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28 The state became interested as a result of publicity Budget crises can serve as a litmus test for program suc- surrounding the Vanderbilt University program, and cess. DGS proposed cancellation of the state EasyRide pro- Metro Nashville became interested as a result of pub- gram in FY 2010 because of budget considerations. After licity surrounding the state program. meetings with MTA senior staff, the Tennessee Depart- · Changed perceptions about transit. The EasyRide pro- ment of Transportation negotiated a new contract with gram cuts across socioeconomic lines and helps MTA MTA in which TDOT will not only cover the expense of promote its services to a broader market. One result is a state employees' work commute aboard all MTA fixed-route perception throughout all segments of the community bus services, but also include the Regional Transportation that "people like us" ride transit. Authority's (RTA) commuter rail and commuter bus ser- · Public employer perceptions. Public employers view vices. Under the terms of a multiyear contract (modeled on EasyRide as a cost-effective benefit to provide to their the MTA/Metro Nashville government contract), MTA will employers. receive a lump sum to cover both MTA and RTA services. · Flexibility. Employers can tailor the program to meet Working on a monthly draw-down, MTA and TDOT will their needs. An emergency ride home program is help- reconcile program expenses at the end of the fiscal year to ful in this regard. program adequate funding for the subsequent year. · A proactive approach. MTA organized a half-day symposium at Vanderbilt University to introduce the In addition, TDOT is expanding the program statewide. concept to university personnel. MTA staff worked TDOT plans to negotiate a similar contract with the tran- extensively with GSA and the state before GSA decided sit authorities of the cities of Memphis, Chattanooga, and that it was ready to participate. MTA continues to take Knoxville. With the commissioner of TDOT championing an aggressive approach to seeking new employers, in the program, EasyRide has moved from facing discontinua- both the public and the private sectors. tion because of budget concerns to serving as the model for · Program champions. The MTA chief executive officer an expanded statewide program. has championed the program for the agency, but sev- eral other champions have emerged on the employer Lessons Learned side. Vanderbilt's chancellor at the time came from Ohio State and was familiar with the benefits of MTA is an excellent example of a successful program for a U-pass program. The Tennessee Department of both the state and Metro Nashville as well as for private- Transportation (TDOT) strongly encouraged the state sector employers such as Vanderbilt University. Lessons and GSA to adopt the EasyRide program. The mayor learned include the following: of Nashville is a regular bus rider and a strong environ- mental advocate. · Find a champion and a corporate leader who will pave the way. Resistance can arise with a decision maker who has no · Design a flexible program that the employer can tailor experience with transit. Positive stories in the news media to meet its needs. once the Vanderbilt program was up and running and pro- · Start wherever you can and build on successes. The gram champions at public agencies helped to overcome this Vanderbilt program sparked interest in the public sec- resistance in Nashville. A willingness to design the program tor. Success with the state program encouraged Metro with flexibility is helpful for employers who are not familiar Nashville to become involved, first with a pretax pro- with transit. Even with the Mayor as a champion, the munici- gram for 31-day passes and then with a full EasyRide pal program began as a more limited benefit program for program. 31-day passes. MTA was flexible enough to accommodate · State government is not a monolithic entity. When the City in small steps. DGS was prepared to discontinue the program, TDOT stepped in with expanded funding and plans to estab- Public employers can be reluctant to commit funds, espe- lish similar programs elsewhere in the state. cially in the current fiscal environment. The state of Tennes- see set up a budget of $500,000 for its EasyRide program, and later raised the amount to $750,000 once it was clearly INTERCITY successful. Metro Nashville had a $50,000 budget cap for the TRANSIT, first year, and MTA had an open dialogue with Metro regard- OLYMPIA, ing how fast they were spending money on the program. WASHINGTON Because 42% of MTA's budget ($18.4 million) comes from Metro and the program supported the mayor's efforts, MTA Intercity Transit is the local transit system based in Olympia, did not bill Metro for costs above the cap. Metro increased Washington, the capital of Washington. The service area has the cap to $75,000 for the coming year. a population of 147,000. Intercity Transit operates 50 peak
