Telecommuting as Alternative Transportation

The smartest possible commute is no commute at all

When thinking about smart commuting, it’s natural to gravitate towards transportation alternatives that get people out of single-occupancy vehicles. Biking, ridesharing, public transit, vanpools … they all have big roles in play in the ongoing move towards congestion-busting, environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Yet, there’s one powerful concept that’s often overlooked: telecommuting.

Thanks to the rise and spread of connectivity technologies, more jobs than ever before can be done remotely. Employers that are hesitant to fully embrace telecommuting can still allow employees to work remotely on occasion. Even once-a-week telecommuting would result in an immediate 20 percent reduction in demand for parking, assuming all telecommuters would otherwise have used single-occupancy vehicles. As commuter management professionals know, that has the potential to translate into big savings for businesses.

Telecommuting: quantifying the potential benefits

Recent U.S. census figures show that only 2 percent of employees telecommute most of the time, even though 40 percent of all American workers have a job that could be done offsite at least some of the time. Kate Lister, author of the work-from-home guidebook Undress for Success, performed some detailed calculations that measure the unrealized financial and environmental benefits of telecommuting.

Lister’s inquiry considers what would happen if everyone with a telecommutable job worked from home for just half the time. Here’s what she found

  • Businesses could save $8,300 per employee per year in utility, absenteeism, turnover, and facility costs
  • The environment would be spared the detrimental effects of nearly 220 million barrels of oil
  • Employees could save as much as $10,500 per year, not including daycare costs or tax benefits available to those who work from home

These conclusions are echoed by a study conducted by TIAX, a Massachusetts-based technology development company, which found that the energy savings generated by telecommuting are equivalent to the total annual electricity consumption of 1 million American households. Moreover, current telecommuting rates have the same environmental impact as removing 2 million cars from the road. Imagine what would be possible if the number of telecommuters rose from 2 percent of the workforce to 10 percent, or even 20 percent…

At RideAmigos, we focus on empowering commuters to choose smarter, more environmentally responsible modes of transportation. Even so, we recognize that the most efficient trip is the one that’s never taken. Our industry-leading software platform features modules that can be configured to track telecommutes, too, enabling administrators to include working remotely as part of their incentive and challenge programs. To learn more, please contact us or sign up to view our free, comprehensive video demonstration.

Partner Highlight – SLOCOG

Here at RideAmigos we’re always excited to see how our organizations are making the most of our TDM platform. This month we’re featuring our partners at the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments – SLOCOG for short. One of SLOCOG’s major programs is the SLO Regional Rideshare.

Rideshare.org & iRideshare.org

The SLO Regional Rideshare breaks down a major barrier to smarter commuting by being very easy to find online. Rideshare.org is their primary homepage, full of information about their various TDM programs. Their partner site, iRideshare.org, is home to their local implementation of our RideAmigos ridesharing, route finding, and commute management software.

SLOCOG is a great example of providing relevant, behavior-changing programming through government-supported rideshare solutions.

Recently we had a chance to catch up with Peter Williamson, Employee Outreach Coordinator for SLOCOG’s rideshare programs, to learn about some of their successes. Here’s what we learned:

Back ‘N’ Forth Club

History

The Back ‘N’ Forth Club is SLOCOG’s program for employers to encourage and incentivize their employees to skip the solo drive and use smarter forms of transportation. Started in 2007-8, the Back ‘N’ Forth Club underwent a major expansion about 2 years ago when Peter began focusing on rideshare initiatives full-time. Over the years the Club has grown to support more employers and developed additional resources, tools, and structures of success.

One of the major evolutions of the Back ‘N’ Forth Club has been customizing their incentive plans to maximize benefits for employers. Since each employee base is unique, different employers often find different incentives work better than others. In addition to their in-house incentives, the Back ‘N’ Forth Club also works with employers to offer options like extra vacation days. Such perks may prove even more enticing than financial incentives to some employees. This collaborative approach has helped the Club stay clearly focused on finding out what employers want and need while supporting their goals and values.

