Commutes to and from work are expected to get lengthier and more frustrating as the National Capital Region continues to grow in population and jobs. As a result, many local businesses have made an effort to provide benefits to improve their employees’ commutes. For the past seven years, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) has been honoring employers for voluntarily initiating and promoting alternative commuter programs. At a ceremony held at the National Press Club, the following employers received COG’s 2004 Commuter Connections Employer Recognition Awards:
- Marketing Award: United States Census Bureau
- Incentives Award: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
- Telework Award: QRC Division of Macro International Inc.
- Employer Services Sales Team Achievement Award: Prince George’s County Employer Outreach Services
- Employer Services Organization Achievement Award: City of Alexandria Telework VA! Grant Match Program
“The most effective solution for our congestion problem will always be to increase the number of commuters who rideshare, take transit, and telework. The employers that we are honoring today are examples of companies who have embraced these concepts with outstanding results,” said Chris Zimmerman, Chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.
“These employers are changing the culture within their workplaces and as a result are positively contributing to environmental improvement,” said COG Chair and D.C. Council Member Phil Mendelson, who served as master of ceremonies at the event.
Recipients were evaluated on three criteria: benefits to employers and employees; economic and financial benefits, such as reducing commuter costs and improving the business climate; and, reduction of gasoline consumption and emissions.
“Commuter Connections continues to work with area businesses by assisting with programs that identify opportunities to improve the quality of life for employees, reduce vehicle emissions, and decrease traffic congestion in the region,” said Robin Briscoe, Chair of Commuter Connections.
During the event, COG also kicked off the campaign to add employers to the 2004 Greater Washington D.C. Region’s Best Workplaces for Commuters list.
The Best Workplaces for Commuters list, an EPA led initiative, has set national standards of excellence for employers by establishing criteria for companies and organizations committed to reducing traffic congestion, cutting air pollution and improving the quality of life for commuters. The Best Workplaces for Commuters program in the Washington region includes COG's Commuter Connections program, together with a coalition of government and business organizations.
Commuter Connections is a network of area transportation organizations coordinated by COG, working toward easing citizens’ daily commutes and reducing vehicle emissions. COG is the association of 19 local governments working together for a better metropolitan region.
Editor’s Note: Brief descriptions of the award winners follow:
Marketing Award: United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is in the process of moving its 5,000 employees to new facilities in Suitland, Maryland with only 4,000 available parking spaces in 2004 and 3,000 parking spaces by 2012. Of the 5,000 eligible employees, 1,250 (25%) workers participate in a variety of alternative transportation benefits, including carpools, vanpools, transit use and bicycling.
The communications effort is promoted by a group of eleven individuals, collectively referred to as the Commuter Central at Census Project Team. Their marketing efforts include creating a carpool web site, a commuter information intranet site that links to Commuter Connections, and a commuter map placed in the cafeteria with information on carpools and vanpools. They also produce two Commuter Fairs a year and conduct meetings with employees to fine-tune their benefits program.
Under the Commuter Central at Census program, the number of commuters driving alone to work has decreased by 8.2%, carpooling has increased by 17.9% and transit riding has increased by 30.6%. As a result, employees have reduced travel by 12,500 miles per day, or about 3 million miles a year.
Incentives Award: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 114,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. This Rockville, Maryland non-profit organization employs 225 people and boasts a 41% participation rate in their alternative commuter programs. (11.1% carpool, 16.8% telework, and 12.8% use Montgomery County’s Fare Share transit subsidy benefit.)
Uniquely distinguishing ASHA is their innovative incentives program, where employees receive points for each time they use an alternative commute to or from work. Employees get a half point for each way, or one point per round trip. Employees can accumulate enough points to trade in for a $25 gas card (used for carpools) or a gift card to Sports Authority. Employees who rideshare are also eligible for a free lunch through a monthly lottery. ASHA has showers and lockers on site for employees who walk or bicycle to work and allows employees to telework up to 3 days per week.
Under ASHA’s program, employees have reduced travel by 545,376 vehicle miles each year.
Telework Award: QRC Division of Macro International, Inc.
QRC Division of Macro International Inc. applies state-of-the-art internet and database technologies to the needs of decision-makers concerned with science, research, and education policies. QRC’s divisional offices are based in Bethesda, Maryland where the company employs 119 people.
QRC has been offering a comprehensive transportation benefits package since March 2001 and currently has over 33% employee participation in one or more programs. Due to their commitment to offering exemplary transportation benefits, QRC has received designation as a Best Workplaces for CommutersSM company from the EPA in 2003.
QRC’s telework program is successful due to the high rate of participation among employees and the level of support telework receives from management. Fifteen employees participate by teleworking full-time (14%), and approximately 45% telework up to two days a week. All employees are given access to laptops and are reimbursed for second phone lines or DSL in their homes. The company has retained several senior level personnel who would have otherwise terminated employment due to the distance of their commute, or their need to relocate to another state.