The Washington metropolitan region is notorious for its traffic congestion and some local employers are stepping up to do something about it.
At today’s 10th annual Employer Recognition Awards ceremony, held at the National Press Club, three regional companies were hailed for raising the standard of offering commuter benefits to its employees. Sponsored by Commuter Connections, the event praised employers who have voluntarily implemented outstanding commuter benefit programs to encourage their respective employees to use transit, vanpools, carpools, bicycling and telework. These alternative modes can save employees time and money while reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality.
“For 10 years, we’ve honored companies who do a stellar job of helping to address the problems of drive-alone commuting and polluted air,” said Nicholas Ramfos, Director of Commuter Connections. “Thousands of commuters every day are sitting in traffic, contributing to air pollution, wasting gasoline and increasing their own stress. The organizations we’ve recognized today have taken serious efforts to reverse this trend, and to help their employees find a smarter way to work.”
The District and surrounding area is classified as a non-attainment area for ground level ozone by the US EPA. Taking public transportation, carpooling and bicycling to work all help to reduce emissions and make the roads a little less traveled. Companies in the Washington region are taking charge on ways to help with these measures.
“All of the applicants this year had commendable programs in place,” said Ramfos. One company decreased its drive-alone rate from 67 to 50 percent (the regional average is 70%), while another offers cyclists $350 toward bicycle purchases as an incentive. “We were really delighted to see the extent to which these businesses have made an effort to offer commute alternatives to their employees,” Ramfos said. Incentives and programs not only benefit employees but can directly and indirectly help the individual employers as well. Companies who offer commuting incentives and telework programs find it easier to attract and retain quality employees. They can also add to their bottom line, as one award winner estimates that their telework program saves the company an estimated $25,000 per employee, due to less overhead.
One company was selected for recognition in each of the three categories of Incentives, Marketing and Telework but, Ramfos said all of the companies are winners in the race to better the environment and reduce traffic congestion.
“These businesses are bringing awareness to two critical issues in our region: crowded roads and polluted air. They are beacons for behavioral change and we certainly applaud that,” Ramfos said.
This year’s winners are:
Discovery Communications (Silver Spring, MD)
Ranked as the top nonfiction media company in the world, Discovery reaches more than 1.5 billion subscribers in more than 170 countries. With more than 100 networks of distinctive programming, Discovery offers 29 brands including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Health and The Science Channel.
Employees can choose from transit subsidies, free shuttle between work sites, onsite showers and discounted and preferential parking spaces for carpools and vanpools. Cyclists can even get $350 back in their pockets for bicycle purchases. Of the company’s 2,526 staff members, over half participate in the program and records show that since inception of the program in 2003, the enrollment rate has soared by 171%. Staffers who use mass transit get a $60-per-month transit benefit while walkers get $100 reimbursement for athletic shoes. Discovery Communications was a recipient of a Commuter Connections award last year as well and since then has shown a whopping 54% increase in transit participation among employees.
Fidelity & Trust (Bethesda, MD)
This full-service community-oriented financial institution provides commercial and consumer banking services in the metropolitan Washington area. The firm’s target market includes small- and medium-sized businesses, professionals and consumers.
Fidelity prides itself on making transit more affordable for its 110 employees. The company is located near a Metro station and in an effort to offset commuting costs, they provide a $65 transit subsidy. The company also offers carpool ridematching, flexible work schedules and a casual telecommuting policy. To generate awareness about the varieties of commuting options available to its employees, Fidelity & Trust hosts “Commuter Information Day” events for employees. New hires are also provided with a breadth of commuter benefit information upon orientation. A designated company transportation coordinator ensures that information is disseminated to employees throughout the year. Due to the company’s extensive marketing efforts, an impressive 73% of employees take transit.
Blackboard (Washington, D.C.)
This leading provider of e-education enterprise software applications and services was founded in 1997. Its global clients include primary and secondary schools, higher education, textbook publishers and corporate and government markets.
Blackboard’s phased in implementation and extensive background research proved to be strong factors with the awards selection committee. In response to workers’ calls for more flexibility and teleworking opportunities, the company assembled a team to hold focus groups on how it could best serve the needs of its 500 workers. Blackboard started its program in 2005 and reports that employees telework an average of 2 days each week, including some full time teleworkers. Teleworkers not only enjoy the benefit of more time for work and family, but they also realize savings of up to $4,000 annually for commuting costs. Blackboard also boasts that its program helps to remove 91,000 pounds of tailpipe pollutants from the air annually. A recent company survey by Blackboard found that 81 percent of employees who telework view the company as a great place to work.