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!

Create Incentives for Carpooling to the Big Game

With football season in full swing, fans are descending on stadiums by the thousands and transportation managers across the country are trying to figure out where on Earth to park all the cars. One less obvious but extremely effective solution is to reduce the number of cars that need to be parked in the first place. (Without reducing the number of fans at the game!)

The key is to offer incentives to fans who carpool or leave their vehicles at a park-and-ride transit lot. Beyond freeing up parking space and easing traffic congestion around the stadium, you’ll also be making more room for tailgating. In addition, you’ll promote public safety by reducing the chances of an intoxicated driver getting behind the wheel after the game.

Here’s a blueprint for running a smart-transportation incentive program for your next game:

  1. Choose prizes. You’re more likely to connect with your audience if you offer a prize related to the event they’re attending. So, for a football game, try game jerseys, team memorabilia, or free tickets to an upcoming game.
  2. Promote the program. Advertising is essential to the success of your program. Can you get the PA announcer to let fans know about the promotion in advance of the next game? Can you flash your message on the scoreboard? Plaster parking areas with posters, and use social media to get the word out.
  3. Track participation. Use on-site or online tools (like RideAmigos!) to figure out who is participating and who is eligible to win prizes.
  4. Enjoy the game!
  5. Follow up. Allow users to log trips after game day to encourage higher participation rates. Just make sure your cut-off date for prize eligibility is clear.
  6. Draw for winners. To select winners from your pool of qualified entrants, random draws are a great way to go. Especially if you’re offering an impressive grand prize. Inform the lucky winning participants and publicize stats showing how many car trips your promotion saved.

The RideAmigos software platform is the ideal tool for creating and managing transportation incentive programs, logging trips, and promoting event ridesharing initiatives. Whether you’re managing traffic on game day or looking after a company of commuters, RideAmigos delivers the power to transform the way people use transportation.

Visit our Academy to see how easy it is to incentivize events using RideAmigos

4 Easy Steps to Start a Bikepool Program

Get people moving in the right direction by creating a bikepool program for commuters

A lot of people are willing to ride their bikes to work, but are anxious about navigating busy city streets on two wheels. Bikepooling has emerged as a successful strategy for helping newbies get over the hump. These bikepool programs match new riders with more experienced cyclists, helping commuters build the skills and confidence to leave their cars behind more often.

At RideAmigos, we love supporting creative solutions like bikepooling. Our newest team member, Corey Tucker, joins us as a program specialist after having worked at MIT, where she used RideAmigos for commuter and transportation demand management. She’s also an avid cyclist, both for commuting and competition.

Here’s Corey’s step-by-step guide for creating a bikepool program that will encourage newbies to try biking and stick with it:

1) Identify Existing Bicycle Commuters

Reach out to existing bike commuters to find out where they’re biking from, what routes they follow, and how long it takes them to get to work. Ask if anyone would be willing to lead a bikepool group, and spread out the leadership responsibilities so that you’re only asking for a once-a-week or once-every-other-week commitment. Seal the deal by offering bonuses or incentives (if you have to); bike shop gift cards or restaurant vouchers can go a long way.

2) Plan Meeting Points and Routes

Identify clear, easy-to-reach landmarks where bikepoolers can meet, and plan routes based on those already in use by bike commuters and program leaders. Ideally, routes should include dedicated cycling infrastructure, like protected bike lanes or cycling paths, to help make new riders more comfortable.

3) Target Potential Participants

Find commuters who live within range of each cycling corridor, and send out emails alerting them to the program. Highlight the steps you’ve taken to select newbie-friendly routes.

4) Add Incentives

Increase participation rates by offering incentives to the individuals or teams who tally the greatest number of trips or ride the most miles. You can also pit teams using various cycling corridors in friendly head-to-head competitions, or offer prizes for biking to work a certain number of days.

These tips are even more effective when they’re paired with internal infrastructure designed for bicycle commuters. Create a secure, designated place for bicycle storage, provide lockers and showers, and consider implementing a “guaranteed ride home” program. By offering free taxi rides or transit vouchers to bicycle commuters stranded by bad weather, you’ll encourage people to stick with the program.

