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20 CHAPTER five CASE STUDIES INTRODUCTION with data taken from fiscal year (FY) 2007 National Tran- sit Database reports or provided directly by the agency. The Survey results provide an excellent overview of the major interviews explored issues raised by the survey responses in issues regarding public employer pass programs. Follow- greater depth. ing a review of these results, six agencies were selected as case study sites. Personnel directly involved with these pro- grams agreed to be interviewed by telephone. In some cases, CAPITAL METRO, AUSTIN, TEXAS more than one person at an agency either participated in the interviews or reviewed the draft summary of the case study. Capital Metro is the transit operator in The case studies are intended to provide additional details Austin, Texas (the state capital), and on innovative and successful practices as well as on issues the surrounding area. The service area related to public employer pass programs. population is 1 million. Capital Metro operates 341 peak buses (212 directly). Annual ridership on The selection process for case studies had several crite- all services operated is 34 million. Capital Metro uses the ria: (1) to include transit agencies of various sizes in differ- General Fare Industries (GFI) Genfare farebox. ent parts of the country; (2) to include agencies that have achieved success in the implementation of a public employer Capital Metro reported two employer-based fare pro- pass program; and (3) to select agencies with varied levels grams. The first is a University Pass (U-pass) program with of reported satisfaction with their programs so that ongoing the University of Texas. The second is a program for city of issues can be better understood. More than 70% of respond- Austin employees. ing agencies offered to serve as a case study and, as shown by examples from non-case-study respondents in chapters three U-pass Program and four, these agencies offered interesting responses based on their experiences. The Pacific Northwest is home to three In 1989, Capital Metro entered into an interlocal agreement of the six case study agencies, but each of these agencies with the University of Texas to operate the shuttle bus ser- has had success in implementing employer fare programs in vice. These shuttle routes had been operated by a private the public sector. The six agencies chosen do not necessar- contractor using yellow school buses, and Capital Metro's ily consider themselves to be examples of best practices, but ability to access federal funds for the purchase of accessible together they provide a representative overview of the state buses was one reason for the university's interest, along with of public employer pass programs. the limited amount of parking on campus. As part of the agreement, Capital Metro provided university students with The six case study agencies include: access to all Capital Metro routes. · Capital Metro, Austin, Texas Students used their university ID cards as flash passes · King County Metro, Seattle, Washington when the program began. After Capital Metro acquired new · Monroe County Transportation Authority, Monroe fareboxes, students would swipe their ID cards. The fare- County, Pennsylvania boxes could read the 18-digit university ID number, which · Nashville Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was located in a different place on the magnetic strip than Nashville, Tennessee on a credit card. · Intercity Transit, Olympia, Washington · TriMet (Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation As the student program grew in popularity, the university District of Oregon), Portland, Oregon wanted to expand the program to include faculty and staff. The success of the student program and the limited campus The case studies summarize survey responses and inter- parking for faculty and staff created the interest on the part view observations from each agency. The introduction to of the university in expanding the program. each case study includes a basic description of the system,
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21 Capital Metro began a pilot program for faculty and staff the need for parking. A third reason was to provide a useful during the fall 2001 semester. It was a pilot program for sev- benefit to city employees. eral years and became a more formal and long-term agree- ment after the city program began. The city paid $10 per The program was negotiated at the highest levels of employee (a rate based on all city employees), which served city government and then turned over to the city's Human as the basis for structuring the university faculty-staff pro- Resources (HR) department to administer. The HR depart- gram. The pilot program convinced university employees ment viewed this as an added burden and did not see the that offered coveted benefits, and the university was ame- benefits of the program. Without buy-in at the administra- nable to paying its fair share. tive level, the introduction of the program to employees was difficult. The agreement did not specify how the program In the fall 2005, Capital Metro and the university entered would be marketed to the employees. into a formal agreement covering faculty and staff, and agreed to a cost structure with annual increases through the An added difficulty in marketing the program was academic year 20112012. The student program is funded that the city had 300 different employment sites scattered through a student fee, but the university funded the faculty- throughout Austin. Capital Metro would meet with employ- staff program without levying a fee on employees. ees at the invitation of a specific agency (Austin Energy was proactive in distributing news about the program), but The Parking and Transportation Department of the Uni- many employees never realized that this was part of their versity of Texas did a good job marketing the program to benefits package. employees. Capital Metro would prefer to have direct access to employees, but it credits Parking and Transportation with The city ID cards differed by agency, with the city seal getting the word out and helping to make the employee pro- as the only common element. This made it challenging gram a success. for bus operators to identify valid cards. As the program evolved, the city limited the program (and its contribution Capital Metro sends the swipe records to the university, to Capital Metro) to 5,000 employees. Capital Metro agreed and the university breaks down boardings by student, fac- in exchange for the right to design the passes. These passes ulty, and staff. Capital Metro does not know the identity of were designed as a distinctive blue pass, known as the I-Ride any specific cardholder or whether the cardholder is a student pass. The use of these passes provided much better informa- or an employee. Thus, the agency cannot analyze student tion regarding employee ridership, a goal of both Capital ridership trends or usage rates versus faculty and staff. Capi- Metro and the city of Austin. tal Metro envisions use of a smart card that would provide detailed information, but the university may not be willing By the second year of the program, the HR department to migrate to a smart card. distributed brochures only during the open enrollment peri- ods. Capital Metro pushed unsuccessfully for a much more Capital Metro tried to start a vanpool program for employ- personalized trip planner program. ees who did not live within walking distance to a bus route. The university has 1,000 registered carpools. Capital Metro Another factor working against the program was the was willing to provide the vans and the insurance, but the availability of plentiful parking at city employment sites at vanpool program did not generate interest. Direct access to no cost to the employee. With no parking-related disincen- the employees might have helped the program. tive, the program lacked an important factor contributing to the success of the U-pass programs. City of Austin Employee Program The city of Austin realized that the program was not work- Two members of the Austin City Council are members of the ing as desired and worked with Capital Metro on improve- Capital Metro Board and witnessed the success of the U-pass ments. Sharing detailed ridership data helped both parties. program. The city decided that it should have a similar plan, Capital Metro also identified areas where employees could and negotiated a program for city employees with Capital be riding. A new marketing program for the I-Ride pass Metro. Under this program, city employees would use their has not yet been developed. The city now has departments ID cards as flash passes, and the city would pay an annual focused on sustainability and other green issues. These new fee of $10 per employee (as noted earlier, based on all city departments might serve as a better home for the I-Ride pro- employees) to Capital Metro. gram than the HR department. The city was interested in the program for several reasons. The struggles with the I-Ride program highlight the need One was the desire to be a "Green City." Promoting transit for involvement across departments within the public agency use among its employees was seen as one way to achieve when an employer pass program is initiated. The HR depart- this. A second reason for the city's interest was to reduce ment that had the responsibility for program implementa-