santa Monica, California-based mobility company founded and operated by Travis VanderZanden, a former VP at Uber and COO at Lyft. LimeBike made its name in the bikeshare space before launching scooter shares in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington DC. Spin, another bikeshare provider has added a scooter fleet. With other scooter companies popping up, now even ride-hailing companies like Lyft may be getting in on the act.

The scooters being used in these programs aren’t like the one you might have zipped around on as a kid; they’re electric vehicles capable of reaching speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. They allow commuters to roll down the street while enjoying point-to-point service that is being promoted as an ideal solution to the last-mile service dilemma, thanks to their compact size and service model.

How do they work? 

Rather than borrowing a scooter from a dock station, commuters can source a scooter with a geolocation-enabled smartphone app – think Pokemon Go – that will tell the user where the nearest scooter is.  The rider then unlocks the scooter, rides to his or her destination, then parks it, hopefully in a safe spot out of the way of pedestrians. Compared to dockless bikeshare programs, which use a similar model, shared scooters take up much less valuable sidewalk space when not in use.

Most electric scooter payment models see riders pay a flat rate to unlock the scooter, then ride the scooter as long as desired for a low per-minute rate. Because they are geared toward short distance rides, there is often no minimum time allotment, but rental time and distance is only limited by battery life.

At night, service providers – often using contractors – collect the scooters, charge them back up, and replace them in convenient locations for use by commuters the next morning.

As these scooters proliferate in cities, communities and governments are working to adapt. Some have voiced safety concerns for riders and pedestrians. In many cases, scooter companies are cooperating with cities as they work through the policy process. They are also making efforts to ensure riders comply with helmet laws. LimeBike distributes free helmets in communities where they have launched their electric bike and scooter fleets, and Bird will mail a helmet to anyone who signs up and requests one.

At RideAmigos, we know that more transportation options mean greater mobility for commuters. If you’re looking to help connect your commuters to a wider range of mode options, connect with us to learn more about how a commuter management platform can help.

Smart Commuting at RideAmigos

At RideAmigos, we don’t just talk a good game when it comes to smart commuting. We follow through by utilizing a complete range of alternative transportation modes within our own company. As a national leader in the field of transportation demand management (TDM), we’re happy to encourage our staff members to bust stress, enjoy a better work-life balance, and help reduce pollution and traffic congestion through our fun and engaging commuter support programs.

With the help of our innovative tools and solutions, we’ve implemented  high-impact smart commuting programs in our workplace. In one ongoing initiative, we allow employees to earn points with every smart commute they log, with each point being redeemable for one entry into a monthly raffle. Then, at the end of the month, one lucky winner gets to go home with a $200 gift card.

This strategy works because it stays relevant all year long, encourages friendly competition, and rewards employees for choosing smart commuting strategies more often. The gift card prize is also a great example of an effective incentive, which TDM professionals the world over recognize as being one of the keys to getting people excited about taking part.

April '18 Mode BreakdownIn April 2018, our staff members logged a total of 295 smart trips. We make use of nearly every mode imaginable, from bike commuting to telework and transit, carpools and ride-hailing, walking, running, skateboarding, and e-scooters. If there’s a way to get to work, one of our employees has probably tried it!

Those impressive monthly numbers are backed up by some equally impressive general stats: more than half of our employees use alternatives to solo driving on more than 50% of work days, and 25% of our staff members never drive to work solo.

Smart commuting builds a healthier, happier workplace and a cleaner, greener, and more active community, all while helping your organization or business promote positive values that connect with people. We’d be happy to help your business or organization achieve the same level of success we enjoy with our commuter programs.  Get started today!

How to Be a More Bike Friendly Employer

With National Bike Month well underway, businesses across the country are seeing a surge in the number of employees who are interested in riding to work instead of driving. In years past, National Bike Month has prompted many employee transportation coordinators to consider how they can turn their organization into a more bike friendly employer. If you’re in that situation, there are many ways you get started in supporting active commuting in your workplace.

Here are four popular ideas:

Secure bike storage

Well-placed bike racks offer a low-cost way to encourage more people to ride to work rather than drive. To make the most of your investment, it’s best to place the bike storage area somewhere accessible only to employees, or at least somewhere that isn’t highly visible to passersby and the general public.

Make sure your racks allow for the easy and secure placement of bike locks, and that your racks are placed to shield bikes from rain and snow. Bike racks generally come in two varieties: freestanding racks that can be bolted down to durable surfaces and in-ground racks that are mounted in poured concrete.

If you’re looking to really impress your bicycle commuters, consider providing covered bike storage that is also protected from sun and rain, or even indoor bike storage for the highest level of convenience and security.

On-site showers and lockers

Biking delivers a healthy workout, especially for commuters who ride a long way. Nobody wants to spend their work day in sweaty clothes, and the prospect of doing so discourages a lot of would-be cyclists from ditching their cars.

