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.

TDM + Local Bike Shops = ❤️

Bicycle advocacy powerhouse People for Bikes recently shared a great blog post highlighting the mutual interests of transportation demand management (TDM) and local bike shops.

From TMA’s & TMO’s to universities, enterprises and municipalities, organizations concerned with shifting commuter behavior usually promote biking as a great alternative to single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting. In the TDM industry, we know bikes take up less space on roads and in parking lots, cut carbon emissions, and create happier commuters.

Local bike shops are also well aware of all these advantages of biking over driving, so for TDM programs looking for partners to help promote and empower bike commuting, local bike shops are a match made in transportation heaven.

The People for Bikes article mentions the success that our partner Sonos has had with their earn-a-bike program for employees, including partnering with local bike shops. The University of Louisville has also implemented a similar program for students who can trade parking passes for bikes.

When it comes to cycling-related TDM challenges and incentives, local bike shops are great resources for collaborations like prize donations and event leadership. Bike shops are eager to become known as the go-to location for local cyclists, especially new cyclists, and are often willing to be creative partners in bike-related TDM programming.

Here’s a great success story from the People for Bikes post:

Ginny Politz owns Bikesport in Trappe, Pennsylvania. When the Greater Valley Forge TMA approached her seeking prizes to distribute to local winners of the National Bike Challenge, Politz’s enthusiasm was instant. “I said ‘Yes, and why don’t we host a wine and cheese event to kick off the competition?'”

Bikesport’s early buy-in has paid off. “We are the only bike shop member, so they send everything our way. If they have a corporation contact them and say ‘we’d like to do a Lunch and Learn bike program,’ I get an email introducing me as the solution.”

Read more at the People for Bikes blog …

Why Indirect Emissions Matter and How Your Company Can Reduce Them

Indirect emissions, also known as Scope 3 emissions in the framework of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, are an often-overlooked aspect of a business’s carbon footprint. They are defined as emissions from non-direct sources engaged in peripheral activities such as:

  • Shipping and product distribution
  • Goods and services procurement from outside parties
  • Waste disposal
  • Franchise management
  • Investments and leased asset management
  • …and, of course, commuting

While the exact percentage of business-related greenhouse gas emissions that come from commuting has been a notoriously gray area in terms of analysis, current estimates show that transportation is responsible for a staggering 20 to 27 percent of all GHG emissions in the United States. Obviously, businesses have a key role to play when it comes to reducing these emission levels, and one of the most direct ways to address the issue is to encourage smarter, more ecologically responsible modes of commuting.

To that end, here are some popular commuter management strategies that reduce employee reliance on single-occupancy vehicles:

  • Building a company-wide or cooperative, community-based rideshare program
  • Offering free or subsidized transit passes
  • Creating vanpool shuttle services linking company facilities with local public transportation hubs
  • Supporting bike-to-work initiatives by adding secure bike parking areas, lockers, and on-site showers
  • Participating in local and national challenge programs
  • Launching commuter gamification programs that reward participants for logging trips using alternative modes of transportation
  • Implementing earn-a-bike and/or parking cash-out programs

The transportation demand management professionals at RideAmigos can help you set up and run these and many other commuter programs as part of a concerted effort to help reduce the emissions generated by employee commutes. The RideAmigos software platform is also the ideal tool for tracking the impact of your commuter programs, and features a comprehensive suite of next-generation management and reporting tools.

Get started today and help your company build toward a cleaner, greener tomorrow.

Why Free Parking Isn’t Necessary for Happy Commuters

Challenging assumptions behind workplace parking privileges

Employers tend to assume that providing employees with free parking is just a necessary cost of doing business. The underlying assumption is that free parking makes commuters happy, and happy commuters make for a happy workforce.

While it’s probably true that many car-centric commuters wouldn’t be happy if they were suddenly told they had to pay for their own parking, it’s still worth asking whether the chicken or the egg comes first when it comes to free workplace parking. Do businesses provide free parking because commuters drive, or do commuters drive because businesses provide free parking?

It’s a question without an easy answer, but what we’ve seen in our years of experience in the transportation demand management industry is that commuters are more likely to adopt smarter modes of transportation if they’re given a strong incentive to do so.

Free Parking Isn’t the Only Path to Happy Commuters

If you’d like to reduce employee reliance on single-occupancy vehicles, cut parking costs and encourage commuters to use smarter modes of transportation more often, all while keeping commuters happy, there’s a smart, simple way to go about it:

Give employees the option of trading in their free parking privileges for a different form of transportation incentive, like a free monthly transit pass, credit toward a new bike, or a monthly parking cash-out program designed to encourage carpooling.

This way, you empower commuters to make their own choices, all while protecting the goodwill you generate by offering free parking in the first place. Not only that, these programs can even be seen as added employee benefits for those who prefer transportation modes other than driving!

