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Why It's Time to Offer a Transit Benefit

Marie Cox
Marie Cox June 4, 2021 Marie Cox is a Business Development Manager at Arlington Transportation Partners and has been living car-free since 2010. While she enjoys walking or running to work most days, she also takes advantage of a leisurely commute on the bus every now and then.

ATP Takeaway: Transit benefits offer a unique opportunity for employers to bring employees back to the office, act on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and generate value from sustainability programs.

According to the most recent regional State of the Commute survey report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), 66% of employees who work in Arlington, Alexandria, or DC are offered a transit benefit. This demonstrates a nine percent increase, up from 57% in the same report from 2016. While we know this can be an attractive benefit to help companies and their employees save money or increase organizational competitiveness, right now there are other reasons to consider this an essential strategy at your workplace.

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It’s understandable that transit benefits may seem like a bizarre subject to discuss as we look towards progressing past the pandemic. However, as Metrorail ridership has increased by an average of 233% since April 1 compared to last year and with more companies looking to return to offices in some fashion later this year, they offer a unique opportunity for companies to execute an equitable, sustainable, and welcoming transition.

Incentivize Coming to the Office

Early research has shown that there is some disparity between employers’ plans to have people in the office and their employees’ desires to return. There have been discussions about how to enhance office amenities to be more attractive places for people, and about the potential for a ‘great resignation’ of employees who prefer remote work.

When we look at the reasons why employees like telework, increased savings and forgoing the commute are often brought up. So, if you really want employees to come into to the office, why not pay them to do so?

Offering a transit benefit does just that—helping to reduce or eliminate the financial burden many of us experience as a result of our commutes. Better yet, this option yields greater savings than paying for an employee’s monthly parking, particularly if you’re planning to incorporate a hybrid work model.

As an example, let’s say an employer in Arlington offers a $150 subsidy for transit or covers the $150 monthly parking space in the office’s garage. If an employee is only commuting three days per week and drives, the employer pays the full $150 even though the space isn’t in use nearly half the month. However, with a transit benefit, an employee commuting by Metrorail three days per week is only spending $54-$144 per month, and the remaining benefit amount is returned to the employer, saving the company up to $96 per employee commuting by transit each month.

Improve Equity in the Workplace

Data from the National Equity Atlas shows that people of color are less likely to have access to a vehicle than their white counterparts. Furthermore, out of all races and ethnicities, Black households are least likely to have access to a car. To help combat this imbalance, they recommend that cities invest in public transit, focus on transit-oriented development, and expand transportation options.

Businesses have a key role to play here, too. Offering a transit benefit helps employees without a vehicle access their workplace. This is especially important in our region, where people may live farther away to find more affordable housing, but at the cost of a more expensive commute. Additionally, providing a transit benefit can help create more inclusive hiring practices, opening your recruiting pool to new talent with important perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise have reached.

Advance Corporate Sustainability Initiatives

Over the past few years, we’ve seen more companies commit to sustainability. The events of the past year have continued to push that forward and we’ve begun to see companies putting plans into action to achieve sustainability goals.

Recent findings from a McKinsey Global Survey identified a group of companies generating value (e.g. revenue gains, cost savings) from their sustainability programs who incorporated similar management practices contributing to their success. Among these practices, value-generating companies are more likely to engage employees in sustainability initiatives, consider sustainability impacts in facilities and transportation decisions, and set targets or goals for their initiatives.

As transportation continues to be the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, offering a transit benefit to employees is an important tactic to support corporate sustainability initiatives. Incorporating and promoting use of a transit benefit helps weave sustainability into employees’ actions and your company culture as well as reduces your parking footprint and associated costs as you grow. Even more, since transit benefit participation is measurable, this is data that can be easily tracked to determine how you’re making progress towards your company’s goals.

Where to Start

If you’re now convinced that offering a transit benefit is the right step forward for your organization, but not sure where to start, there’s assistance available to guide you in the right direction. Commute66 provides support for companies located in Northern Virginia inside the beltway to help you determine what type of transit benefit is right for your company, how it can be administered, and ways to promote the new offering to maximize impact.

Don’t want to risk falling behind on the return to office, diversity and inclusion initiatives, or your corporate sustainability goals? Check out our Transit Benefit Guide for a step-by-step look at implementing a transit benefit at your office.

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Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com for Arlington Transportation Partners

Tags: Bus, Metro, Benefits, Employer, Telework, Transit

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