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Engaging Employees with Your Commute Programs
Part1Part One:  Green Teams

Increasing participation in your company's commuter benefits program doesn't always require offering shiny new incentives or programs. Many companies have successfully increased use of their commuter benefits by tapping into a rich resource: employee enthusiasm! Green teams are a very effective vehicle for engaging employees in your commute programs.

Ministry of Alternative Commutes
The Ministry of Alternative Commutes is a self-organized group of employees who implement a commute incentive program for the City of San Rafael. The program has been in place for three years and about 12 percent of the City's employees participate. The Ministry of Alternative Commutes is allotted a budget for employee commute incentives such as quarterly prize drawings and annual gift cards for those who use alternative transportation at least twice a week. The group uses photos and quotes from participating employees in announcements about the incentives, Bike to Work Day and other events. Examples of their creative marketing posters can be found  here.
 
Green Genes
Green Genes is the clever name of Genentech's Green Team.  Green Genes is organized into six committees, each focusing on one interest area. The Transportation Committee informs 
employees about the va rious alternative commute options available to Genentech employees, which include public transit, bicycling, vanpools and shuttles. These options allow people to commute to work in a practical and environmentally sustainable way. The Transportation Committee  has partnered with the company's Electric Vehicle and Bike C lu bs to demonstrate how to use electric cars and bikes. W hen a ferry terminal opened in South San Francisco, they hosted a lunch-and-learn event for employees on the ferry to exp erience firsthand the ease and comfort of the comm ute. W ith help from Green Genes, Genentech's commute r program has eliminated millions of car trips and nearly 100 million pounds of CO2 to date. Employee use of alternative commute options at Genentech has also increased from 28 percent to 43 percent since 200 7.
Part2Part Two:Commute Champs

If your organization is large, or spread across multiple sites, it can be challenging to communicate relevant transportation information to all your employees. This is when a Commute Champions program could be helpful.

County of Alameda Commute Champs program
Alameda County Commute Champs
The County of Alameda has 10,000 employees across 150 sites. The small transportation services department designed a program called Clean Commute Champs to facilitate communication with employees at its many locations.  Clean Commute Champs answer employees' questions about transportation options and provide employees with transportation information that is localized, based on their offices' location and needs.

Additional benefits include:   
  • Letting employees know about commute incentive programs
  • Empowering employees to be ambassadors for topics they are passionate about
  • Gathering information about what different offices are doing to promote alternatives to driving alone
  • Engaging hundreds of employees in the commute program at a very low cost
  • Leveraging the power of peer-to-peer communication while avoiding email overload.
City of San Jose employees commuting to work.
City of San Jose employees commuting to work.
The City of San Jose was inspired by Alameda County to develop a similar program. San Jose's program used a Green Commute Challenge as a competitive focus in the summer months. They challenge every department in the city to see what percentage of employees can try a green transportation option at least once during the challenge.

Read on for details on how these programs are structured.
Part3Part Three: Communication

Timing is everything when promoting your company's commuter benefits - so when is it optimal to get your employee's attention?
  • When launching a new benefit or service
  • During new employee orientation
  • During your annual open enrollment period
  • When you can combine messages such as when promoting Bike to Work Day/Month activities 

Bicycle  train    Ferry    Bus    Carpool

When launching a new benefit or program - whether it is pre-tax commuter benefits, priority carpool parking or bike lockers - use every communication tool available! Graphics or emojis, posters, electronic signage, email, company newsletter and payroll stuffers, daily message alerts - however you communicate to your employee's is the best way to remind them of your company's commuter benefits.
 
If your company offers pre-tax commuter benefits - such as WageWorks, Clipper Direct or Commuter Check - new employee orientation is the best opportunity to talk staff through the commuter options and benefits provided. You can increase the likelihood that they will take advantage of this benefit by encouraging them to visit your commuter information page on your website or  511.org to plan their commute using the transit planner. 511.org also has useful information on carpool and vanpool options, and opportunities for monthly prize drawings. When employees set aside their pre-tax dollars for transit and vanpools, your company also benefits from reduced payroll taxes.
 
Annual events provide another opportunity to promote your commuter benefits.  Bike to Work Day, health and wellness fairs and Earth Day activities are all closely aligned with the health and environmental benefits of alternative commute modes such as walking, biking, transit and carpooling. Take every opportunity to remind employees about the commute alternatives to driving alone.
 
If communicating to multiple worksites is a barrier, try using  Commute Champs to help spread the word across multiple locations.  Using a variety of communication tools on a regular basis will increase the visibility of your program and the likelihood employees will adopt these new programs.