Eco-Friendly Commuting in California

How can businesses encourage their employees to commute to work in healthier ways?

Employers can encourage their staff to make greener, healthier changes to the way they commute. This can be done by offering public transit incentives or installing safe areas for employees to store their bikes. Providing these and other types of incentives can also serve as recruiting tools for employees looking for flexible and economical ways of getting to work. At the same time, facilitating access public transit alternatives also helps reduce absenteeism and improves productivity by giving employees reliable and affordable commuting options.

Free or Discounted Public Transit

Employers can encourage their staff to take public transit by offering a pre-tax benefit. Federal law allows a monthly pre-tax deduction of up to $255 per month to pay for transit expenses. Employers can subsidize their employees' transit costs, providing them with tax breaks of up to 10 percent for covering part of all of the cost of their employees' transit costs. For employees, the program saves up to 40 percent on transit costs.

Employer-paid benefits can also help encourage employees to take transit options. This is done with a monthly or annual subsidy for transit expenses. Offering discounted or free public transit tickets and passes helps encourage employees to leave their cars at home at ride a bus, subway or tram to work. Several transit systems offer discounted passes and other incentives to support employers. For example, San Diego's ECO Pass Program offers discounted rates on pre-purchased monthly passes. Businesses also benefit from tax benefits. In Los Angeles, employers can purchase Metro Annual Transit Access Passes for employees or benefit from discounted group rates with the Metro Business Transit Access Pass.

Encouraging Car Sharing

Businesses that have offices located in areas that are underserved by public transit can encourage eco-friendly commuting by offering their own transportation. Employer-funded bus or van services give employees an affordable way to get to and from work. It also provides an incentive for workers to leave their cars at home. Other car sharing options include operating a car and van pool website for employees. This type of site helps workers find colleagues that commute along the same route and encourages carpooling. Car and van pooling reduces the number of cars on the road and the amount of carbon produced to get staff to and from the workplace. Alternatively, employers can register with car share programs or promote local car and van pooling initiatives delivered by non-profits, municipal governments or other third parties.

Promoting Walking and Biking

Employers can support eco-friendly ways of commuting by promoting active lifestyles. A fun way to encourage employees to use healthier and green ways of commuting is with a friendly competition. Employees are asked to track how they commute to work. As part of the tracking, employees are given information on the approximate carbon footprint of each commuting method. Employees with the lowest carbon footprint in a given week or month wins a prize. Prizes should be eco-friendly, such as a new bike or running shoes, public transit passes, or gift certificates to a local sporting goods shop. Green options such as biking and walking are encouraged because they have no carbon footprints compared to driving a car to work. At the same time, greener commuting options are also promoted since public transit and carpooling also reduce an employee's carbon footprint.

Providing gift certificate to sporting goods shops also helps reduce the cost of going green while promoting a healthier lifestyle. Employees can use gift certificates to buy a new bike or walking shoes, or to help maintain their bike. Employers also encourage biking to and from work by offering safe and secure spots for employees to leave their bikes. This might involve installing bike rakes outside your workplace or in the company's parking lot, or building bike sheds where employees can lock up their bikes. Biking and walking to work can be further encouraged by giving employees access to showers and changing rooms at the workplace. Employers can also promote cycling and walking trails to work by providing employees with maps.

Developing a Plan to Encourage Green, Healthy Commuting

Benefits and incentives that encourage greener, healthier ways of getting to and from work have a positive environmental impact by reducing the carbon footprint of commuting employees. Green commuting also reduces employers' parking costs, and employees have lower costs related to maintaining their car from wear and tear and buying gas. Before deciding on the best way to encourage green and healthier commuting, employers should find out how their employees are getting to and from work by conducting a survey of employees commuting habits. Employers should also determine which commuting options are of interest to them and what options are the most practical to help measure the success of your green commuting program.