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Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Takes Commuter Rewards to the Next Level

In December 2018, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) launched a new commuter rewards program to the public. The CATS program allows commuters to earn points towards valuable rewards by logging smart commutes using approved alternatives to solo driving. CATS configured the system so that 10 round trips logged using approved modes could earn the commuter a $5 reward.

Just 10 days after launching, the CATS commuter rewards program attracted almost 200 new users, marking a 500% increase in registered users over the preceding three-month period. Over those 10 days, participants posted some pretty impressive stats: they logged 1,200 alternative trips totaling 14,900 miles, which saved 3.83 tons of CO2 emissions.

CATS program administrators used a few targeted approaches to generate interest in the program. First, they enticed new users by offering bonus points for joining, putting them within striking distance of a prize right off the bat. They also structured their program to include progressive reward tiers, giving participants added incentives for logging more trips and saving their points for a truly special prize. The resulting engagement and impact speaks for itself!

Learning from Programs that Work

The CATS program is powered by CommuteRewards, part of the RideAmigos cloud-based platform that automates the kinds of proven points programs that have worked for innovative employers like the City of Austin and regional agencies like Commute.org.

Key advantages of the CommuteRewards program:

  • Easy management. By taking advantage of automation, the program eliminated the need to worry about how many rewards to purchase from each vendor at any given time. Instead, they simply define a budget and set point values. Earning and redeeming points is self-service!
  • Tons of choice. Because more than 100 different rewards providers participate, there is no guessing which vendors commuters will like best. Everyone is different, so the program lets them choose their own rewards from a wide variety of retailers and restaurants.
  • Streamlined administration. The CommuteRewards store is configured for easy administration, so you don’t have to keep track of digital codes, leftover gift cards from previous events, or other similar management and reporting headaches.

Commuter rewards are generally a great way to motivate employees to make better and more frequent use of greener, smarter alternatives. A growing number of companies and organizations are turning to this strategy to complement their outreach and commuter challenges and promote sustained behavior change. If you’d like to learn more, we’d be happy to help!

3 Hospital Commuter Solutions that Reduce Solo Car Commutes and Save Money

Looking to reduce vehicle trips to and around your hospital? Transportation demand management (TDM) is a great way to improve access, reduce pollution, and ease the costs associated with increased parking. Implementing some simple but effective hospital commuter solutions can measurable reduce the number of solo drivers traveling to and from your facility each day.

Here are three winning strategies that healthcare administrators around the country are already using to great success:

Pay employees to leave their cars at home

Regardless of the type of workplace, employers have great success with a simple but effective program: incentivize employees not to drive to work. The most successful employers offer cash in exchange for taking an alternative mode and passing up on parking. From payroll incentives to gift cards, and even paid time off, the right incentives lead to significant numbers of employees choosing  smart alternatives to solo driving.

Raise the cost of parking

Another straightforward, high-impact strategy for the hospital mobility ecosystem: make it more expensive for employees to park. For example, if you currently offer employees a discounted monthly parking pass, instead charge solo drivers regular daily parking rates.

This is a very effective strategy, but to avoid a mutiny, you need to pair this kind of initiative with hospital commuter solutions that make it less expensive for employees to use other modes. Rideshare matching paired with a guaranteed ride home programs is a great option, as is public transportation. To that end:

Your hospital commuter solutions should encourage public transit use

Hospitals are usually situated so they’re easily accessible via public transportation. Take advantage of this by offering to subsidize or fully fund monthly transit passes so your commuters can save money by taking the bus or subway to work instead of driving.

If local transit routes don’t serve your hospital particularly well, consider shuttle service as an option. Running private shuttles between the hospital and major public transportation hubs in the nearby area is a cost-effective and easy way to bridge service gaps.

For more tips on reducing solo car commuting, and for expert insights into your current lineup of hospital commuter solutions, talk to our experts to get started with RideAmigos today.

Need to Recruit and Retain Top Talent? Don’t Ignore the Commute.

