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Telecommuting as Alternative Transportation

The smartest possible commute is no commute at all

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

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

Telecommuting: quantifying the potential benefits

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

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

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

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

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

Do EVs really count as alternative transportation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transit Shutdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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