Cool Commuting Companies

Driving alone during peak rush hour traffic makes for unhappy and stressed employees, and can mean a big drain of time and money for businesses. That’s why so many companies in Austin are taking steps to promote alternative transportation for their employees by taking the Mobility Challenge. Need some inspiration to change the commuting culture at your work place? Here are just a few of Austin’s coolest commuting companies.

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NetSpend, a provider of reloadable prepaid cards and related financial services, is one of the largest employers in downtown Austin. The company is committed to staying in downtown as it grows, but with limited parking spaces available, NetSpend knew it had to help employees find the options that work for them.

To incentivize alternative commutes, NetSpend gamified Mobility Week for its employees in 2014. The company offered free passed to bus and rail, access to a car2go business account, discounted Zipcar memberships, B-cycle memberships for a week, flex hours, and help in setting up carpools and vanpools. For every option an employee used during that week, they would earn one piece of “flair.”

One year later, the behavior changes that many NetSpend employees tried out during last year’s Mobility Week have stuck. “Because we gave our employees an opportunity to experience different modes for free and offered training/assistance for people who were first time bus/rail riders — we had a lot of people convert to commute on a permanent basis,” says NetSpend’s Lynda Lerma.

The company continues to offer free monthly transit passes for employees who give up their paid downtown parking spot, as well as free B-cycle membership and access to corporate car2go and zipcar accounts. For employees who are still on the fence, NetSpend offers discounts on Capital Metro bus and rail passes, car2go and zipcar accounts, and B-cycle memberships.

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The University Federal Credit Union began in 1936, and now serves more than 200 universities, associations, and employers in Texas. By taking on the Mobility Challenge, UFCU wanted to both improve the work environment for its own employees and share their experiences to help member companies also take on smart commuting strategies.

Before joining the challenge, 94% of UFCU’s employees who responded to a survey on commuting said they drove alone to work. Those who did not drive alone used ridesharing and bicycling to get to work. Yet a majority of the respondents – 85% – said they would give mobility options a try.

UFCU decided to develop a 12-month mobility plan, which included creating a telework policy to support new mobility goals, training employees, supporting the ridesharing already taking place in the company, and working with managers to make it as easy for employees to use mobility options as it is for them to drive alone to work.

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In conjunction with joining the Mobility Challenge in 2014, the Texas Department of Transportation developed a pilot program to evaluate ways to reduce peak-time work trips in the Austin area. TxDOT reported that 69% of its employees drove alone to work most days, and 25% carpooled with at least one other person. TxDOT employees also took advantage of teleworking and using transit to get to work. Employees who already used mobility options reported that they had increased productivity and less stress around commuting.

To keep the momentum going after Mobility Week, TxDOT committed to providing more teleworking options and more flexibility; a way to compensate employees for using options; and more support in matching people with options. These strategies support TxDOT’s goals of recruiting and retaining the best employees, improving operational efficiencies, and being a resource and a leader for state agencies to follow in order to successfully implement Mobility Programs.

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