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29 buses. Annual ridership is 4.3 million, including all services any Intercity Transit route for any purpose on any day. This operated (FY 2007). Intercity Transit uses the GFI cents-a- includes employees who use Intercity Transit's "Dial-A-Lift" bill farebox. paratransit service. The state of Washington is the largest employer in the The STAR Pass program uses employee photo ID cards Olympia area, including the surrounding Thurston County. with a transit validation sticker affixed to the front. Use Intercity Transit and the state of Washington offer a "free" of state agency photo ID cards is a key component of the transit pass program known as the STAR Pass to state employ- program and lessens the risk of misuse. The stickers tear ees. STAR (State Agency Rider) began in early 2000 and is apart if a rider attempts to remove them. For further secu- available to any state employee working within the county. rity, the stickers are changed every 4 years. GA provides its This includes state agency employees and state-funded col- own version of a state photo ID with a STAR Pass sticker to leges whose faculty and staff are also state employees. employees of a few small state agencies that do not provide photo IDs. Employees retiring or leaving state employment The partnership between Intercity Transit and the state are required to turn in their agency ID cards. Agencies have has evolved over the past 17 years. The earliest form of the processes in place to ensure that all ID cards are returned. program began in the early 1990s with the state, the city Between 7,000 and 8,000 of the 22,000 state employees in of Olympia, and Thurston County (county government is Thurston County have a STAR Pass sticker on their photo ID located in Olympia, too) helping to fund an Intercity Tran- cards. Currently, about 10% to 13% of the Intercity Transit sit fare-free, high-frequency, weekday shuttle service. Four ridership uses the STAR Pass on a regular basis. shuttle routes connected state agency office complexes in the city of Olympia and two neighboring cities, Lacey and GA has an annual contract with Intercity Transit that Tumwater. The shuttles also served the Thurston County specifies a payment formula. The formula is based on Courthouse complex and city of Olympia offices. Service Intercity Transit's average farebox recovery rate, currently was open to the general public and operational costs were $0.66 (full fare is $1 per trip). Boarding counts for STAR split among the parties. The state's portion of the funding Pass usage are taken twice a year, once during the legisla- was acquired through a fund that each state agency in Thur- tive session and once when the legislature is not in session. ston County paid into on a full-time equivalent basis. The The counts are taken for 2 weeks using electronic fare- state legislature then allocated a portion of this fund to the box counters. GA encourages all state employees to get Department of General Administration (GA) for the shuttle a STAR Pass sticker, which is promoted through agency service. Intercity Transit's funding of this service, and all of involvement in CTR efforts. CTR is a part of the state's its services, mainly came from the local motor vehicle excise growth management policies and laws, which are applied tax (MVET), with a smaller portion coming from local sales at the local jurisdictional and individual employer levels in tax, fares, and advertising on buses. an effort to reduce single-occupant commuter trips, lower vehicle miles traveled, improve air quality, and reduce The MVET, an annual vehicle licensing renewal pro- energy consumption. cess that was based on vehicle value and that could amount to hundreds of dollars for a new vehicle, spurred a taxpayer Transit systems from three neighboring counties serve the initiative in 1999. As a result, the state legislature amended Olympia area but do not accept the STAR Pass. GA offers the state law in early 2000 to reduce the MVET, which in state employees who commute to work in Thurston County turn cut funding to transit systems and other community- on these systems a subsidy of $0.55 per ride. The employee based public services. Intercity Transit lost almost 45% of submits a tracking calendar to GA indicating the commute its operating revenue and, as a result, instituted service trips taken. In return, the employee receives a voucher good reductions, including the discontinuation of the state shut- toward the purchase of a monthly transit pass. tle routes. The Capitol Campus in Olympia is approximately 1.5 STAR Pass miles from the center of downtown and the Olympia Tran- sit Center, a major transportation hub for the area. Several GA proposed that the state funds allocated for the shuttle fixed routes that utilize the transit center also serve bus service be used to provide a fare-free transit pass to all state stops adjacent to the Capitol Campus along a main arte- employees working in Thurston County. GA and Intercity rial. In 2006, Intercity Transit began operating a downtown Transit made the proposal to the State Office of Financial circulator (Dash) that provides a fare-free service between Management, which agreed with the analysis. The STAR the north end of downtown Olympia (also a destination and Pass was born. home of the Olympia's Farmers Market) and the Capitol Campus to the south. The Dash route operates through the The new employer-based transit pass actually provides Capitol Campus, serving a variety of work sites and parking more service options for state employees, who now can use lots. Its main purpose is to provide visitors and employees