Check out our learning center for more information on alternatives to free parking that save businesses money while encouraging smarter commuting. You can also find out about incentives to promote ridesharing and tools to manage parking right here on our blog.

If you’d like to learn how our industry-leading commuter management platform can power your parking incentive programs, contact RideAmigos today.

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.

Shift your commuter programs into high gear for bike month

Make an impact with your National Bike Month commuting program.

Every year since 1956, May has been designated as National Bike Month. Sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month offers businesses and communities a wealth of ways to encourage active, sustainable commuting alternatives.

National Bike Month is a great opportunity to improve health and fitness, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and discover new ways of looking at your community. Bike-to-work programs enable businesses and organizations to get more people involved, and provide a perfect opportunity to encourage commuters to make a long-term transition to pedal power.

Building a successful bike-to-work program means getting as many people involved as possible. Here are a few winning tips to help you drum up robust participation rates for your smart commute challenges and events:

Start with a survey

When designing your bike to work challenge, the best place to start is with a survey. This will help you generate information-based insights into important factors like the experience level of riders, how far people will be commuting, and what routes they will be following.

From there, you can divide the respondents into groups that reflect their enthusiasm and experience level. This allows you to focus segmented promotional efforts on specific groups of people. Use strategic insights to help turn people with middling levels of interest into enthusiastic participants who can’t wait to get started. After all, promotional efforts are best directed at those who are on the fence instead of those who are already jumping at the bit to take part.

Create incentives

Gamification incentives, like prizes and rewards programs, give participants an extra bit of motivation to get involved in your bike to work challenge. Playing for points or pride can work in the short term, but commuter challenges work best when they also encourage people to make better use of smart commuting alternatives over the long run.

To that end, remember that offering rewards and prizes for continuing to commute by bike is a surefire way to get people to commit to behavior change over the long haul. You can also use short-term challenges as test runs for longer-term or permanent programs to see what works, what connects with participants, and where you need to improve your strategy.

Promote your program strategically

When you get around to launching your promotional campaign, build in time to analyze the results. Instead of making an all-in push from the get-go, leave wiggle room that allows you to make adjustments. This will help you bring more people into the fold, ultimately supporting a more successful program.

You can also learn more from our collaboration with Google on creating a strong and successful bike-to-work initiative.

Pair inexperienced riders with “bike buddies”

Bikepooling and “bike buddy” programs are effective options for reaching people who would like to bike to work but don’t feel comfortable riding alone. These programs match new riders with experienced bike commuters who can show new biking enthusiasts the ropes and help them navigate city traffic safely and confidently.

An added benefit of the “bike buddy” approach is that it helps improve workplace collegiality and foster increased cooperation among your company’s commuter base. People can form friendships and expand their professional networks through the connections they make by taking part in smart commute challenges and events.

Expanding beyond the challenge: Emerging ideas for driving long-term mode shift

Encouraging long-term behavior change is challenging, but one strategy that’s catching on is the idea of trading parking permits for bicycles. Organizations and institutions in both the public and private sectors have already leveraged this strategy to great success, and it provides a powerful incentive that reduces parking demand, keeps parking costs in check, and helps build a healthier, happier community.

Consider it as a potential end goal of your bike to work challenge!

Power your commuter challenges and incentive programs with RideAmigos

The RideAmigos software platform has everything you’ll need to design, promote, manage, and administer bike to month challenges and other commuter programs. Our industry-leading solution supports survey distribution, data analysis tools, incentive tracking, statistical management, and a complete range of other features for administrators and commuters alike.

To learn more, get started with RideAmgios today!

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Smart Commuter Management

Happy New Year! There’s no better time to create goals that will have a beneficial impact on your organization and the community at large than at the start of another trip around the sun. Here are five great ways you can make smart commuter management a priority in 2017.

#1: Collect More Information

The essential first step in generating behavior change is understanding the commuting habits of your organization’s members. Specifically, there are four key things you need to know:

  • What are the primary mode(s) of transportation currently in use among members?
  • How aware are members of the transportation benefits you currently offer?
  • What is the single most important consideration for members when choosing a way to get to work? Time? Cost? Something else?
  • What benefits or incentives would get members to try out an alternative mode of commuting?

Finding answers to these questions through commuter surveys will help you create a transportation program that’s got a much better chance of success.

#2: Experiment with Incentives

Providing incentives for leaving single-occupancy vehicles behind is a proven way to vastly increase program participation rates. Incentive programs come in many forms, with popular options including:

  • Pre-tax reimbursements for employees who use qualified modes of transportation
  • Preferred or lower-cost parking for carpool drivers
  • Parking cash-out programs that offer monthly payments to employees who give up their parking spots
  • Friendly individual- or team-oriented in-house competitions, with prizes for the winners who log the most miles or make the most trips using qualified modes of travel

Plan some experiments to try during 2017 and see which strategies best engage your commuters!

