Employers turn to carpooling apps to ‘lyft’ commuting burdens
A surge of new transportation tools, such as Hytch and RideAmigos, aim to save both companies and employees money and time.
A surge of new transportation tools , such as Hytch and RideAmigos, aim to save both companies and employees money and time.
Hugh Thomas knows firsthand the issue many employers are facing: longer and more expensive commutes for employees.
Thomas, managing partner of Onin Staffing, a Birmingham, Alabama-based industrial staffing company, heard his employees’ concerns about the increasing cost of transportation and worried about them showing up for work in different locations. That’s why, three months ago, Onin turned to Hytch — a smart phone app that allows employers to allocate funds to pay employees a few cents every time they carpool — to workers at a Nissan manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
“I’m hoping that it will open up a world for people who are on the outskirts of where my clients have locations, so they can better justify the price value of the travel versus their pay rate,” Thomas says.
As more employers struggle with similar problems and see commuting costs rise, a growing number are turning to new transportation apps that aim to address those issues.
These platforms incentivize employees to commute via Uber- or Lyft-style ride requesting or organized carpools, while others reward employees who drive in groups or take public transportation.
David Straus, executive director of the Association for Commuter Transportation, says employers that are implementing cloud-based technologies and smartphone apps are benefitting by appealing themselves to younger workers. They’re also marketing themselves as environmentally-friendly, touting carpooling as a method for limiting carbon emissions.
“A lot of these new companies that are coming into the fold are putting a new spin on it,” he says. “They’re bringing in a kind of innovative, cool feel, which makes it a bit more attractive to individuals.”
Rob Sadow, chief executive and co-founder of Scoop, a Bay Area company that organizes carpools for employers, says its average user travels around 18 miles to work. The company currently works with employers including LinkedIn and Expedia. Usually, he says, commuters are coming from places that do not have solid public transportation.
“They don’t have the ability to take the train and are stuck,” Sadow says.
Cloud-based commuter management platform RideAmigos allows employees to organize carpools and earn rewards for ride sharing, teleworking or taking public transportation. The company also helps employees plan their trips and provides opportunities for alternative commute options, like van pools, biking or walking. Kathryn Hagerman, director of marketing at RideAmigos, says these rewards span anywhere from small amounts of cash to gift cards to big-name retailers. People with longer commutes typically earn more points, Hagerman says. Patagonia and Google are among the companies using RideAmigos.
Luum is another commuter management platform that customizes such benefits for employers. Kelly Hostetler, customer success manager at Luum, says the company works with employers to help manage their benefits in a way that is both flexible and meets employees’ needs.
Employees can sign in to the Luum web portal or their mobile app to apply for transit cards and parking, locate rideshares, earn rewards and log how they got to work. Then, she says, Luum uses enterprise and third party integrations to aggregate data from the platform and provide it to the company, so they can better understand how their commuter benefits are working.
“It’s giving them that flexibility in their daily commute,” she says. “[Commuting] is something we do every day, twice a day; it’s a big impact on our life,” Hostetler says. “Having an employer that includes that in their benefits package, and includes an easy tool like Luum that aggregates all of that for you, is a really powerful message the employer can send.”
But it’s not just about attracting employees. Outsourcing commuter benefits also can save companies money, experts say. For example, an employer would have to hire several full-time staff members to organize carpools, but using an outside service saves time and makes it more likely that employees will actually use the benefit. Many ride shares match individuals across a geographic area, instead of just within a single company, making it more likely that employees will find a carpool and return to the app next time, Straus says.