National Center for Transit Research | A Program of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida
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Increasing the Desirability of Transit and All Other Travel Choices via Best Workplaces for Commuters

(Center Identification Number: 79061-19)

Principal Investigator:

Philip L. Winters
University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave, CUT100
Tampa, FL  33620
Phone: (813) 974-9811
Email: winters@cutr.usf.edu

Co-Principal Investigator:

Julie Bond
University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave, CUT100
Tampa, FL  33620
Phone: (813) 974-9799
Email: jmbond@cutr.usf.edu

Project Scope:

NCTR’s theme is to make public transportation and all other travel choices, safe, effective, efficient, desirable, and secure.  This project focuses on increasing the desirability, effectiveness, and efficiency of employer-provided commute benefits (e.g., transit subsidies, telework, etc.) by providing national recognition in a membership-based program – Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) within the NCTR National TDM and Telework Clearinghouse.

Changes in fares paid by commuters can improve transit’s desirability, effectiveness, and efficiency. TCRP Report 107 Analyzing the Effectiveness of Commuter Benefits Programs (Transit Cooperative Research Board, 2005) found that lowering the cost of transit via employer-provided commute subsidies increases transit ridership and attracts commuters who drive alone. The same report found that “Transit benefits programs can make up a substantial portion of systemwide ridership and revenues. Employer transit benefits programs can make up a substantial portion of total transit agency ridership and revenues. Among the agencies interviewed, employer programs contributed 5 to 25 percent of total transit riders and 5 to 40 percent of customer revenues.”

While the impacts can be significant, access to these benefits is very limited. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7% of civilian workers have access to subsidized commuting (transit) benefits.  (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017) Increasing the number of employers that provide transit and vanpool subsidies and/or provide commute friendly services such emergency ride home, bicycle lockers, etc. is an effective strategy for increasing use of transit, ridesharing, etc.

Helping the employers and the agencies that promote transit and all other travel choices is what the Clearinghouse and BWC is all about.    We do this by providing technical assistance and recognition to those BWC employers-members such as Florida Hospital, IBM, Seattle Childrens Hospital, U.S. Geological Survey, Fairfax County, and Yale University. Through webinars, case studies, online knowledge base, e-newsletters, and listservs, we seek to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the TDM and transit industries’ outreach efforts as well as support continuing growth among employer commute programs.  As evidenced of its growing popularity and recognition of BWC, the BWC website has about 20,000 users and 100,000 page views per year.

Finally, this project will be leveraged with $20,000 in program-generated income from the BWC workplaces.  CUTR has operated Best Workplaces for Commuters since 2007 and has leveraged NCTR funding to obtain over $132,000 in cash payments over that time.  Most of this income is from employer-paid membership dues at $230 per year that meet the National Standard of Excellence.

Project Objectives

In the coming year, we propose to build on our past successes with the Clearinghouse and BWC.  First, by increasing the number of employers providing commute-friendly workplaces as measured by membership (and revenue) in BWC from 232 in 2017 by 10% by the end of this project.  Second, CUTR will increase  the number of local supporting agencies actively promoting BWC. Finally, we will seek to increase media mentions via an annual list release to bring more media attention to NCTR, CUTR and BWC workplaces.

Tasks/Deliverables

The following tasks are necessary to achieve the objectives and deliverables.

Task 1: Workplace Outreach and Communications

BWC will provide a variety of methods to reach out to employers and other stakeholders to identify and recruit employers that meet the National Standard of Excellence that make them a commuter-friendly workplace. Specifically, the BWC will:

1.1.  Update Commuter Benefits Guide. In support of commuter assistance programs/transportation management associations’ efforts to provide a range of travel choices to workers and provide access to jobs, BWC will update Commuter Benefits Guide to reflect changes (e.g., tax reform bills may alter aspects of the Internal Revenue Code that impact qualified transportation fringe benefits (Section 132(f)).

