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5 CHAPTER one INTRODUCTION PROJECT BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES Genesis and leadership of the program (who initiated and why) Previous TCRP studies, especially TCRP Report 87: Strate- Barriers, obstacles, and constraints gies for Increasing the Effectiveness of Commuter Benefits Administrative procedures Programs and TCRP Report 107: Analyzing the Effectiveness Implementation of Commuter Benefits Programs have analyzed employer pass Lessons learned (If you had it to do over again, what programs in the broader context of commuter benefits. Most would you do differently?) of the examples and case studies in these reports involve the Cost, financing, and pricing (for example, cost neutral private sector, because the tax advantages of participating in versus subsidized policy) these programs are an obvious incentive for private-sector Program evaluation. employers. A few examples mention public-sector participa- tion, but a systematic analysis of employer pass programs Survey results include transit agency assessments of the has not been conducted in the public sector. effectiveness of their programs, benefits and drawbacks from the perspective of the transit agency and of the public In many cities, one of the largest local employers is employer, desired changes, and lessons learned. Agencies that the federal, state, municipal, or other government entity. have not adopted employer pass programs for public employ- These employers have several incentives to encourage their ees were surveyed to gain an understanding of the reasoning employees to use public transit. For example, when employ- behind the decision not to undertake such a program. ees purchase transit tickets and passes with pretax income, the employer saves on Federal Insurance Contributions Act This report includes a review of the relevant literature in (FICA) taxes. Other reasons for public-sector employers to the field, concentrating on material published since 1999. An promote transit use include setting a good example for other important element of this synthesis is the chapter document- employers in the community, furthering public policy goals ing case studies, based on interviews with key personnel at for air quality and energy conservation, reducing traffic con- selected agencies, to profile innovative and successful prac- gestion, and reducing the need to provide parking. These rea- tices and to explore ongoing issues. Findings from all these sons continue to be important, but today, sustainability is an efforts are combined to summarize lessons learned, gaps in emerging goal in the public sector. Employer pass programs information and knowledge, and research needs. are an effective tool to help achieve the goal of sustainability. In several high-profile instances, public employees have TECHNICAL APPROACH been encouraged to use transit by subsidizing transit fares. Generally, however, government agencies have been less The approach to this synthesis included a literature review, a proactive in promoting transit ridership by employees. Some survey of transit agencies, and telephone interviews with six agencies simply offer their public employees the ability to agencies selected as case studies. A Transportation Research purchase prepaid transit fare media using pretax earnings. Information Services (TRIS) search using several different Others actively subsidize the cost of transit fares up to the keywords was conducted to aid the literature review. maximum amount allowed under current tax law. Others may negotiate "U-Pass-type" arrangements with the local The survey on public employee fare programs was transit operators that subsidize free rides by employees who designed to elicit information on program type, structure, show a special identification (ID) card. and administration; barriers, constraints, and obstacles to success; and an assessment of how well the program met its The purpose of this synthesis is to document the state objectives. Once finalized by the panel, the survey was posted of the practice in terms of fare arrangements for public on a website and pretested by two transit agencies. The pre- employees. Results of a web-based survey of a cross section test resulted in minor changes to survey logic and flow. of transit agencies in North America are used to document important issues such as the following:

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6 The sampling plan involved a "core" sample of transit Table 2 agencies that offer employer-based fare programs, have par- Transit Agencies by Mode of Operation ticipated in similar studies, or were recommended by panel # Agencies % Agencies members or other survey participants. The core sample Mode of Operation Responding Responding included 43 transit agencies. The project manager sent an Bus 37 93% e-mail with an attachment from the TCRP program manager explaining the importance of the survey and a link to the Vanpool 9 23% online survey site to each of the 43 agencies. In most cases, a Light Rail 8 20% known contact had been identified; otherwise, the e-mail was Heavy Rail 7 18% sent to the marketing director or the general manager with a Commuter Rail 6 15% request to forward the message to the most appropriate staff member. Follow-up e-mails were sent approximately 2 and 4 Total 40 -- weeks after the original contact to encourage response. Table 3 shows the distribution of responding agencies by To guard against missing any agencies that have imple- FTA region. Regions IX, III, and IV led in terms of agencies mented interesting programs and to ensure a broader sam- responding. Figure 1 is a map of FTA regions. ple, an identical e-mail message was sent to all APTA transit agency members inviting their participation in the survey. Table 3 These agencies did not receive follow-up e-mails because of Transit Agencies by FTA Region the sheer number of agencies. # Agencies % Agencies FTA Region Responding Responding Thirty-one completed surveys were received from the 43 I 2 5% transit agencies in the core sample, a response rate of 72%. II 3 8% Nine agencies not included in the core sample heard about III 7 18% the survey and also participated, for a total of 40 transit agen- cies in the final sample. These 40 agencies range in size from IV 7 18% less than 25 to more than 9,000 vehicles, including the bus, V 4 10% light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail modes. VI 2 5% Table 1 presents the distribution of responding agencies VII 0 0% by size. More than half of all responding agencies oper- VIII 2 5% ate fewer than 250 vehicles in peak service. Most of these IX 8 2% smaller agencies were not included in the core sample. X 5 13% Total 40 100% TABLE 1 Transit Agencies by Size # Vehicles Operated in # Agencies % Agencies Maximum Service Responding Responding Less than 250 22 55% 250 to 999 11 28% 1,000 or more 7 18% Total 40 -- Table 2 shows the transit modes operated by responding agencies. Nearly all responding agencies operate buses, and between 15% and 25% operate other modes. FIGURE 1 Map of FTA Regions.