Wanna Share a Ride? Tech Tools Drive How We Commute to Work

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By Carmen Castro-Pagan

Technology is driving how U.S. companies deliver commuter benefit packages to their employees.

Access to innovative, interactive, user-friendly tools and the data analytics they provide are allowing employers of all sizes to adopt commuter benefit programs that fit their employees’ needs. Companies including Microsoft, Stanford Research Park, and engineering firm Tindale Oliver have embraced the tools as a means of encouraging their workers to take advantage of commuter benefits.

Take SPLT and Scoop, for example. These mobile apps operate similarly to Uber and Lyft but help riders carpool with co-workers. The companies that create these apps are stepping up to offer flexible, low-cost rides that appeal to employees with odd schedules.

Technology has blown open the door for commuting solutions that didn’t exist in the past few years, David Clavens, head of marketing at Scoop, told Bloomberg BNA. It’s fair to say that technology is making more employers and employees aware of the commuter alternatives available, Philip Winters, director of Best Workplaces for Commuters, told Bloomberg BNA.

The Easier the Better

Microsoft is making the service user-friendly to attract more participants. “The easier we make it for employees, the better,” Crockford said.

MERGE also provides Microsoft with “credible data intelligence” on how people are using the buses, shuttles, and vehicles, Crockford said. “We can get better data on the program’s use, customize it and optimize the money we invest on it,” he said.

Jamie Jarvis, transportation manager of Stanford Research Park, said technology has increased SRP’s ability to reach people. Located in Palo Alto, Calif., SRP manages 700 acres owned by Stanford University that host more than 150 companies, including HP, Lockheed Martin, Tesla, and SAP.

Of 20,000 employees in the research park, some 7,500 use the commuter program. SRP has incorporated a trip planner called SRPGO and real-time shuttle locations to its program. “The fact that you can see where the shuttle is brings comfort,” Jarvis said.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast

New Haven Yale System, a nonprofit hospital that partners with Yale University, has also seen remarkable results by incorporating technology into its commuter program. It needs to serve 12,000 employees, as well as its patients and visitors, in a relatively small city with limited public transportation. That prompted the hospital to look into technology to improve its commuter program, Rodney Slaughter, senior manager of parking and transportation services at New Haven Yale, told Bloomberg BNA.

The hospital partnered with Ride Systems to incorporate real-time GPS tracking of its bus system through mobile phones, Slaughter said. Knowing when the next bus will arrive is particularly welcome during Connecticut winters, he said. New Haven, which is among the 10 largest hospitals in the country, has one of the largest bus systems for a stand-alone hospital with 18 buses per day, Slaughter said.

Tindale Oliver, an engineering firm that provides transportation and transit solutions to public sector clients, is also incorporating technology tools to provide commuter options to its 80 employees. Based in Tampa, Fla., and with offices across the country, the company is taking a unique spin on how it promotes its commuter program.

“We have done this a million different ways,” Laura Everitt, associate director of transit solutions at Tindale Oliver, said.

The company runs commuter promotions, which usually last three weeks, where employees are encouraged to bike or carpool to work and to log their trips online and even post a selfie, Everitt said.

Employees receive points for each trip and each selfie, and at the end of the promotion there’s a trophy and gift cards for the winners, Everitt said. The promotions are fun, and it makes employees try something new, she said.

App Offers Sustainability Metrics

Carpooling is a great alternative for those employees who have different schedules, Anya Babbitt, SPLT’s founder and chief executive officer, told Bloomberg BNA. The technology behind SPLT allows for customized solutions for organizations based on their data, she said.

The company’s services also allow employers to track their companies’ sustainability metrics, including carbon emissions, gas, miles, and rides, Babbitt said.

SPLT launched in 2014 and operates across the U.S. and Mexico and soon will launch in Germany and the U.K. SPLT has partnered with a number of companies, most recently with BMW, PG&E, and Bosch, Babbitt said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at ccastro-pagan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bna.com

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