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.

Employee Benefit News - - Contents - BY CARO­LINE HRONCICH

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.

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