Highlights

The most successful programs of the Back ‘N’ Forth Club center around creating competition and positive peer pressure using transportation challenges and incentives. Their campaigns like Bike Month and Rideshare Week push commuters to try new ways of getting to work, even if just for a day or two. The hope is always that by seeing how easy and fun smarter commute methods can be then people will be more likely to use them in the future. SLOCOG has found particular success with focusing on one-time events, like bike day or rideshare day. This is because committing to one day seems much less intimidating than a week or month.

SLOCOG’s experience proves the most effective way for getting employees to log trips is paid incentives from employers. The Back ‘N’ Forth Club provides their services to employers so they can offer incentives without adding internal overhead. As mentioned earlier, they’ve had great success expanding their incentives to include additional perks unique to particular employers. Currently they have approximately 45 employers involved and around a thousand active users on their iRideshare platform.

Future

SLOCOG’s next big TDM program will be Rideshare Week 2016. Coming up in October, Rideshare Week will challenge employees to pledge to ride share for a specific number of days that week. Education and personal presence is a big part of this program’s success. Peter will be on site with various employers throughout the week. His focus will be having one-on-one conversations with employees about ridesharing. It’s a great opportunity to encourage commuters to use iRideshare to their fullest advantage.

A particularly exciting collaboration that is in the works is with BoltAbout electric bicycle rentals. Electric bicycles are a great way to get more people interested in biking, but their initial cost is intimidating. By offering e-bikes for rent, BoltAbout aims to change that. Through partnering with BoltAbout, SLOCOG hopes to offer e-bikes as another mode option for smart commuters.

The final big project that has Peter excited is the brand new Downtown SLO program. Since existing SLOCOG employer programs are aimed primarily at companies of a particular size or larger, Downtown SLO serves as a targeted program for downtown San Luis Obispo. This creates a new option for employees and owners of small businesses to participate in the Back N Forth club more easily. Reaching out to small, downtown businesses has the potential to create an even greater impact in an area where larger employers have already found success.

 

We at RideAmigos applaud Peter and the whole SLOCOG crew for all of the success they’re seeing in their TDM initiatives!

 

If you’re interested in finding out how RideAmigos can help increase participation and impact for your organization’s transportation demand management programs, contact us today.

What are Vanpools?

Vanpools are quickly emerging as a popular form of smarter commuting.

The vanpooling phenomenon is continuing to gain momentum, especially in major cities with a dense concentration of commuters. As a solution to helping people skip the solo drive, vanpools are a relatively new entry in the smart commuting lexicon. Therefore, people often have questions about what they are and how they work. We’re here to help!

Vanpool essentials:

  • Vanpools are made up of a group of commuters traveling from one or more origination points to a shared destination.
  • Most vanpools include between about 7 and 15 people.
  • Vanpools typically have one or two pickup locations, which frequently include designated transit stations or park-and-ride commuter lots.
  • At the end of the work day, vanpools provide return transportation to the original pickup location(s). From there, commuters can then make their way home.

Vanpools can be used just about anywhere, but they tend to be most effective in areas where long-distance commutes are common and public transit options are limited. They’re also an excellent option for companies located in remote or outlying areas that are only accessible by privately operated vehicles. Providing vanpool service to and from such locations helps these businesses attract and retain employees while making the daily commute easier and more manageable for employees.

Commuters and employers enjoy many benefits by using vanpools:

  • Cost savings and reduced wear and tear on privately owned vehicles.
  • Reduced commuting time.
  • The ability to talk, eat, read, work, or rest during the journey.
  • Reduced on-site parking requirements and associated cost savings.
  • Improved employee job satisfaction and productivity.

Use dynamic new technologies to make the best use of local smart commuting resources.

Employers typically administer vanpools themselves or contract with a service provider. Some have a high level of involvement, actively promoting vanpooling as a preferred commuting option. Meanwhile, others simply offer them as an alternative to interested employees. Regardless of how involved a given employer is in a particular vanpooling program, commuter management software like RideAmigos can provide convenient, effective, and easy-to-use management capabilities.