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30 with access between the campus and downtown as well as connecting cities has channeled development for state to reduce parking problems in both locations. The service worksites toward these areas. This has increased state operates weekdays every 12 minutes, and on Saturday every employment density, which in turn provided a more 15 minutes, making transfers to and from other routes con- concentrated market for transit. In addition, the state venient as well. actively developed and continues to promote CTR efforts throughout its agency network. State agencies are located in the adjacent cities of Lacey · State interest. Intercity Transit and state staffs have to the east and Tumwater to the south. Intercity Transit has worked closely for many years on transit and transporta- a transit center near the state's Lacey Campus. Five routes tion issues. The partnership between the transit system run between Lacey and Olympia with the main trunk routes and the state has been an essential element in the success operating every 15 minutes. Two routes operate between of the program. The GA has the lead role in the imple- Olympia and Tumwater, providing the state's Tumwater mentation of agency CTR programs. Intercity Transit Campus with 15-minute service as well. has a key role in helping employers (both public and pri- vate) reduce commute trips. The partnership is essen- The state's master planning process has identified and tial in supporting reduced drive-alone commute trips utilizes "preferred leasing" areas for the location of state through initiatives such as the STAR Pass program. worksites within these three cities. This has helped the state to identify areas of more intensive development and provides The program's success is not the result of parking limita- greater state employment density. Intercity Transit remains tions or cost. Parking is generally free at state agency loca- actively involved in the review process of the developments tions outside of the Capitol Campus and costs employees and works with the state and local jurisdictions to make tran- only $25 per month on the Capitol Campus. sit more viable, especially in areas outside Olympia's Central Business District and core Capitol Campus. Lessons Learned Neither the state nor Intercity Transit could identify any The Intercity Transit/Washington State STAR Pass program significant drawbacks to the STAR Pass program. It is well is an example of a small transit system located in a state capi- accepted by state agencies and state employees and is a tal working with the state to establish a successful program great example of interagency coordination and involvement. for state employees. Lessons learned include the following: Start-up issues for the pass program were relatively minor, and the program has proven to be popular (as evidenced by · Begin by working with groups to brainstorm ideas for full funding in the state budget over the years). Its funding improving mobility. The state initiated focus groups is currently under budget review, as are all state-supported with state agencies and employees, unions, the city of programs in a year in which the state is facing a significant Olympia, and Intercity Transit. The group came up with budget shortfall because of local and national economic con- the original shuttle service proposal. A successful pilot ditions. State and transit staffs remain hopeful that the pro- program funded by contributing agencies convinced gram will continue. the state legislature to provide ongoing funding for the shuttle program. The importance of the focus groups Factors Contributing to Success was to bring interested parties together to help solve transportation mobility issues at state agency work- Several factors have contributed to the success of the Inter- sites. The fare-free bus pass program that replaced the city Transit and Washington's STAR Pass program: shuttle service enhanced employee mobility without any additional cost to the state. · Ability to identify a funding source. The loss of the · Although sustainability and the reduction of greenhouse local MVET for public transit led to the discontinua- gases were not original program goals, the STAR Pass tion of the original shuttle service program. GA and program is very much in accord with these emerging Intercity Transit were able to work with the governor's state priorities. The governor's and legislature's focus staff to transfer the state's share of the funds allocated on reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas to the shuttle program to the STAR Pass program. emissions explain the continued support for the pro- · Use of state employee photo ID cards with a sticker. gram even in difficult fiscal times. This was administratively the simplest option, requir- · Land use decisions, such as preferred leasing areas, ing only a sticker attachment. Because agency ID cards enhance the viability of transit. Transit agencies obvi- have the employee's photo and must have the validating ously cannot control land use decisions, but partner- STAR Pass sticker on it, the potential for misuse on ships with other public agencies create allies in support transit is reduced. of transit-friendly policies. · Land use and development. Identification of preferred · An Emergency Ride Home program was a critical leasing areas for state worksites within the three major component for the STAR Pass program, which pro-