In the Luumlight

The Case for Commute Equity

Here at Luum, we’re passionate about solving the most pressing and complex employee concerns through the commute. As we think about priorities and opportunities for 2022, one that we’ve seen again and again is the case for greater commute equity.

Commute equity means providing mobility benefits that are affordable, accessible, and sustainable. This comes with the understanding that the commute is very individual, and that access or cost are not always equal.

What is Commute Equity?

Commute equity means providing mobility benefits that are affordable, accessible, and sustainable. This comes with the understanding that the commute is very individual, and that access or cost are not always equal.

For example: If the cost of one employee’s parking is subsidized, another employee opting in to public transit should get a proportionate subsidy – both employees should get the same monetary amount. If one employee is given free parking ($300/month) and one employee is only given free transit ($100/month), this creates a large gap in the commute benefits allocated to each employee.

It’s proven that parking subsidies benefit the rich disproportionately due to car ownership, reliance on transit, cost of living in cities, etc. Therefore, forward-thinking organizations are putting their focus into how to support and retain their employees by way of commute benefits.

As cities gentrify, more low-wage earners are being pushed further out, often away from their workplace. These essential frontline workers regularly face challenges getting to and from work (due to limited access to a vehicle, unreliable or limited transit lines, or budget constraints), and if these challenges are unresolved, companies lose talent as their employees move on to jobs closer to home or easier to navigate to.

Reliable public transportation might also not always be accessible or available for those who live far away or those with non-traditional work shifts (such as late nights or weekends), highlighting the need for other safe and reliable ways for people to get to work.

With commute equity, you can create fairness in the workplace, incentivize your team to come to work, and retain low-wage earners. Commute equity is not just important – it’s essential.

Forming the case for commute equity

In 2019 alone, employees invested over 55 minutes of their time each day traveling to and from work. While that number might be different since we’ve shifted to a hybrid workforce, the need for a positive commute experience is still as important – if not more important – since many of us have gotten comfortable working from home.

Employees don’t just want a good work experience. They want a good commute, and with a little less than 9 in 100 people not having access to a car in the U.S. and 32.7 percent of Americans living with a single vehicle, there is a big need for other safe, sustainable transportation methods.

In light of the changing work landscape, employers are rethinking the commute and how to make things fair for employees who don’t use the same transportation method.

Commute equity is the guiding principle that looks at ways to make commute benefits flexible, accessible, and affordable to employees who have different commutes and experiences getting to and from work. 

This is especially relevant for organizations that have a workforce with wide pay discrepancies, such as hospitals or universities. A commute benefits program can ensure that the commute is covered fairly based on criteria like type of commute or employee pay scale. Commute equity helps everyone get to work by covering their commute in some way, shape, or form – whether they ride a bicycle or take a rideshare.

In short, there are no one-size-fits-all benefits. Every employee is different and seeks an alternative way to travel to the office than their coworker, and their benefits should reflect that, encouraging them to get to work the way that is best for them.

Don’t lock the workforce into one mode choice or limit flexibility – instead, enable your workforce to have a better working experience through a positive commute. You can also attract and retain talent, using commuter benefits as a differentiator from other organizations.

As you think ahead to shaping your policies and commute programs in 2022, take the time to make sure that they are equitable, accessible, and affordable for the workforce. Ensuring commute equity should be a top priority as you frame your program for the new year.  

What this looks like in action  

We talked about The Perfect Weave in 2021. It represents the perfect blend of disincentives and incentives specific to employees and companies. It also serves as a holistic benefit program that offers flexible and equitable daily choices.  

Here are some suggestions on how to infuse The Perfect Weave with equity in 2022:  

  1. Ditch the one-size-fits-all approach: Provide various benefits packages to different employees in your company based on employment type of pay band. This will ensure that employees are not all grouped together but offered equitable benefits based on who they are and how they choose to commute to work.
  2. Consider rideshare and bikeshare to make the commute more accessible: This is a great option for employees who don’t own a car or have limited transit or carpool/vanpool options to get to and from work. It can be a wonderful first or last mile connection to/from transit hubs for your commuters.
  3. Combine incentives and disincentives to change behavior: Employers have a greater chance of getting employees to change their commute if they offer a financial incentive. For instance, if you offer to pay your team members the amount they would spend on parking each month, that would be a good reason to skip the car and ride the bus or join a vanpool. Charging for parking is an example of a disincentive that is proven to encourage employees to switch to more sustainable modes.
  4. Subsidize transit and offer first/last mile transportation since folks might live further out of town: As an employer, paying for transit can incentivize your team to come to the office. However, it may take a little walking or driving time to get to the transit location. Micromobility (electric scooters, bikes, rideshare, etc.) can benefit employees who live further from the office and need a convenient and efficient way to get to the transit station.

Next steps  

Have the conversation…

To create commute equity, it’s important to have conversations with your workforce, specifically underrepresented communities and those with commute barriers. This can help you understand where and how to make meaningful change in your organization.

The conversation should be a priority for everyone and should incorporate different viewpoints into decision-making and policymaking. This ensures that as many employee experiences are understood and woven into your policy. Stakeholders from sustainability, comp and benefits, transportation demand management, commute, employee well-being and financial wellness should all be in the room.

Leverage a mobility benefits platform

After you have these initial conversations and begin developing your commute management strategy, a mobility benefits platform is integral. You can manage everything related to the employee commute on Luum’s unified mobility platform, which pulls all mobility options into one place for employees and administrators. It also gives you access to data insights, rewards, and communication tools.

You can not only better manage the program (and make sure benefits are used correctly) but also gain a better understanding of how you are impacting the commuting culture for the workforce, improving the employee experience, and helping employees leverage their subsidies. Having these data-driven insights helps you build a stronger case in generating support for policies and programs that change commute as-it-was into commute as-it-should-be. It’ll also help you understand how and where to make improvements to improve program ROI.

Educate and engage

Employee commute experiences matter more than ever, and Luum can absolutely help! So be sure to educate your workforce on the commuter benefits available. Incentivize and reward. The chance of employee satisfaction with your new commute program is a lot higher if you do. Let’s work together to build a more safe, flexible, and sustainable commute experience.

Looking to optimize your commute benefits program and offer equitable benefits to your team? Luum’s innovative mobility benefits platform provides the right tools and guidance to accomplish your goals.

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