The RideAmigos transportation demand management platform offers extensive support for enterprises that offer vanpooling Vanpool support works seamlessly alongside many other features that are helping transform the way we access and use urban transportation. You can use our platform to create a new vanpool group, connect riders, track usage and stats, plan routes, and much more.

Contact us today to get started, or sign up to view our free video demo.

Photo Credit: UCLA Transportation

Do EVs really count as alternative transportation?

Should electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles qualify as an alternative method of transportation?

One of the most common ways in which government agencies and transportation management authorities try to get people thinking about and using smarter forms of transportation is to sponsor “alternative commuting” challenges. When planning such initiatives, the question of what exactly qualifies as an “alternative” method of transportation frequently arises. One of the most spirited debates revolves around electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Electric vehicles (EVs) and their plug-in hybrid counterparts are fast becoming very popular with people that want to commute smarter and reduce the environmental impact of their transportation choices. But do they truly qualify as “alternative methods of transportation?”

There are numerous factors to consider when deciding whether or not to count them on a list of approved transportation options when creating commuter challenge programs. Here are some EV features that suggest they make valid inclusions:

  • EVs do not create any tailpipe emissions and as such, their CO2 profiles are negligible
  • Gasoline-electric hybrids create far fewer emissions than gasoline-only vehicles while enjoying far superior fuel efficiency rates
  • Many municipalities extend high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access to EVs and gasoline-electric hybrids as a way of rewarding motorists who make more environmentally friendly transportation choices

Meanwhile, here are some characteristics that might convince some program designers to leave them off the list of approved alternatives:

  • Though they are highly energy efficient, single-occupancy EVs and plug-in hybrids still take up just as much road and parking space as other automobiles
  • EVs and plug-in hybrids aren’t as immediately accessible to commuters who want to participate in challenges, given that they require a major up-front investment that many people simply aren’t able to make
  • Charging facilities remain relatively rare, which can create logistical challenges for commuters if your workplace facilities can’t accommodate EV recharging needs

Take all these factors into consideration when configuring your program, and remember: the primary objective of a commuter program is more about making a positive impact than about who uses what alternative mode.

For governments and TMAs, the end goal is to get people to think critically about their transportation choices.

While the debate about whether to count EVs and plug-in hybrids continues, it’s important for program developers to remember that alternatives like walking, biking, carpooling, and ridesharing are likely to be much more popular and accessible to participants. The goal of such initiatives is to encourage people to think differently about their transportation choices, and that objective should always remain front and center.

If solo EV and plug-in hybrid drivers are asking to be included in a city-wide or regional alternative commuting challenge that promotes sustainable travel options, remember to consider all the factors in play when making such a decision and be ready to educate your users about your reasoning. You can explain the reasons behind your choices and policies in official press released and promotional materials distributed to participants in advance of the challenge’s official launch. It’s also a good idea to invite participants to offer comments and feedback so those taking part in the challenge feel like their voices are being heard.

Products like the RideAmigos TDM software platform power the technical management of alternative commuting challenges and initiatives. Offering a complete suite of trip planning, data management, analytics, incentivization, and challenge tracking features, RideAmigos has become an essential part of the TDM strategies of municipalities and governments across the United States and around the world.

RideAmigos is a leading smart mobility company based in Santa Monica, California. To learn more about our industry-leading platform or our full suite of commuter management services, please contact us or sign up to view our free, comprehensive video demonstration.

Photo by Jason Cartwright [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3 Impressive Executives Leading the Way to Smarter Commuting

Join these high-profile organizational leaders in inspiring people to change how they commute

Leading by example is one of the most effective ways to encourage organizational change. An increasing number of executives are doing exactly that when it comes to smarter commuting. Here’s a look at three people in leadership positions who are choosing enjoyable, environmentally friendly ways of getting to work:

Alan Elser
CFO, GM Nameplate

Despite a notoriously rainy climate, a growing number of Seattle commuters are choosing to bike to work throughout the year. Among them is Alan Elser, the chief financial officer of GM Nameplate, a leading supplier of custom-manufactured industrial goods
In 2013, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Elser bikes to work three times a week. The 24-mile journey between GM Nameplate’s Seattle headquarters and his May Valley-area home is undaunting for Elser. “Riding in in the morning is a great way to wake up and plan your day,” Elser said in an interview. “Riding home is a chance to decompress.”