The solution? Provide on-site showers and lockers for employees who want to embrace active commuting. That way, they can bring a change of clothes, shower when they arrive, and be fresh as a daisy when the work day begins.

Guaranteed ride home programs

A bike friendly employer also recognizes that emergencies and unexpected situations happen. If a commuter bikes to work, what do they do if the weather turns nasty or they suddenly have to get somewhere faster than their bike can carry them? Such anxieties are often cited as reasons commuters choose to drive instead of biking.

Guaranteed ride home programs are a great way to solve this problem, as they provide emergency rides for employees who use alternative modes of commuting. Typically commuters are offered a free ride home a specified number of times per year if an emergency situation arises. Rides are provided via vouchers, Uber or Lyft codes, or through a reimbursement system.

Ongoing Incentive Programs

Bike to Work Challenges are a great way to get commuters to try out a new way of commuting. However, ongoing bike-related incentives are important to keep them going. Options for incentive programs are as diverse as your imagination and resources, so check out these suggestions for bike-related incentives like point programs, raffles, and even earn-a-bike programs.

Running such bike friendly commuter programs can be complex and tedious unless you’re using commuter management software like RideAmigos. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization become a bike friendly employer!

Bikeshare Programs Are Getting More Commuters Onto Two Wheels

A growing number of cities, campus communities, and employers are embracing bikeshare programs as alternative commuting options. Bikes offer an environmentally-friendly mode of active transportation that puts practically no impact stress on the body’s joints, all while delivering a healthy dose of aerobic exercise. Yet, start-up costs can be a barrier to participation. A decent-quality commuter bike can easily cost several hundred dollars, which can seem like a significant investment if someone isn’t sure they’ll enjoy biking to work. This is one of the major reasons bikeshare networks have taken off in recent years.

While specifics vary, bikeshare programs generally work the same way. Most allow registered users to use a smartphone app to unlock a bike, ride for a pre-set length of time, then secure the bike at or near the rider’s destination, paying a nominal fee for the time the bike is in use. These programs offer a cost-effective advantage to commuters, as riders can access a bike for low pay-per-use rates, thus avoiding the need to sink hundreds of dollars into a bike of their own. It also solves other practical challenges, since riders don’t have to commit to bike ownership and thus don’t have to worry about issues like secure storage at home or on the road.

The leading bikeshare networks in the United States include:

  • Zagster: Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Zagster is one of the largest programs in the U.S., with more than 100 active programs currently in place.
  • Jump Bikes: This innovative system of dockless electric bikes was recently acquired by Uber.
  • Spin: Another dockless bikeshare system, Spin also launched an electric scooter-sharing program in recent months.
  • LimeBike: LimeBike is focused on creating a human-scale shared mobility fleet, including both traditional and electric bike options, e-scooters, and more.

The RideAmigos commuter management platform offers a wide range of features that can incorporate and complement bikeshare programs, making it an ideal tool for managing alternative commuting initiatives. RideAmigos works with employers, government agencies, educational institutions, and other organizations, and we’ve already played a leading role in the implementation of many successful commuter programs. If you’re looking for a for a toolkit to help manage emerging mobility options like bikeshares, fun challenges like National Bike Month, incentive programs, and more, get started with RideAmigos to find out what we can do for you.

8 Ways to Reduce Parking Demand and Traffic on Campus

Cars pose numerous challenges for colleges and universities. High volumes of vehicular traffic create congestion and negatively impact pedestrian safety. Demand for parking can be a costly headache for administrators, as increasing parking capacity is very costly and usually takes many years to recoup those expenses.

Given these issues, many educational institutions are looking for ways to cut traffic and reduce parking demand on campus. These eight strategies are known to have a positive impact, and are all well worth considering if you’re looking to encourage students, faculty, and staff to try alternative modes of commuting:

Switch to daily parking

One of the most effective, but also difficult, ways to influence parking demand is to allow commuters to only pay for parking on days they really need it. With monthly or annual parking passes, once commuters pay they may feel motivated to park more often because the cost has already been paid. When given the option to pay-as-needed instead, commuters might think twice before driving to campus.

Offer subsidized transit passes

Make buses, subways, and other local options more affordable and accessible to cash-strapped student populations by subsidizing monthly transit passes.

Create staggered class schedules

Avoid having everyone piling onto campus at the same time by staggering class schedules based on traffic flow patterns. It may help to analyze if there are certain types of classes that tend to have a higher proportion of off-campus students and prioritize scheduling those during different times of the day.

Offer creative alternatives.

At the University of New England, freshmen who pledge not to drive to campus receive 35 free hours of Zipcar service. Administrators report the strategy has been very effective. The University of Louisville offers a similar program where students can opt to forego parking permits to participate in an earn-a-bike program and access to a $400 bicycle voucher.

Add secure bike parking

Place bike racks around campus in high-visibility places, and protect them with features such as weatherproofing and security cameras. If people know secure bike parking is always available, they’re more likely to use it.

