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Fundamentals About A Guaranteed Ride Home Program

What is a Guaranteed Ride Home program?

A GRH program is a free or subsidized ride provided to commuters who use alternative commute modes to accommodate their occasional unexpected trips (such as on emergency errands or an unexpected need to work late, removing the concern of being stranded at work without an automobile).

  • Is offered by a sponsor such as an employer or a third party such as a rideshare service, a TMA, a transit company or an MPO.
  • The sponsor may pay for taxi rides, contracted car rentals, transit passes or offer company vehicles for participating employees.

Why is a GRH program important?

  • Improves commuters' security and flexibility to respond to emergencies without relying on their car. GRH makes alternative modes more feasible especially to non-drivers and low-income employees because they avoid unexpected emergency expenses while using alternative commute options that save them money.
  • It is an effective low cost program. In 1993, COMSIS estimated that GRH typically averages less than $5 per employee per year (1993 dollars) since less than 10% of eligible employees uses GRH. The Warner Center TMA in Los Angeles found that about 1% of the 6,000 eligible rideshare patrons used the service (Park, 1991) and a nationwide survey of eleven GRH programs by KT Analytics found that their average use is about 13 rides per 100 eligible employees per year.
  • Increases employee satisfaction, commitment and retention. A GRH program shows that the employer cares about their well-being and is willing to provide support services.
  • Helps achieve TDM objectives by using alternative modes. In a 1992 K.T. Analytics survey, 59% of rideshare and transit patrons considered GRH important in their decision to use alternative modes, and in the 1998 Hunt & McMillan survey, availability of GRH has a value roughly equivalent to subsidized transit fares at a fraction of the cost. In Bellevue, it was found that bus trips increased by 12%, carpool dropped by 2% and vanpool increased by 64% with some notation that most increases came from solo drivers switching.

How can a GRH program be implemented?

  • By an employer or a third party such as a rideshare service, a TMA, a transit company or an MPO using:
    • Taxi rides reimbursed by the program sponsor.
    • Company vehicles of employer.
    • Car rentals contracted by employers.
    • Transit passes offered by the program sponsor.
  • By implementing concrete policy specifications
    • Who is eligible? The program could cover all employees, or only those who use alternative modes for a specified portion of commuting.
    • What trips are eligible? The program could cover any trip, or it could be limited to unexpected business appointments or overtime, earlier departure of carpool/vanpool, employee or family member sickness, and other personal emergencies (victim of crime, home fire, plumbing leak etc).
    • Maximum number of uses allowed. Is it during a certain period, maximum miles within a period, or maximum cost per trip?
    • Which staff or department is responsible for implementation? Is it the human resources, parking, security, finance, etc?
    • What are the procedures for using the GRH service? See "typical implementation steps" below.
    • Pay attention to precautionary measures.
      • Involve stakeholders such as employees, taxi companies, car-share organizations or other contractors in the planning process.
      • Tie it closely to your commute options, i.e., design of a GRH program features should be derived from the type of commute options to be implemented.
      • Consider co-payments, i.e., GRH may be free or it may require a modest co-payment from the service user.
    • Limit restrictions, i.e., to allow commuters to participate in unplanned non emergency events that can still affect their decision whether or not to drive (it is most effective if requirements are not restricted to "emergency" trips alone).
    • Anticipate cost variations i.e., Commuter Transportation Services in Los Angeles suggests an estimation between 0.5 and 20 percent of current rideshare patrons ranging from companies allowing rides for overtime, errands or business trips, to companies allowing emergency use only respectively.

What are the typical implementation steps?

  • Identify and decide on the commute options the company would offer. These include transit, rideshare, bike, walk, skateboard, etc.
  • Ensure top-level support of the commute options.
  • Tailor the GRH program plans to the commute options selected.
  • Develop program description based on selected commute options.
  • Itemize benefits to the employer and related opportunities.
  • Itemize costs to the employer and related challenges.
  • Determine the feasibility of offering a GRH program.
    • Estimate the average cost at $5 for 20% of current rideshare patrons per year.
    • Identify potential providers and assess their requirements.
    • Assess employee commute needs and support to use the program.
    • Ensure top-level support of the GRH program.
  • Develop program policies and procedures (better anticipate than react).
  • Involve stakeholders throughout the process.
  • Specify eligibility such as type of commute, times of commute, employee status etc (also see form at
  • Determine whether employees will use vouchers or be reimbursed and the approval procedures (balance convenience versus abuse).
  • Develop appropriate paperwork, e.g. registration forms, ID cards and reimbursement vouchers in triplicate (copies for administrator, employee and service provider).
  • Allocate resources
  • Assign an Employee Transportation Coordinator (ETC) who will administer the program and liaison with outside providers, jurisdictions and other related entities.
  • Make appropriate arrangements with taxis, rental car companies, local transit agency and other relevant service providers.
  • Manage the Program
  • Continually promote the program to potential users of alternative modes as a safety net for participants (information of availability versus encouraging to use).
  • Ensure that the service is fast, reliable and convenient.
  • Keep records and regularly analyze patterns especially about frequent uses that may address a larger personnel issue (childcare, unplanned overtime, accidents etc).
  • Monitor the program against abuse by employees or service providers.
  • Keep stakeholders informed especially management and service providers.