Jennifer Welch
Managing Deputy Commissioner,
Chicago Department of Family and Support Services

She may have a much shorter commute than Elser, but Jennifer Welch bikes to work and back all year round, despite during Chicago’s notoriously cold and snowy winters. Her four-mile commute takes her from Logan Square toward the center of the city. Even when Chicago was hammered by the “Snowmaggedon” blizzard in the winter of 2011, Welch bundled up and biked to her job at the Department of Family and Support Services. Even more, her blizzard bike commute included a trip to the city’s 911 center to attend to a staffing emergency.

Christopher Eisgruber
President, Princeton University

The Princeton University president has emerged as a strong voice in the local call for better biking infrastructure. Traffic congestion makes cycling to Princeton’s campus challenging. But, thanks to a vocal advocacy campaign, the city of Princeton seems to be moving towards becoming more bike-friendly. Eisgruber says he cycles to work as often as possible, and hopes that the city will do its part to encourage others to join him.

RideAmigos salutes these and the many other business, education and government leaders who are leaving their cars behind more often. If you’re part of an organization that’s committed to helping commuters make smarter choices, be sure to check out our comprehensive TDM software toolkit. We deliver powerful solutions for ridesharing, trip planning, incentives, and data analysis.  Transforming how your organization commutes can have a major positive impact on your bottom line. Contact us to schedule your personal demonstration.

The Benefits of a Guaranteed Ride Home

What is a Guaranteed Ride Home program?

Imagine these scenarios: an employee who commutes by bike is about to head home when an unexpected thunderstorm hits. Or, a public transit commuter has to suddenly rush home to pick up a sick child from school. A Guaranteed Ride Home program comes through by providing quick, reliable transportation when it’s needed most.

A Guaranteed Ride Home program (sometimes called an Emergency Ride Home program) is a common feature of workplaces that encourage commuters to use means other than than single occupant vehicles. While the specifics of each program vary from company to company, they generally follow this type of structure:

  • The program is open to employees that regularly use alternative means of transportation during their commutes
  • “Alternative means of transportation” can include cycling, walking, public transit or any other approved mode
  • Employees that use these modes for commuting at least two to three times per week qualify for the program
  • Qualified employees can get a free ride home a specified number of times per year if an emergency situation arises

Guaranteed Ride Home programs encourage alternative transportation use

The key benefit of setting up an Emergency/Guaranteed Ride Home program is that it makes it commuters more likely to use alternative transportation. If people know they have a reliable ride home in an emergency, they’re more likely to skip the solo drive.

The RideAmigos platform offers extensive technical support to workplace managers who want to create Guaranteed Ride Home programs. Creating and managing such a program is quick and easy, thanks to our comprehensive toolkit.

Here’s an example of how simple it is to set up and manage a ride home program using RideAmigos:

  • Create a specific private network that will be limited to employees who are eligible to participate in the program.
  • Attach any necessary descriptions to each user in the system, or send a message to qualified users to let them know they’re in the program.
  • Use the platform’s survey tool to collect information from participants, as needed.
  • Add new members manually, or by sending “join us” links to qualified employees.
  • Create a points program to manage the redemption of rides by employees who qualify.
  • Add the ride home vouchers as inventory items; they will be managed and distributed automatically by the platform.

You can view more details and specifics by visiting the RideAmigos Academy help page on Guaranteed Ride Home programs.

Using Data Instead of Appearances

Bike lanes: a case study in the difference between appearance and reality

Bike lanes are built at a significant cost to taxpayers, and when they appear to be underutilized, municipal governments can be pressured to abandon projects that would otherwise have resulted in massive city-wide improvements in cycling infrastructure. However, there’s a school of thought that suggests the apparent usage and effectiveness of bike lanes is easily misinterpreted. To the casual observer, bike lanes often appear to be underused when, in fact, they may not be.

Density is one of the key metrics that tracks bike lane usage patterns, and it’s a tricky one because appearances can be very deceiving. Consider, for example, a road with a traffic lane and a parallel lane dedicated for use by cyclists.