Employee commuter options are becoming increasingly important to members of the modern workforce.

For employers, the task to attract and retain the best available talent is becoming more and more complex. Members of the Millennial generation will make up three quarters of the workforce by 2025. So-called Generation Z is also entering the workforce in large numbers. Research consistently shows that these new workers hold a distinct set of values when it comes to what they look for in a job.

When it comes to choosing where to work, the new wave of professionals are interested in more than just money. They place high importance on achieving a positive work-life balance. They also strongly prefer organizations whose principles align with their own. For many workers, these principles include social and environmental responsibility. Millennials are particularly aware of ecological issues, and as such, they tend to take a positive view of organizations that are taking proactive steps to reduce their carbon footprints.

This growing trend extends beyond younger workers. A 2018 LinkedIn survey found that a whopping 85% of respondents said they would take a pay cut if it meant having a shorter daily commute. Job seekers are making increased use of tools that allow them to search for job opportunities that lie within their acceptable commuting time or distance range. These are clear signs that workers across age groups and demographics take the commute into consideration when weighing job offers. As an employer, looking to attract and retain top candidates, you can differentiate your organization by implementing programs to make life easier for commuters. Helping employees achieve a better balance between their work and off-the-clock lives are more productive and less likely to leave.

To that end, let’s take a look at some key employee commuter options that can give your organization a competitive edge.

Launch a commuter benefits program

Supporting commuters with a well-designed commuter benefits program is the single most effective measure your organization can take. These programs come in many forms and draw on a wide range of incentives and strategies to broaden their appeal. In general, the most effective strategies deliver meaningful rewards to commuters in a relatively compact time frame. This provides fast gratification while encouraging participants to adopt and maintain positive behavior changes.

One increasingly popular strategy is the points program. Points programs let commuters earn points when they track or log trips using a smart alternative to solo driving. They can redeem the points as they accrue over time for valuable rewards. City officials in Austin, Texas achieved high levels of participation when they introduced an innovative points program allowing municipal employees to cash in their points for paid time off – a highly meaningful reward. With that in mind, you should choose the rewards that appeal to your diverse workforce to help drive higher participation rates. Examples of possible benefits include:

  • Gift cards for online or local retailers
  • Tickets to sports or other events
  • Charitable contributions
  • Preferred parking
  • Vouchers for mobility service providers

In addition to incentive programs, you can also offer a range of other attractive commuter benefits, including:

Employers get the best results when they combine these offerings. So, instead of just setting up a points program, combine the points strategy with a few of the other options mentioned above to create a flexible program with wide appeal.

Offer flexible employee commuter options

In addition to commuter programs, employers can also appeal to job seekers by creating flexible options such as telecommuting and secure bicycle storage. Communications technology is making remote work a viable alternative in a growing number of jobs. Employers that continue to enforce rigid on-site participation policies increasingly risk losing their access to top talent.

While  biking to work is not always a faster option than driving, it can reduce stress and contribute to a healthier, happier workforce. Simple things like secure bike storage, shower access, and lockers to encourage cyclists can choose to leave their cars at home more often.

Learn from the mistakes and successes of others

Organizations that haven’t adapted to the changing workforce and mobility landscape are facing increasing negative productivity and recruiting impacts. Many are experiencing higher rates of lateness and absenteeism, lower employee engagement, and higher turnover. Furthermore, failure to adapt can negatively affect your employer brand, making it even harder to recruit and retain quality candidates.

RideAmigos helps businesses of all sizes implement more effective employee commuter options.

RideAmigos’ cloud-based platform and native mobile apps offer features that make it easy for organizations to manage commuter programs and simplify access to smart transportation alternatives. Our industry-leading transportation demand management (TDM) tools work for businesses of all sizes. Let us show you how commuter benefits can help build your employer brand while promoting better health, decreased traffic, and sustainability.

Get started today to learn how RideAmigos supports a complete range of appealing and successful employee commuter programs.

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!