#3: Promote Transit as an Alternative to Solo Driving

Public transit is a great way for employees to save money, reduce congestion and pollution, and reduce wear and tear on their vehicles. Try offering partially or fully subsidized local transit passes and watch ridership soar.

#4: Participate in Bike to Work Week

Every spring, Bike to Work Week becomes a national initiative that helps get people moving and encourages greater numbers of commuters to make a permanent switch. Join in a Bike to Work Week being planned for your city or region, or if there’s not one in the works – help make it happen!

#5: Adopt a Comprehensive Commuter Management Tool

Commuters and administrators alike can benefit from a comprehensive platform like RideAmigos. Easily implement advanced carpool matching, distribute surveys, create networks and challenges, launch incentive programs, track results, and much more!

Learn More About Commuter Management Platforms

Empower Employees with Commuting Resources

Resources like localized map layers enable commuters to choose smarter modes of transportation

Businesses have a lot of incentive to encourage employees to make better use of alternative modes of transportation. In addition to payroll tax benefits, which are available to companies that offer employee commuting programs, studies have shown that options like ridesharing, vanpooling, and public transit help improve productivity and reduce stress. By providing employee commuting resources, businesses can build a happier, healthier culture.

Dynamic, relevant information is one of the most effective types of employee commuting resources a company can offer

One of the biggest hindrances to behavior change is uncertainty. So it only makes sense that integrated, up-to-date information is the most important tool to offer your commuters. If a commuter doesn’t know or isn’t sure how to make best use of alternative options, they are far more likely to just stick with the status quo.

For example, custom map layers can be used to provide resources like:

  • Carshare locations. Programs like Zipcar have become a popular alternative for multi-modal transportation – integrate their pick-up locations!
  • Bike facilities. Show helpful resources like bike racks, repair stands, and shops across your region.
  • Park-and-ride lots. Commuters living in the suburbs and outlying areas can avoid congested city corridors by driving to a park-and-ride lot, then carpooling or taking transit the rest of the way.
  • Parking availability. Help commuters say goodbye to wasting time and fuel by driving around looking for a place to park.

Choosing the right commuter management software is the best way to drive behavior change. The RideAmigos platform provides commuters with convenient access to a wealth of dynamic, customizable information through  its trip planning and commuter dashboard tools, and gives administrators the added change-making leverage of targeted incentives. These powerful functions enable users to choose smarter modes of transportation with confidence.

Learn more about RideAmigos’ custom map layers and data integration options.

4 Best Commuter Survey Questions

Make sure you ask these questions on your next commuter survey

From Corey Tucker, our Program Specialist:

Corey TuckerCommuter surveys are critical tools for generating insights and promoting initiatives that impact commuter behavior.

Running an introductory survey before starting any new program is a great way to establish a baseline for assessing transportation mode-shift. Periodic surveys are also helpful for gathering specific, reliable information that can inform targeted promotions and marketing campaigns.

No two organizations are alike, and predetermining your approach and trying to force it onto your commuter base isn’t likely to work. The data generated by your survey is critical to forming a cogent commuter management strategy that speaks to the needs of the people in your organization.

Good commuter survey questions help commuter services managers create targeted programs. They deliver critical insights that would not otherwise have been apparent, allowing program designers to zero in on strategies that will generate positive and impactful results while delivering tangible benefits to commuters.

With that in mind, here’s a look at my four favorite commuter survey questions, why they work, and when they should be used:

What has been your primary mode of commuting over the past year?
This is the single most important question to establish a baseline understanding of commuter behaviors. How else will you be able to track the impact your changes have made?

By understanding how the lion’s share of your commuters are getting to work, you can also pinpoint the alternative modes they are most likely to adopt. For example, let’s say you’ve got a lot of solo drivers in your organization. You might struggle to get them to give up the convenience of their personal vehicles to adopt a longer, more difficult journey on public transportation.

However, you might have more luck with an employee carpooling program that matches commuters who live close to one another. They can take turns sharing driving duties, enjoying all the benefits of point-to-point private transportation while still contributing to the program’s success.

How familiar are you with employee transportation benefits?
In some cases, businesses that offer transit subsidies, carpooler benefits, secure bike storage, locker rooms, and showers still see little in the way of change. The problem could be that your employees simply aren’t aware that you support alternative commuting modes. This is a great way to find out.

If you determine that a lack of employee awareness is holding back the success of your commuter management programs, make a simple investment in promoting them. Combined with other interventions, this simple change could drive significant shifts in commuter behavior.

What is the main factor in deciding how you’re going to get to work?
To maximize benefits, you have to fine-tune your programs and marketing efforts to make sure they speak to the needs of your employees. For example, if the length of the commute is the primary consideration for your commuters but you’ve built a program that advertises cost savings, you’re not reaching the most important point of appeal.