The traffic lane, due to traffic signals and the high volume of cars on the road, is moving at an average speed of 5 mph during rush hour. With a flow of 500 vehicles per hour, traffic would be approaching the density of a traffic jam — making it appear as though the road was in very high demand for use by vehicles.

Next, assume an identical flow of 500 vehicles per hour in the adjoining bike lane. Because these bikes are traveling at higher speeds than the cars on the road next to them, bicycle traffic is circulating at a much more fluid rate. Bikes are smaller, with more space between them, which exaggerates the impression that the traffic load is imbalanced.

To the driver stuck in gridlock, it appears as though the bike lane isn’t experiencing nearly as much demand because their lane is full and the bike lane has much more open space. The driver then promptly calls his or her city councilor to complain about the wasted road space upon returning home.

Real data generates more reliable insights than anecdotal observations

While the aforementioned scenario may seem oversimplified, the reality is that municipal governments use this kind of anecdotal evidence to inform their policy decisions all the time. Their thinking is that if enough people are complaining about a problem — in this case, that bike lanes are underused — there must be some truth to the issue.

This is a perfect example of how tools like the RideAmigos software platform can help municipalities make more effective infrastructure decisions. As riders log their bicycle trips they provide system administrators comprehensive collections of hard data, which can be analyzed and sorted into customizable reports that deliver reliable, fact-based insights into actual traffic and commuting patterns. This, in turn, informs better and more equitable policy decisions that benefit the entire community. Sign up now to view a comprehensive demonstration of our platform’s transformative power.

Check out this source for a more in-depth mathematical analysis of this effect:
On Why Bike Lanes Might Appear Underutilized | Transportationist

Overcoming Congestion By Empowering Commuters

All too often, conventional approaches to fighting traffic congestion amount to little more than wasted taxpayer money.

To the growing frustration of many taxpayers, municipalities and government agencies around the country are throwing money at inefficient ways to relieve the ever-present problem of traffic congestion. Consider the following examples:

  • Colorado’s state government recently proposed a $1.2 billion plan to widen the I-70 freeway in Denver
  • The city of Louisville, Kentucky is bankrolling the expansion of the I-71 freeway from four lanes to six
  • The state of Iowa wants to broaden U.S. Highway 20 up to four lanes to accommodate the growing demands of car-based travel
  • Alabama’s state government supports to widen the I-20/59 freeway — a highway that runs right through Birmingham’s city center

While they may provide the illusion of relief over the short term, these approaches amount to more pollution, more concrete, more construction and more problems in the future. They aren’t effectively addressing the root causes of gridlock and traffic-generated pollution; they’re simply masking the issue. We need commuters to think differently about their transportation options.

Planning for a better future can’t be done by catering to the needs of single-occupancy vehicles. Rather, governments must find ways to inspire commuters and travelers to make better use of alternatives like biking, walking, ridesharing, carpooling, vanpooling and public transit. How? By putting a new generation of powerful transportation planning tools into the hands of an increasingly larger base of users.

At RideAmigos, we’ve created a smarter way forward in the form of our critically-acclaimed transportation demand management software platform. It enables municipalities and governments to strategize and promote alternatives that generate meaningful results by transforming the ways people think about getting from point A to B.

Empowering commuters to make fully-informed transportation decisions is our specialty at RideAmigos. We provide end users with innovative and easy-to-use tools like an interactive commuter dashboard and multimodal trip planner to consider the wide array of options beyond single-occupancy vehicles.

A small investment in technology can pay big dividends and facilitate more effective allocation of limited resources.

Our user-focused software has been proven time and time again to reduce reliance on single-occupancy vehicles and make alternative options more accessible and more convenient than ever before. Effective solutions to traffic congestion happen when municipalities and governments take decisive steps to make it easier for people to leave their cars at home, and that’s the power of the RideAmigos platform.

Make better use of taxpayer dollars and be part of the solution rather than just sweeping the problem under the rug of a widened freeway. Contact RideAmigos today for an informative, eye-opening demonstration of the incredible power of our unique technology.