Create a campus-wide ridesharing community

Interactive digital ridesharing boards make it fast and easy for campus members to find a ride to or from campus anytime of day or night. These can also be expanded to include intercity rides on weekends and during school breaks, helping students break free of expensive solo driving habits.

Establish vanpool connections

Connect the campus to local public transportation hubs with a vanpool program. Such programs provide efficient, reliable, quick solutions to the so-called “last mile” problem.

Try a rewards program

At the University of Arizona, campus community members who choose smart commuting modes can earn points they can then redeem for a variety of rewards like FitBits, Beats headphones, and university gear. In addition, just for signing up for the program users are eligible for 5 free Emergency Ride Home vouchers.

RideAmigos is already helping many universities reduce parking demand on campus, cut traffic, and help fight congestion and pollution in their local communities. We’d love to help make you our next success story. Contact us today to get started.

Challenge Your Employees for Bike Month 2018

National Bike Month, an annual tradition since 1956, is coming up in May. Sponsored nationally by the League of American Bicyclists, the National Bike Month event is designed to promote the many health and environmental benefits of cycling.

Each year, employers play a major role in National Bike Month’s success. Thousands of employers across the country hold friendly competitions and challenges designed to get their commuters actively participating. If you’re thinking of hosting a National Bike Month commuting challenge this year, we have a few tips that can help you encourage more robust participation rates.

Create Team-Based Competitions with Attractive Prizes

This go-to strategy is a surefire way to get the whole company engaged. Divide your commuter base up into teams, in whatever way works. For example, you could draw names at random, allow teams to self-select, or have teams for each department (accounting, human resources, etc.). Then, track team-based standings based on the number of bike commutes logged, or the number of miles biked, or both! Offer a prize to the team that wins the competition at the end of the month — something that will motivate people to keep taking part.

Add Smaller Weekly Prizes for Ongoing Engagement

It can be tough to keep people engaged if one team pulls way ahead in the standings, or if luck of the draw leaves another team with little hope of winning the month-long challenge. To encourage continued participation, offer smaller weekly prizes to teams or individuals that log the most trips or miles in each given week.

Run Raffles to Encourage Everyone

A similar strategy that also works well is to run a raffle draw for smaller prizes, giving participants one entry per logged bike commute. The drawings can be held weekly, giving everyone an incentive to participate at least a little bit. Of course, this strategy also rewards those who cycle frequently with more chances to win the draw, which is also a great motivator.

As always, the RideAmigos team is here to help with tools and tips to increase the reach and impact of your commuter programs, during National Bike Month and throughout the year. Please get in touch if we can help.

 

6 Tips for Marketing Your Commuter Program

The success of a commuter program can often depend on reaching and engaging the right audience.

Depending on the target audience, organizations need to market and promote commuter programs in different ways. Government organizations may be looking to reach commuters directly, or to partner with local employers. Businesses are seeking to engage and motivate their own employees. Educational institutions want to spread the word among staff, faculty, and students.

Whichever scenario you are facing, you’ll need a tailored communications plan to connect with your target audience. To that end, here are six helpful tips that will help you market commuter programs more effectively:

  • Start with surveys. Commuter surveys are invaluable tools for understanding commuter behavior and preferences. They are essential in the planning stages of a campaign, especially for learning which alternative modes of transportation your commuter base would be most likely to try.
  • Emphasize benefits that matter to commuters. Surveys can also deliver valuable insights into what matters most to your target commuter base. You can use that information to design campaigns and marketing materials that emphasize benefits. For example, students might be looking to save money, so focusing on that interest might help you appeal to them.
  • Use simple graphics to create eye-catching, easy-to-understand pictorial representations. There are many free or inexpensive graphics platforms you can use to put together visuals that quickly and clearly express your program’s fundamentals. Try pairing graphics with relevant statistics to draw attention to a particular problem associated with commuting, or to illustrate a specific benefit you’re trying to achieve.
  • Create a strong, two-sentence summary for your program. When you market commuter programs, you’ve got to engage people in a simple and direct way. Have a clean, easily digestible, and compelling two-sentence summary of the program to add to your script anytime you talk about your efforts.
  • Make the most of existing communications channels. Before you try to create brand-new channels for communications, use ones that already exist. For instance, use recurring departmental or interdepartmental meetings as an opportunity to market commuter programs, or leverage employee newsletters, campus newspapers, or existing advertising networks to help get the word out.
  • Designate a “point person” to deliver your message. In large organizations, it’s better to designate a “point person” who can deliver your message directly to team members than it is for an anonymous, unconnected individual to reach out to the entire commuter base. Messages are more readily accepted when they’re delivered by someone you know, so try to get departmental or team-based reps involved in your program.

For more insight, check out this talk on marketing techniques from our CommuteCon 2017 event, or contact us to discuss your program. We’re here to help you deliver commuter programs that generate enthusiasm, high participation rates, and real results.