What are some of the GRH challenges?

  • Possible high costs. For taxis, company car or rentals especially for programs serving commuters working late or overtime. However, experience indicates that employer costs are usually low, especially for programs offering emergency service during the workday only, and it is a very cost effective way to reduce automobile commuting. In general, taxis are cost effective for short trips while auto rentals are preferable for longer trips.
  • Liability exposure. In case of accidents and late arrivals to appointments but this need to be specified in policies and sign up forms. In many states, worker compensation laws only recognize where an employee is carrying out employment duties.

What are some of the examples?

  • Transit Agencies
    • Tri-Met, Portland, OR: The transit agency offers a system wide GRH program for participating companies. In the early days when GRH at Tri-met was limited to participants in special shuttle programs such as the Rivergate shuttle, Milwaukie Shuttle and similar others, Tri-Met developed a supplementary program called Emergency Ride Home (ERH) program to cover other commuters. Tri-Met negotiated with a taxi company to offer 8% off the regular cost for all other commuters not using the special shuttle program with fares paid by the employer or employee. Eventually, the program was consolidated into an ERH to cover all alternative mode users in participating companies.
  • Employers
    • Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, CA: Has a GRH at 17 sites in LA and relies on vouchers with security personnel responsible for arranging transportation.
    • Avista, Spokane, WA: Has a Fleet Services Department with cars for employee use to meetings. The same vehicles are used for GRH for a qualifying employee to drive home and return it the next day. Taxis are called only if no cars are available.
    • Hughes Aircraft Back-Up Vanpool Program, Tucson, Arizona: Provides an emergency van only for vanpoolers during the day and after work. For after work service, employees must call the Hughes rideshare office before 4 p.m.
    • Xerox Company Fleet Car Program, Palo Alto, California: Rideshare patrons may use company cars in emergencies. Use is limited to two hours, though cars can be brought home and returned the next day.
  • Transportation Organizations
    • Ride-On, the TMA for San Luis Obispo County in Central California: Offers door-to-door GRH service anywhere in the area on weekdays between 8 am and 7 pm. In the event of an emergency, authorized staff calls Ride-On to request a Guaranteed Ride Home. The TMA will send a vehicle within 15 minutes.
    • Golden Gate Bridge District Flex-Pool Program, San Francisco, California: Provides vanpool services for all commuters using District transit, vanpools, carpools or club buses in downtown San Francisco. Vans are owned by the District and driven by volunteer commuters in exchange for unlimited use of the van. Reservations must be made by 3:30 p.m.
  • Public Jurisdictions
    • City of Albuquerque GRH Program in New Mexico: It is the Transit Department's insurance offering for those in the Bernalillo County area that regularly use alternate modes of transportation at least three times a week (those who buy a monthly bus pass are automatically registered). This service can be used up to five times a year for true emergencies such as personal illness, family illness, unscheduled overtime or any other emergency that requires you to leave work or school.
    • Montgomery County Government Subsidized Taxi Program, Montgomery County, Maryland: Provides county employees who use transit and carpool with reimbursement for taxi or transit use in emergencies.
    • Denver Regional Council of Governments, Denver, Colorado: Has about 16,500 registered car-poolers who rideshare at least twice per week are eligible for two free taxi rides for emergencies over a 6-month test period.
    • City of Bellevue Subsidized Taxi Service, Bellevue, Washington: Carpool, vanpool and transit patrons are eligible for the program. Applicants are given taxi vouchers good for limited mileage for one year. Users must pay for the cab themselves, then send in the voucher to the regional transit agency (Metro) and request reimbursement. Metro refunds the taxi fare less a $1.00 co-payment.
  • Useful Resources
    Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida,
  • Christopher Park, Evaluation of Second Year Effectiveness of Guaranteed Ride home at Warner Center TMO, Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, 1992.
  • Cosette Polena and Lawrence Jesse Glazer, "Examination of 11 Guaranteed Ride Home Programs Nationwide," Transportation Research Record 1321, 1991, pp. 57-65.
  • Eileen Kadesh and Laurie Elder, "Guaranteed Ride Home: An Insurance Program for HOV Users," Transportation Research Record No. 1212, Transportation Research Board, 1989.
    K.T. Analytics, TDM Status Report; Guaranteed Ride Home, Federal Transit Administration, USDOT 1992.
  • Victoria Transit Policy Institute, Guaranteed Ride Home program,





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