Transit Shutdown

Transit shutdowns in metro areas can wreak havoc on commuters. How would you deal with it?

The subway system in Washington, DC recently went through an emergency one-day shutdown as the result of electrical problems. In deciding to implement the service interruption, Washington Metro’s general manager said that crew members had identified 26 locations throughout the subway system where electrical cables and electrical boots had been damaged, necessitating immediate repair. The ensuing transit shutdown lasted an entire day, creating a nightmare for the tens of thousands of people who rely on the city’s public transportation system to get around.

While such measures are occasionally necessary to protect passenger safety, they also pose major problems. Many people don’t have a viable alternative to public transportation. In many cases that’s because they simply aren’t aware of the available options. Ride-sharing programs, carpools, vanpools and cycling routes are among the choices available every day to Washington, DC residents, but a lot of people don’t know how to access them or get the information they need to take advantage of them.

This is a clear example of a situation where the RideAmigos platform could literally have saved the day for thousands of stranded commuters.

The RideAmigos platform is the perfect solution for urban travelers who need to find alternatives to their usual ways of getting around.

Our innovative platform is designed to connect people to a complete network of local transportation options, including everything from conventional offerings like public transit and walking or cycling to new developments such as ride-sharing and vanpooling. With a multimodal trip planner, users can plot their courses from A to B in seconds, using their choice of all available modes of transportation. The entire subway is going to be shut down for a day? No problem! Simply use the RideAmigos platform to find a better way to get around without the need for single-passenger vehicles.

The RideAmigos platform has been adopted by municipalities and governments across the United States and around the world, with clients raving about the positive changes it’s brought to their communities and organizations. Experts have noted that in the future, it won’t be modes of transportation that change, but rather the way people access and use those modes of transportation. Our goal is to enact that change and all the benefits that come with it, including stronger communities, reduced congestion, and less pollution.

To learn more, view this comprehensive demo that shows how our unique platform works.

Encouraging Government Collaboration

Governments should collaborate and work together, rather than alone, to find effective transportation management solutions.

To truly change the way people commute and move around urban areas, it is absolutely necessary for government agencies to form partnerships and engage in collaborative efforts. Government collaboration leads to proven benefits, including increases in both the quality and the quantity of available data, heightened user and community engagement, and a big boost to the pool of resources on hand.

Progress can’t be made in a bubble, and the effects of positive change are stifled when they’re limited to isolated communities and confined geographic areas. In an age ruled by information, there’s no reason for governments to take a limited view when collaboration and collective approaches to implementing improvements are so much easier than they were in the past.

In some cases, the willingness to collaborate is there but the actual tools governments need to foster deeper levels of cooperation are not. To that end, here are some key ways government agencies can work together to build a better transportation management system:

  • Share overlapping sets of data. Shared databases that allow users cross-county access to information make for excellent commute planning tools. Local governments can also share trip logs, trip reports and user-generated data to uncover the key insights that lead to progressive and effective policy changes.
  • Leverage collective changes across public and private sectors. When the public and private sectors work together to find dynamic new solutions, everyone wins. Municipalities and local governments save money, boost economic growth and cut down on traffic congestion, and businesses build more productive, more efficient and more satisfying workforces.
  • Help local companies implement smarter commuting policies. If companies have multiple offices or locations that cross county lines or other geographic boundaries, governments that don’t collaborate to facilitate change are working against the economic and environmental good. Instead, work together to help companies with multiple locations plan more intelligently and offer their employees a better way to get around.
  • Copy what works. If your neighbor has introduced a change that’s generating positive results, just take what they’ve done and do it yourself! When solutions are proven to work, it’s easier to get community members and stakeholders on board, and that will ultimately be better for everyone.

Collaboration promotes goodwill between communities while maximizing the reach of taxpayer monies. Think “we,” not “us,” and get on the road to a better way of living that benefits everyone.

RideAmigos actively supports collaboration between government agencies and other clients through our innovative academy site, where users can learn from the ideas and successes of colleagues around the world.

To learn more about how we can meet your transportation management needs, please take a look at our video demo.