1.2  Promote the Annual BWC List Release. Experience has shown most employers like to be able to claim the “Best of” designations and the public relations value it brings. By providing more attention to workplaces that quality, BWC expects to grow interest from non-members in BWC and generate additional income to support this effort.  We will oversee the annual list release promoting the workplaces that have offered commute-friendly programs and services.   In 2017, there were over 230 workplaces on this annual list release including a diverse group such as Mayo Clinic, The MITRE Corporation, IBM, Stanford University, Coca-Cola, and City of Orlando.  This step also included the building of a targeted list of transportation and TDM industry/trade publications to receive future press releases. For the employers, we created a BWC social media kit for employers to use on their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Blog). Kit included messaging examples; photos/images; relevant hashtags, usernames and handles; and links for BWC employers to use on social media platforms.

1.3  Maintain and enhance the BWC website. The BWC website, bestworkplaces.org , has served as a portal to transit-supportive workplaces throughout the country. This site will provide workplaces, policymakers, TDM professionals, and media with featured information on innovative programs, available resources, and successes in promoting transit and other travel options; information that could potentially be applied to improve their programs. Currently, there are approximately 14,000 users per year and over 18,000 sessions per year.

1.4  Organize and host three webinars. BWC will organize and host at least three webinars for existing and prospective members to communicate information on “best practices,” innovative program strategies, and other relevant topics. In addition, sessions will be recorded and available for on‐demand viewing.

1.5  Participate in Professional Development and Organizational Learning. This subtask is focused on building and sharing knowledge to increase productivity and effectiveness in the use of BWC’s resources. BWC staff will actively participate in transportation‐related trade associations and professional societies in leadership capacities (e.g., Association for Commuter Transportation, Transportation Research Board, and Institute of Transportation Engineers). Staff will attend workshops, conferences, and/or seminars of such groups to facilitate technology transfer, share best practices, exchange ideas to improve products and services to benefit member workplaces. BWC staff will contribute articles, papers, and/or presentations for national, state and local publications, meetings, workshops and conferences.

Deliverables:

  • The number of BWC workplaces will be tracked and reported.
  • Collect $20,000 in membership fees and other income for 2018
  • Summary of media exposure for the annual list release such as distribution in the media and traffic to the website.
  • Three webinars
  • BWC social media kit for employers to use to promote their BWC designation.
  • The website, www.bestworkplaces.org, will be updated and maintained on a regular basis. Data from Google Analytics reports will be provided as to activity, usage, etc. and submitted with quarterly reports.
  • A summary of professional development activities, including highlights from TDM related conference calls/webinars such as the Association for Commuter Transportation.

Task 2: Support Peer-to-Peer Communications within TDM community

2.1  BWC will manage several listservs to foster nearly instantaneous peer‐to‐peer interactions among BWC members and TDM professionals across the world. Since our starting first renowned listserv (TRANSP-TDM) was in October 1998, the listserv has grown to over 1,900 active members. This task also will include the support of BWC‐related listservs such as telework (430 subscribers), Best Workplaces for Commuters (528 subscribers), BWC champions (151 subscribers), parking management (478 subscribers), etc.).

Deliverables:

BWC will promptly respond to all direct technical assistance requests for assistance. BWC will prepare a semi-annual progress summary attesting to level of services provided. The report will include information on increasing memberships in listservs designed to foster peer‐to‐peer interactions,  members and activity levels. The report will include summaries of other forms of technical assistance. These include making presentations to groups in Florida on TDM in person when requested.

Task 3: Final Report

At the conclusion of the year, a final report will be prepared and published on NCTR, BWC, and CUTR websites.  Its availability will be announced via CUTR social media.

Deliverable:  Final report.

Designated Personnel

Phil Winters, Principal Investigator

Julie Bond, Co-Principal Investigator

Christine Epps, Training Support

Graduate Student Researcher

Project Schedule

The total performance period for this project is 12 months.

 

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Sponsors

  • Florida Department of Transportation
  • US Department of Transportation

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National Center for Transit Research c/o Center for Urban Transportation Research 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375