Commuter Choice Primer
An Employee's Guide to Implementing Effective Commuter Choice Programs
Steps for Selecting and Implementing Choices
Simply knowing about all of the commuter options does not make it easy to determine which ones may work best for a particular worksite. Commuter Choice programs are not one size fits all. Strategies should be selected based on the type of business, worksite location, employee commuting needs and attitudes, availability of commute options, and management support. Not all options work for all worksites and employees. The following provides some guidance on how to select the most appropriate strategies.
WHAT ARE THE BEST STRATEGIES FOR A SPECIFIC WORKSITE?
In order to develop a program that best suits specific employer needs, it is important to first collect information and identify certain characteristics of the worksite and its employees. For example, is the site served by transit and/or other alternative transportation services, can employees shift their work schedules to accommodate a bus/train or vanpool schedule, do employees live near one another so they can form rideshare arrangements, is there limited employee parking, does the employer provide free parking, and how far do employees commute to work? The responses to these and other questions lead to the type of strategies that will entice employees to choose a commute option alternative.
The Interactive Guidance Tool of the CCDSS provides a list of questions regarding worksite and employee characteristics that will assist in determining the most appropriate strategies for a particular employer. Based on responses to these questions, the CCDSS will provide a set of recommended strategies. These recommendations represent potential strategies that may be effective based on the information provided. If answers are incomplete, additional worksite research may be needed. Some employers conduct an employee survey to determine their needs and attitudes about commuting. Others hold focus groups with employees and key members of management to collect information that will help in determining the most effective and appealing strategies. A sample employee survey is provided at the end of this section and on the compact disc.
STEPS TO IMPLEMENTING A COMMUTER CHOICE PROGRAM
After the CCDSS process has been completed and recommendations identified, the next step is to begin implementing the identified strategies. Following are a few tips on how to get started:
Form a Task ForceIdentify the departments and employees that will need to provide input or assistance to the Commuter Choice program. These usually include representatives from Human Resources, Facilities, Finance, Tax Department, Transportation, and any unions or groups that may be represented at the site. Union representatives especially should be involved if you are considering changing work schedules or any employee policy such as parking benefits. Form a Commuter Choice Task Force to assist in developing the program.
Assign a Lead PersonJust like any employer-sponsored program, you will need a person to be responsible for coordinating the activities. This person will need to be responsible for the daily and overall operations of the program. Keep in mind that the person who develops the program is not always the right person to manage the daily activities.
Gain Management SupportNo program will be successful if you do not have support from all levels of management, especially upper management. Be prepared to show management the benefits of a Commuter Choice program. This support will be needed when you ask for resources to implement the program.
Canvas or Survey EmployeesIn order to gain more knowledge about what specific strategies will be most appealing to your employees, conduct a survey or focus group to determine their commuting habits and needs.
Determine Specific Strategies to ImplementStarting with the recommendations from the CCDSS and based on input from employees and the Task Force, determine specific strategies to implement. It is sometimes best to start a new program with a few high-potential strategies instead of trying to implement all possible options. You can always enhance the program after it is started.
Establish a BudgetWork with the Task Force to determine the appropriate budget needed to implement the selected strategies. Remember, the most effective strategies are not always the most costly. Sometimes it is the way a strategy is implemented, rather than how much money is used, that makes it more effective. However, a Commuter Choice program will cost the employer something, even if it is just staff time. The greater the need, the greater the level of resources that may be needed.
Market and PromoteOnce the program is developed and ready to start, you will need to inform employees. Use employer newsletters, bulletin boards, e-mail, and other internal communications methods to raise awareness about the program. Let employees know what their commuting options are, what assistance is available, and how they benefit from participating. Offer give-aways for new participants and rewards for those who continue to participate. Promotion of the program is an ongoing effort. Try new activities and messages so that employees do not forget about their options.
Track SuccessThe time will come when management will ask about the programs effectiveness. Be prepared by monitoring program activities. Prepare status reports with information such as the number of participants, number of vehicle miles reduced by the participants, and cost of the program. Change or refine the program if it is not as effective as you need it to be.
Make Use of External ResourcesGet help from others who have implemented Commuter Choice programs. There may be organizations in your area that provide commuter services for employers. Contact these organizations and other employers that have started a similar program to get support in developing your own program. Refer to Section 10 to see what resources may be available in your area, such as a regional rideshare or public transportation agency, a TMA, or other employer network group that you could join.
The information in these guidance materials provides an overview of typical Commuter Choice strategies and examples of their effectiveness. It should be noted that the effectiveness of Commuter Choice activities in addressing specific worksite needs depends on several factors, including the level of effort and resources that are allocated to the program. Employers may need to change or enhance a program periodically to determine the most effective strategies for their needs. Refer back to the CCDSS and this document periodically to get new ideas and locate additional resources.
Survey taken from the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) "TDM Toolkit," prepared by The Hoyt Company.