Tips to Jump-Start Your Commuter Program This Winter

These proven commuter program tips drive higher participation rates

A growing number of businesses and organizations are being proactive about encouraging commuters to try smarter ways to get to work. Given the increased effort on this front, there is also a growing number of success stories that offer valuable lessons to those seeking to launch commuter programs of their own.

Winter is a great time to launch a commuter program, as they offer a fun way to beat the doldrums and keep employees engaged. If you’re going to be launching a program for the first time, or if you’re looking for ways to make your existing efforts more successful, these proven commuter program tips will give you a big boost:

  • Start with a strategy. Begin by looking at your facilities and the commuter base within your organization, and figure out exactly what kind of change you want to drive. Are you struggling with limited parking? If so, you’ll want to encourage ridesharing. Is your place of business located on a major public transit route? Then try to get people using the bus or subway.
  • Use benefits and incentives to drive participation. Here’s one of the most important commuter program tips you’ll ever learn: people are more likely to get involved if they benefit in some way by participating. Turn your commuter program into a game with prizes for teams who log the most trips or miles, or offer incentives to those who reach specific smart commuting thresholds. Parking cash-outs, tax incentive programs, and earn-a-bike programs are all proven ways to drum up greater levels of participation.
  • Use surveys to generate insights. Inform your strategic planning by distributing surveys that ask commuters about their transportation habits. Figure out how many people commute to work, how far their commutes are, how much money they spend on commuting each month, and which alternative methods they would be most likely to try. You can also ask about factors that might prevent them from participating in a commuter program so you can further tailor your efforts to preemptively address their concerns.
  • Track your results. By keeping close tabs on the statistical results of your efforts, you’ll generate important insights into what worked and what could be improved on next time around.

With an industry-leading suite of commuter management software tools that supports these and many other functions, RideAmigos is here to help make your commuter program a smashing success. Get started today!

3 Ways to Improve University Ridesharing

Improve university ridesharing programs to cut costs and control demand for limited parking.

America’s colleges are booming. Over the past five years, enrollment rates have spiked by 17 percent. While that’s great for the state of higher education in the country, it also creates challenges for administrators. More growth generally means more cars, and finding places to put those cars can be difficult and expensive. Schools that improve university ridesharing programs can alleviate these issues, cutting costs along the way.

University ridesharing programs have emerged as a dynamic, environmentally friendly solution to parking reduction. Campus-wide initiatives that are accessible to students, faculty, and staff cast a wide net, giving community members flexible options for traveling to and from campus at practically any time of day or night.

Successful university ridesharing programs usually have three key strategies in common:

  • Education. People may be reluctant to share rides with strangers, or have the impression that ridesharing isn’t as convenient as other options. University ridesharing programs can be configured to limit matches to user networks or specific departments, and users can make regular or occasional use of other accessible options including transit or vanpool services.
  • Direct appeal. Use commuter surveys to glean insights into community-specific commuter behaviors, then custom-craft a strategy that best meets the needs of end users. Communicate and advertise this strategy over multiple channels, including on-campus publicity such as banners, posters, and signage, email, and social media.
  • Incentives. Games and incentive programs are proven ways to boost participation rates. Give commuters another good reason to take part by offering prizes and other perks to those who make the best use of available services.

Some schools, like the University of Louisville, go a step further by sponsoring innovative earn-a-bike programs. These programs offer bike vouchers to community members who willingly give up their assigned parking privileges, and they’re a great way to promote a healthier, more active community while reducing demand for limited parking.

Learn more about how ridesharing can help you manage university parking and traffic by downloading our free PDF resource guide for university administrators and transportation managers.

Rideshare Month Ideas

Use these Rideshare Month ideas to get people excited about trying smart commuting options

Rideshare Month is an increasingly popular way for regions, businesses and organizations to encourage commuters to give smart commuting alternatives a try. Like National Bike Month, Rideshare Month is built on awareness campaigns and friendly commuter challenges designed to get people excited about taking part.