Learn more about RideAmigos’ built-in bikepool support

Employee Carpool Programs

Promoting participation in employee carpool programs has powerful organization-wide benefits

Employee carpool programs are one of the most effective tools businesses can use to help fight local traffic congestion. With the right software tools, they’re easy to set up, a breeze to administer, and go a long way toward helping organizations reduce their carbon impact.

While their environmental benefits tend to draw the most attention, enterprises enjoy many other advantages by encouraging employees to skip the solo drive and share rides.

Some of the key benefits of employee carpool programs include:

Savings on parking costs

When employees share rides, demand for on-site parking will diminish. This helps employers realize significant savings on parking costs.

Cutting back on parking costs can save businesses huge amounts of money, particularly for companies located in densely populated metro areas where parking facilities are at a premium. The demand for limited available space sends costs soaring in such cases. Investing in strategies that cut down on parking costs can generate very favorable returns.

Today’s next-generation tech tools can help you solve the parking crunch while delivering a one-stop shop for managing all your commuter programs.

Boosting employee productivity

Research shows that people who carpool arrive at work feeling better, with lower stress levels. This contributes to increased productivity throughout the day along with better health and improved job satisfaction.

Another productivity-related benefit of enterprise rideshare networks is that they help people get a jump on the day. When a commuter doesn’t have to drive, their hands and minds are free. They can get a leg up on their email messages, review their to-do lists, and even get started on some simple tasks that can be performed remotely.

A happier workforce

Studies have also shown that employee carpool programs help build a more collegial work environment, with strengthened social connections that contribute to higher overall levels of job satisfaction.

Carpool-based commuter benefit solutions bring people together in unexpected ways. Over the years, we’ve heard countless anecdotes about coworkers who had no idea they lived in the same area until they were matched together by ridesharing software. Lasting friendships and valuable professional connections often result from these types of relationships, giving you another benefit to sell to your commuter base.

A reduced environmental footprint

Companies that institute employee rideshare programs project ecological values in keeping with environmental responsibility. Thus, these programs go beyond immediate commuter benefit solutions and help organizations make tangible, discrete contributions to the greater good.

Building a happier, more productive workforce and making environmental responsibility a top priority also helps boost employee retention rates. Companies with high employee retention rates tend to attract better job candidates, and this helps position the business for sustained future success.

Positive company culture and identity

Today, talented job candidates look at more than just salary and benefits when evaluating job offers. They also consider the company’s culture, identity, and values. Growing numbers of people, particularly in younger age demographics, prefer to work for businesses whose values align with their own.

As topics like climate change and the environment continue to grow in the public consciousness, more and more people want to do something that makes them feel good about their choices. Companies that offer carpool programs and commuter transportation benefits that reduce pollution offer an easy, everyday path to healthier, more sustainable behavior. This, in turn, supports a positive organizational culture that makes working for your business more appealing.

Get commuters excited about employee carpool programs. Here’s how.

With employee carpool programs, greater participation equals greater benefits. These strategies are proven to help increase opt-in rates for corporate ridesharing:

  • Adopt a gamification approach by encouraging participants to align themselves in teams, then track the number of trips and miles logged
  • Offer incentives to participants and prizes to competition winners
  • Use commuter management software like RideAmigos to help employees who live in close proximity connect with one another
  • Match prospective participants who have similar work schedules
  • Offer free, reduced-rate, or preferred parking to vehicles used in carpools
  • Promote individual end benefits, like lower stress, savings on transportation costs, and reduced wear-and-tear on privately owned vehicles

Software tools like the RideAmigos platform are ideal for creating, promoting, and managing employee carpool programs. RideAmigos’ groundbreaking enterprise ridesharing solution offers companies and organizations an unprecedented suite of powerful rideshare program creation, management, tracking, and reporting tools. Our platform also makes it easy to connect program participants, create games and competitions, track and administer rewards, and much more. It delivers everything you’ll need to design, implement, refine, and manage commuter programs that make a big difference.

Put your carpooling program in overdrive and maximize its environmental, financial, and organizational benefits. Get started with RideAmigos today!

Commuter Tax Benefits

Tax benefits for smarter commuting benefit both employees and employers.

Most people would agree that smarter, more environmentally friendly modes of urban transportation are a good thing. However, a lot of commuters need a little extra incentive to adopt new habits. To that end, the federal government recognizes that one of the most effective ways to actively encourage change is to offer financial benefits to those who use smart commuting options. Updates to the U.S. tax codes, which were signed into law in 2015, create a win-win situation for commuters and companies alike.

