Transit - SylvieDoes your workplace subscribe to the EcoPass program – Winnipeg Transit’s discounted monthly bus pass program for employers? If so, you’re one of 88 local workplaces currently subscribing. In 2014, Transit sold 73,000 monthly bus passes through the EcoPass program!

It’s no wonder the program is popular with subscribers. Transit Centre in the U.S. found that, “People offered pre-tax transit commuting benefits [like Winnipeg Transit’s EcoPass] from their employers are over five times as likely to take transit regularly as employed persons who are not receiving benefits”. Apparently a great way to get people to take the bus is to offer them a discounted bus pass!

We at Green Action Centre recently wondered how we can get more workplaces on board, so we asked our trusty Commuting Ambassadors:

“Which arguments do you think resonate best with your employer when it comes to making the case for EcoPass”?

Cathy Steven (Health in Common) presents Eric Wiens (Stantec) with this year's Commuter Friendly Workplace Award

Cathy Steven (Health in Common) presents Eric Wiens (Stantec) with this year’s Commuter Friendly Workplace Award

Image. More workplaces want to not only do the right thing but be seen doing the right thing. Tie into your existing workplace strategies, like sustainability plans and corporate social responsibility mandates, and engage with outside partners wherever possible to work the image angle.

Financial savings. Any change that impacts the bottom line can be powerful, and employer-provided or employer-discounted parking is expensive. Make the case for EcoPass by estimating the amount that could be saved by reducing the demand for parking. This argument is especially persuasive where parking is expensive, or when new parking facilities are being considered for construction. Conduct an employee commuting survey to help you make the case.

Environment. Transportation is Manitoba’s largest sector source of greenhouse gas emissions. That means our daily commuting decisions matter and provide us with an opportunity to make a difference. When your workplace subscribes to the EcoPass program and offers staff better alternatives to the solo drive to work, your workplace should track these achievements, be proud, and get recognized (see Image above).

“What are some of the challenges when implementing an EcoPass program?”

Our Commuting Ambassadors noted a few challenges, including the argument that EcoPass creates:

Unequal “perks” between commuting methods. The discounted transit pass could be seen by some employers and employees as an unfair perk for transit users. If this is the case, your workplace could consider implementing a monthly transportation allowance instead.

Unequal “perks” between multiple worksites. Some large employers with worksites in multiple cities and towns can find it challenging to offer equal transit discounts to all sites, especially those with limited transit services. Similar to the last challenge, your workplace could consider offering a monthly transportation allowance, or an annual “sustainability” or “health and wellness” fund which staff could apply to the purchase of monthly transit passes (or cycling or running gear).

“Are there any other elements workplaces should consider?”

Taylor Park & Ride 3 transitTransit friendliness. Does your worksite have good lighting and shelter near its bus stop? Is your worksite serviced by multiple buses, including express buses, throughout the day?

The evening shift. Do you have a plan for late-night commuting, including safe routes and lighting? Does your workplace have an Emergency Ride Home program in place?

Attracting attention. How are you letting staff know about the EcoPass option? Can you borrow an idea from Stantec (2015 winner of the Commuter Friendly Workplace Award) and distribute a time and cost comparison of busing vs driving from various points in the City? Can you include information on the EcoPass, Transit Tools, and Park & Ride locations in appropriate staff emails?

Making it easy. If taking transit is more convenient and less expensive than driving and parking, staff will be much more likely to use transit and request the EcoPass.

Great tips, Commuting Ambassadors!

Are you interested in improving commuting options at your workplace? Consider taking some of our free, half-day commuting ambassador training sessions and becoming an ambassador at your workplace.