Rideshare/Carpool Month (or Week) is most often observed in October within the US and during February in Canada. Start planning now for a successful program!

Effective Rideshare Month ideas engage commuters in creative ways, drumming up interest in your initiatives and getting more people on board. If you’re looking to get started, here are some popular approaches that have proven track records of success

Team Challenges

Use team challenges to get people to take part in numbers. Encourage carpoolers to register as teams and engage in friendly competition to see which team can log the most commutes (and/or the most miles) over the course of the month. Top-performing teams can qualify for prizes.

Social Media

Harness the power of social media, much like the Region of Waterloo, a RideAmigos partner, recently did to great success:

 

Pledges

Get rideshare pledges to commit early. Pledge programs engage individuals who want to take part by getting them to promise to carpool a set number of days over the course of Rideshare Month. Reward your pledges by giving fantastic prizes to those who meet their commitments, or with special prizes for those who carpool for a certain number of days. 

Point Programs

Create a point program. Allow commuters who carpool to accumulate points every time they log a smart commute. You can even extend this strategy into other smart commuting modes, like cycling and public transit, allowing participants to earn bonus points. Once a certain point thresholds have been reached, participants can cash in their points for rewards. Check out Commute.org’s STAR store as an example:

Use the Right Tools

If you’re planning to launch or run a carpool-focused initiative, be sure you’ve got a comprehensive set of Rideshare Month tools to put your ideas into action and maximize your impact. Surveys, ridematching software, gamification platforms and other tools can make the difference between a ho-hum program and a movement that inspires lasting behavior change.

Incentives for Bike Commuting

Organizations that offer bike commuting incentives have a better track record of getting people to make the switch

A lot of people are theoretically open to making the switch to bicycle commuting, yet hesitate to actually make the jump or don’t stick with it for the long term. It’s a problem that many businesses and organizations have faced when trying to promote active, healthier and more ecologically responsible commuting alternatives.

One constant that’s emerged from creative thinking and a great deal of trial and error is that people are more likely to make the switch if you give them a compelling reason to do it. This strategy of providing bike commuting incentives can take many forms:

Competitive challenges

Some people just need to have their competitive spirit awakened, and creating a friendly but competitive bike challenge program is often enough to get commuters excited. Individuals and teams can vie to log the greatest number of bicycle commutes or the greatest total distance covered over a set period of time, with winners becoming eligible for prizes (and bragging rights!).

Points programs

Reward would-be drivers every time they commute by bike instead by awarding points for each vehicle commute saved. After reaching a certain threshold, the points can then be redeemed for prizes or other perks that might motivate your team members.

Raffles

This approach is similar to points programs, but instead of awarding points, they give commuters an entry in a prize draw for each bicycle commute they log. The bigger the prize, the more enthusiastic people will be.

Earn-a-bike initiatives

Numerous organizations have used this approach to great success. Earn-a-bike programs allow commuters to effectively trade their parking privileges for a bike. Check the Sonos earn-a-bike program for a great example of a strategy that worked very well.

If you need ideas for raffle, points program and competitive challenge prizes, here are some popular options:

  • Bikes or bike accessories (locks, helmets, reflective jerseys, etc.)
  • Vouchers or gift cards redeemable at local bike shops
  • Physical or digital-download gift cards to local malls, restaurants, or retailers
  • Event tickets (sports, movies, etc.)
  • Extra paid time off
  • Cash bonuses
  • Transit passes
  • Rideshare credits to services like Uber and Lyft

The RideAmigos team has great insights to share if you’re looking to create a bike commuting incentives program, and the RideAmigos platform is the ideal tool for shifting commuter behavior. Get started with RideAmigos today to learn more.

Commuter Tax Subsidies and Vanpools

New commuter benefits programs can generate major tax savings for both individuals and businesses.

In 2015, the federal government updated its tax codes, increasing the amount of monthly pre-tax income that can be put toward qualified commuting expenses. Under the new laws, commuters can use up to $255 per month in pre-tax income to cover parking costs, use of public transit, and vanpool fares.

