The Washington Post’s recent story about the likely decrease in the federal commuter subsidy shouldn’t discourage real estate providers who recognize that a well-developed employee commuting program is an opportunity for multiple wins. A few real estate executives have been focused on optimizing portfolios through virtual collaboration and flexible work spaces. By casting the net slightly wider to include employee commuting, companies can also realize additional environmental benefits related to Scope 3 emissions, cost savings related to parking and employee’s expenses, and even improved employee productivity, not to mention better retention and recruiting.
Federal tax benefits along with local public funding are often available for these programs, especially in metropolitan areas that suffer from traffic congestion. In particular, we’ve found that vanpooling programs have proven to be popular among certain employee population where public transit and other commuting alternatives may not be viable. Vanpools are defined as groups of 7-15 people commuting together usually in a leased vehicle driven by one of the participants. Depending on local subsidies (up to 50 percent in some metros), distance traveled, and number of riders, vanpooling is virtually always cheaper than driving alone to work and sometimes even free, with the additional benefit reducing time behind the wheel and avoiding wear & tear on your own car.
In one successful example, a company’s program of 18 WiFi-equipped vans saves 751 tons of CO2 annually, about 1.9 million commuter miles, and fuel costs of $200,000. Employees love the improvement to their quality of life as well as additional productivity. Since personal transport in passenger vehicles accounts for almost 17 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, they know they’re doing their part against climate change as well.