Under the updated laws, employers can give their employees the option to use up to $255 per month in pre-tax income to cover qualified commuting expenses, including:

  • Municipal and regional transit passes
  • Vanpool fares
  • Parking expenses

This program allows commuters to pay for qualified costs using pre-tax income. In total, each commuter is eligible for a taxable income reduction of up to $3,060 per year. Employers also benefit from the program, since monies dedicated to these costs are exempted from payroll taxation.

Pre-tax Benefit Example

The Santa Rosa Widget Company* has 50 employees using their pre-tax commute program. Each person claims $200 per month in eligible transportation costs. Over the course of a year, their company pays $9,000 less in payroll taxes. That, in turn, easily finances a transportation demand management program. Their TDM program then stimulates even more savings by encouraging more employees to participate. Everyone wins!

These programs also have important trickle-down benefits, which aren’t to be overlooked. Commuters who use transportation other than single-occupancy vehicles report lower levels of stress, an improved sense of well-being, and boosted workplace productivity. Enterprises that are looking for a way to kick-start beneficial changes to company culture would do well to consider the many advantages of these commuter tax benefit programs, many of which are also available on the state level.

Learn more about commuter tax benefits, and add RideAmigos to your smart commuting toolbox.

There are a lot of particular details involved with the commuter tax benefit program. If you’re looking to learn more, this comprehensive document from the Internal Revenue Service is an excellent resource, as is the National Center for Transit Research page on the tax benefits program. Remember, too, that tools like the RideAmigos software platform are excellent for helping commuters connect with a wealth of local transportation options and commute planning resources.

Our software can quickly provide you with positive return on investment in employee commuter programs. Make your smart commuting programs as beneficial as possible – contact the RideAmigos team today.

*Fictional example company. As far as we know, there’s not actually a widget company in Santa Rosa. If you’ve heard of one before, just know we’re not talking about that Santa Rosa Widget Company. 🙂

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

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.

Plan Now for Fall Semester University Parking Needs

Use summer downtime to plan ahead for the upcoming fall semester’s parking requirements

With graduation having come and gone for another year, college and university administrators can start thinking ahead to the upcoming fall semester. Though campus parking lots may be empty now, in a couple of months they’ll be brimming with vehicles as students, faculty, and staff compete for spots.

Advance planning is the key to managing parking and vehicle overflow issues. Strategies can be broadly grouped into three main categories: creating sound parking policies, making the most of mass transit options, and introducing new ways to manage traffic flow.

Colleges and universities have generated beneficial results by adjusting their parking policies, using techniques like:

  • Assigning parking passes based on seniority and the individual’s role in the campus community, giving first dibs to the longest-tenured community members and those with a demonstrated need for on-campus parking
  • Introducing mobile parking meters, which improve traffic flow by preventing the need for drivers to find stationary meters
  • Increasing parking rates so more people choose alternative modes of transportation

To that end, university administrators can encourage community members to take better advantage of mass transit options:

  • Offer subsidized transit passes, or work transit pass costs into existing student fee schedules
  • Use campus shuttles to help staff and students get around large campuses quickly and without driving

Finally, keep traffic flow rates under control by:

  • Spreading out class schedules over the course of the day to reduce traffic congestion
  • Making central campus areas inaccessible to drivers, forcing them to park on the periphery of the campus and walk, bike, or use shuttles
  • Eliminating daytime traffic altogether; a growing number of universities have completely shut down campuses to vehicles during daytime hours to great effect

Technological tools can support campus transportation initiatives

Transportation demand management software like the RideAmigos platform offers major benefits to colleges and universities looking to reduce parking demand. Our platform’s commute trip planner tool is invaluable for staff and students who live off campus, helping them build efficient and green-friendly transportation plans that help them save money while reducing traffic burdens. Administrators can set up incentive programs and challenges to encourage the use of transportation alternatives. Event travel planning and event ridesharing programs help ease congestion during extra-busy times, like homecoming, football games, and parents’ weekends. 

Ready to learn more? Please contact us or view a free, comprehensive video demonstration of our revolutionary software.

Photo credit: mehmet canli