This commuter benefits tax program takes advantage of a proven transportation demand management strategy: people are more likely to adopt positive behavior changes if they are financially rewarded for doing so. Under the new tax laws, commuters are eligible for reductions of as much as $3,060 in taxable income. Businesses also reduce their payroll tax liabilities by reducing the total amount of taxable income paid out each month. This adds up to some major savings, especially for those who max out their eligibility year in and year out.

Even better, there’s another angle for businesses to consider. Companies that run vanpools as part of their enterprise rideshare programs have the option of shouldering the cost of the service themselves, which creates some added flexibility.

Vanpool enterprise rideshare solutions qualify for commuter tax benefits programs, and can be applied in multiple ways.

The general gist of this alternate strategy is fairly simple: instead of deducting vanpool fees from employees’ pre-tax income, companies can instead pay for the vanpools themselves, then make the corresponding adjustments to the base pay of employees that use the service.

While it might seem counterintuitive to spin a reduction in an employee’s base pay rate as a financial incentive, this option actually offers some advantages over the standard way of doing things. Thus far, most companies have had employees pay out-of-pocket for access to enterprise rideshare services, then claim the commuter benefits on their tax returns.

By contrast, the base pay reduction method eliminates the need for employees to track their vanpool expenditures and complicate their tax returns, making it a simpler and more accessible option. Regardless of which method you use, the bottom-line benefits are the same, for both employees and businesses.

The RideAmigos software platform is a valuable addition to any enterprise rideshare program. To learn more about how it can benefit your business, get started with RideAmigos today.

(Photo Credit: Oran Viriyincy)

Top Incentives to Increase Ridesharing (Infographic)

Wondering how to increase ridesharing among employees?

Create incentive programs that turn negatives into positives:

How to Use Smart Incentives to Increase Ridesharing Infographic

One of the best ways to increase ridesharing is by creating incentives that neutralize the commonly cited reasons why people avoid carpooling in the first place.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, only 9.4% of commuters use carpools to get to work. While one can hope that figure has come up a bit in the years since comprehensive federal data was last published, there’s little doubt that ridesharing still has vast untapped potential.

A poll performed by ABC News showed that while 20% of commuters were interested in sharing rides, 51% of commuters say they think carpooling would be “inconvenient,” 18% of respondents said they don’t take part in rideshare programs because they “don’t know anyone to carpool with,” and 11% cited issues related to scheduling and needing to rely on others.

Incentive programs that turn these negatives into positives have a great chance of success. Here are some tips for creating rideshare programs built on the very principles that supposedly prevent people from taking part in them:

Provide in-company or neighborhood-based rideshare matching. These are both great ways to address privacy-related concerns. Provide commuters with tools to make quick, safe connections with coworkers or neighbors so they don’t have to share rides with complete strangers.

Create flexible scheduling options. People may not need a ride when they have it, and they may not have a ride when they need it. The solution? Allow carpooling commuters to work on flex-time schedules, or adopt rideshare matching software that lets users set their availability for specific days and times according to their needs.

Offer a guaranteed ride home. Many solo drivers also want the freedom and flexibility to be able to respond to emergencies and unexpected situations, and don’t want to be without a way to get home if something happens. Guaranteed ride home programs reimburse carpoolers if they need to use a taxi or on-demand ride-hailing service on short notice.

The RideAmigos commuter management platform is filled with powerful features that are ideal for implementing these and many other smart incentive programs for increasing ridesharing.

Get started with RideAmigos today!

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City of Austin – Commuter Incentives Case Study

How the City of Austin used strong commuter incentives to encourage employees to adopt sustainable modes of transportation

City of Austin SealMunicipal officials in Austin, Texas recently introduced a commuter incentives program aimed at cutting down on solo driving by city employees. The program grew out of a desire to offer city-employed commuters strong incentives for using alternatives to solo driving. Their innovative solution proved to be highly effective: employees who participated in the program were offered paid administrative leave in exchange for adopting sustainable commuting habits.

