Through the Hytch app, businesses in Middle Tennessee pay commuters as much as 12 cents a mile to carpool. “If you pump millions into incentives, you change the way people move around,” said app creator Mark Cleveland. “Using incentives to drive the behavior you want will work to increase ridership on mass transit … That’s how you get congestion relief, and it’s very inexpensive.”
Wendy Duren of Arlington Transportation Partners in Virginia, said another option is the federal pre-tax transit benefit that should be set up by employers as “part of the package they share with potential new hires.”
“Businesses are increasingly taking advantage of such programs due to benefits such as reduced parking demand, recruitment and retention of talent who desire a transit, walkable and bicycle friendly lifestyle, recognition in the community as an environmentally responsible company and cost savings due to a healthier and more productive workforce,” Clements said.
“If an employer offers it on that pre-tax basis, their cost is their time to set it up. It’s part of the package they share with potential new hires, the same as they would health care or vision or flexible spending or retirement.”
Some Washington, D.C.-area employers also provide staff members with the equivalent of a parking spot’s value if they don’t take a space, Duren said. In addition to cost savings, employers stand to gain by improving employees’ commute experience.
In Seattle, where transit ridership is on the rise and overwhelming current infrastructure, 60 percent of Metro transit riders have fares paid for by employers. The companies pay a reduced rate to the city and the perk is often used as a recruitment tool, according to Seattle transportation officials.
Ralph Schulz, CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce that has endorsed the transit plan, said Nashville businesses have adopted a range of incentives, including reimbursing Uber and Lyft rides, to enhance quality of life and lower stress for employees.
At Vanderbilt University, where one third of the campus is comprised of parking spaces, employees and students can ride public transit for free. In 2017, nearly 180,000 employees and more than 42,000 students took advantage of free public transit. Student usage climbed 9 percent last year and employee usage increased 3 percent. Vanderbilt University Medical Center offers a discount price for carpool parking.
Hytch has tallied more than 850,000 shared miles this year, 65,000 carpooled trips and more than 1 million vehicle miles not driven as a result of carpooling, Cleveland said. Most Hytch carpools consist of two passengers, but more than 1,500 rides have included seven or more passengers. Commuters have earned more than $31,000 since February when Hytch launched its incentives model.
“The biggest pro is being able to have someone to talk to,” said one of the carpoolers. “We barely listen to music. It makes the time pass by so much quicker.”
To see more articles like this, subscribe to the Mobility Lab Daily Newsletter.