In our experience, the most successful programs are the ones that deliver the commuter-end benefits team members are looking for. Your commuter survey questions should take a razor-sharp focus in trying to find out what commuters want and need, then tailoring your programs to deliver it.

Would additional benefits or incentives make you more likely to try alternative modes of commuting?
Targeted incentive programming is more effective than broad-stroke programs, so take advantage of questions that reveal exactly what it will take to get commuters to change their habits.

Give people a wide range of options. Parking cash-out programs, points programs, and commuter challenges are all great starting points. For more ideas, check out the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s web portal on commuter benefits: they’ve assembled a strong collection of possibilities.

Commuter surveys are ideal if you’re planning to harness the power of the RideAmigos platform and our data analysis tools to enact positive changes in your organization, and they’re fully supported by our software.

Learn more about using surveys with RideAmigos

How Commuting Impacts the Environment

Every commute made in a single-occupancy vehicle puts more pressure on the environment

Even though alternatives like telecommuting continue to gather momentum, a large majority of the world’s workforce still travels to and from a physical workplace, day in and day out. While governments are increasingly focused on improving transit infrastructure to reduce the number of trips made in single-occupancy vehicles, commuting by car remains entrenched as a preferred mode of travel in many cities. This creates a huge amount of stress on the environment, our natural resources, and on commuters themselves.

Individuals may think they can’t make a difference, but the numbers tell a different story. Here’s a run-down of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by commuting 10 miles (one way), five days per week for one year:

  • Small car (35 MPG fuel economy): 1.4 tons
  • Midsize car (20 MPG fuel economy): 2.6 tons
  • Full-size car/SUV (14 MPG fuel economy): 3.8 tons

According to statistics from the 2009 National Household Travel Survey from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, 93% of commuters drive alone with an average commute trip length of 12 miles.  

Getting even a small percentage of those vehicles off the road by having commuters choose cleaner, smarter modes of transportation would have an immediate and highly beneficial effect on the environment.

Small-scale but widespread changes lead to major positive impacts

To quantify the positive impact that alternative commuting can make, here’s a look at the statistical flip-side of the coin:

  • If 5 percent of the New York City residents who solo commute by car or taxi switched to riding bikes, they would save 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s roughly equivalent to planting 30 square miles of forest.
  • In the United States, about 50% of all elementary students are taken to school by car. If just 20% of those students walked or biked instead, the environment would be spared of about 356,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
  • A recent survey found that 89% of Americans believe that reducing energy consumption should be a primary focus of transportation development strategies.

Clearly, the support for a cleaner future is already part of the public consciousness. The power to make meaningful changes just needs to be brought to a wider base of commuters. That’s one of our primary goals here at RideAmigos. We want to help people enjoy their commutes and contribute to creating a better world. Join us in our mission to transform transportation, one commute at a time!

Transportation demand management strategies can make a difference

Implementing commuter programs at an organizational level can be a big help. Businesses, schools, government agencies, and universities all have a role to play in striving to reduce the number of inefficient solo driving trips to and from their facilities each day.

Here are some examples of organizational transportation demand management strategies you can use to encourage transportation sustainability:

  • Commuter programs for businesses and large government employers: Software-powered rideshare networks help commuters forge closer collegial ties, reduce stress, improve their work-life balance, boost their job satisfaction, and improve their productivity. Implementing them alongside support for active commuters, like secure bike parking areas and on-site shower facilities, can drive sustained behavior change.
  • The power of schoolpools: Elementary and secondary school communities can form schoolpools that work like employer-based rideshare networks. Parents can take turns driving kids and their friends, reducing the number of solo car trips to and from schools. A major side benefit: schoolpools improve safety by reducing the number of vehicles converging around schools at peak times of day.
  • Get smart about university transportation: University rideshare networks offer similar safety improvements and go a long way toward reducing parking demand on campus. Another idea we like: bundle public transportation passes into each semester or school year’s optional fee schedule. Students will make better use of transit options if they don’t have to pay out of pocket to access your local network.

The cities of tomorrow are already being engineered to support more sustainable transportation alternatives. You can make the smart city commuter program model part of your organizational philosophy by becoming an early adopter, and RideAmigos can help.

Benefit from the TDM industry’s leading software platform

Our powerful commuter management software platform was designed to make alternative modes of transportation more accessible to a larger number of people. One of the best ways to find the right solutions for your organization is to take advantage of software-based survey and data analysis tools. The RideAmigos platform offers a long list of ways to generate meaningful, actionable insights that help you design intelligent and effective commuter programs.

A long and growing list of businesses and organizations have used RideAmigos to great success. Help reduce the commuting impact of your community by discovering the transformative capabilities of RideAmigos. 

Contact us today to learn more!