We’re extremely pleased that the City of Austin decided to use the RideAmigos transportation demand management platform to manage its program. Here are the details of how the city structured its initiative:

  • Employees who opted in were given a demonstration video explaining how to participate in the incentive program.
  • The special administrative leave commuter program was applied to a private commuter network, providing automatic tracking for participants.
  • Participating employees accrued points (2 point per day maximum) when they logged a commute using an approved, sustainable alternative to solo driving (bicycle, walk, carpool, vanpool, transit, telework).
  • Employees reaching a specified point threshold were rewarded with 4 hours of paid time off (administrative leave.)
  • Participants were permitted to continue accruing points beyond the minimum threshold to earn longer periods of administrative leave in 4-hour increments.

In the first six months since launching nearly 1,300 City of Austin employees opted into the program, which has generated fantastic results. Over those six months their efforts resulted in about 380 tons of CO2 emission reductions. Employees also saved over $800,000 (about $600 per participant), all while collectively burning nearly 3 million calories.

The RideAmigos platform is a valuable asset to organizations looking to manage programs based on commuter incentives

The key takeaway from the City of Austin’s experience is that strong commuter incentives are excellent motivators. This is particularly true of programs that can be implemented on a long-term, ongoing basis.

However, points-based commuter incentives can be very difficult to administer without the right tools. The RideAmigos platform proved to be a major ally to Austin’s transportation management officials, as it provides automatic trip logging and points tracking features along with a comprehensive suite of additional management tools.

In addition to its core transportation demand management features, RideAmigos also automatically calculates the positive environmental, health, and financial impacts of ongoing programs, making it easy to see the impact of your program’s success. 

Get started today with your own sustainable commuting program. We’d love to make you our next success story!

Carpool Incentive Programs

Use carpool incentive programs to increase participation rates and get employees excited about smart commuting.

The dynamic world of transportation demand management is always changing, as new technologies, insights, and best practices continue to evolve. Yet, one constant that’s lingered for a very long time is this simple truth: commuters might want to adopt smarter commuting habits, and they may well recognize the benefits of doing so, but they’re far more likely to make changes and stick to them if they are offered immediate, meaningful benefits.

This is where carpool incentive programs come in. These programs deliver those immediate, meaningful benefits in a multitude of forms, and that’s why they enjoy such high success rates when it comes to increasing commuter engagement and getting employees to choose smart, alternative modes of transportation more often.

These carpool incentive programs can make employee engagement soar:

Parking perks and rewards programs are among the most common and popular carpool incentive programs. Here are three specific examples of strategies that deliver proven results:

  • Preferred parking programs. Mid-size and larger organizations tend to find this approach particularly effective. Assign parking spots in premium locations to vehicles that are used in carpool and vanpool programs. The more visible and desirable these parking spot assignments are, the better! Visibility increases awareness and gets more people interested in participating.
  • Gamification. Turning your carpool incentive program into a friendly competition taps into powerful, universal aspects of the human psyche…all while giving participants the chance to win prizes like gift cards, sports or event tickets, dinner at local restaurants, or whatever else might get your team excited about taking part.
  • Parking pass discounts. If your business or organization uses paid parking passes, you can also offer discounts to employees and commuters who make frequent use of carpool and ridesharing programs. Financial incentives are usually among the most effective.

Increasing carpooling doesn’t take rocket science, but it does take the right strategies and tools. If you’re wondering how to create or promote an employee carpooling program, our recent blog post on encouraging employees to carpool contains a wealth of winning tips. Add in perks and benefits that reduce barriers to participation, such as a guaranteed ride home program, and you’ve got the basis for a successful commuter services program.

Learn more about how carpool incentive programs benefit employees as part of a comprehensive commuter services package – check out our ridesharing incentives infographic for eye-opening facts and solid strategies.

Photo Credit: Richard Drdul