Member Spotlight: Commuter Services of PA
10/14/2015 09:19 AM
Last year, in 2014, Commuter Services of Pennsylvania turned ten years old. Ten years ago, the nonprofit organization Susquehanna Regional Transportation Partnership (SRTP) formed Commuter Services of Pennsylvania with the mission that the subsidiary, federally funded organization promote “commuting options that reduce congestion, conserve natural resources, and improve safety and mobility at a regional level, by educating and implementing innovative Transportation Demand Management programs.” Commuter Services served nine counties until March of 2015, when SRTP expanded Commuter Services’ coverage area to include four additional counties. Today, Commuter Services serves Adams, Berks, Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Monroe, Perry, Pike, Schuylkill and York Counties. Based in York, the nonprofit has twelve total employees.
According to Matt Boyer, Executive Director of Commuter Services of Pennsylvania, the main focus of the nonprofit is education. Boyer stepped into his role as director in 2013.
“We’re making people aware that there’s another option for transportation,” Boyer stated, “that there’s a way to keep more money in their pocket.”
Commuter Services mainly focuses on targeting employees, especially those individuals earning $8 - $14 per hour who can financially benefit the most. How does Commuter Services aid the individuals calling into its office? Anyone calling to try and find transportation to and from their workplace can enroll in Commuter Services’ Ride Share Database, which currently contains approximately 27,000 names. After individuals enroll, they receive a letter in the mail with a list of names and numbers of other individuals traveling in the same direction or going to the same destination. It is then up to the person who enrolled to make contact with someone on the list and to set up a ride.
Along with this letter, Commuter Services will also send the individual a sheet of “Etiquette Tips for a Successful Carpool.” The tips include the most basic information, from deciding who will drive the car and how tolls and other parking fees will be reimbursed. Other topics include whether or not the fellow carpoolers may be allergic to their perfume/cologne, or whether or not there may be certain topics (religion, politics, etc.) which their fellow carpoolers might not want to discuss.
“We’re like a dating service for carpoolers,” Boyer joked. “We don’t mandate anything regarding the logistics of carpooling, and we don’t do background checks. Typically the carpoolers are going to the same place with someone they work with. We’re not a consumer-purchasing transportation service such as a taxi.”
Out of the 27,000 names in the Ride Share Database, the largest portion comes from Lancaster County. The other five counties with the highest number of Ride Share participants are Dauphin, York, Cumberland, Lebanon and Berks Counties. Boyer explained that the amount of services supplied to a county/area is typically parallel to that area’s population.
In addition to the Ride Share Database, Commuter Services instructs individuals calling into their office on local transit lines which they can utilize to get to and from work. Commuter Services also has a vanpool program they offer to individuals. With vanpools, Commuter Services brings together seven to 15 individuals and even sets up a meeting place, helps map their route to work, etc. Other modes of transportation and commuting which Commuter Services promotes include biking, walking, and teleworking.
There are a number of questions and concerns individuals may have if they’re using an alternative form of transportation. What if they carpool and then get sick during their work day? What if there’s a family emergency and they have to leave work early? Or what if their train or bus is running behind schedule which will make them late for work? In response to these concerns, Commuter Services created the Emergency Ride Home Program. Through this program, qualifying participants who have unexpected circumstances arise and who have to find a different means to or from work may get reimbursed up to $100, six times per year. This is what Boyer calls “the carpooler’s insurance policy.”
Each year, Commuter Services of Pennsylvania hires a third party firm to provide performance measuring, as mandated by the government. In 2014, across the nine counties which Commuter Services served at the time, approximately 174 million miles were taken off of the roads by individuals simply utilizing Commuter Services’ programs. These “miles” helped to improve the air quality, lessen traffic congestion, and saved the state money on roadway construction and rehabilitation expenses.
Besides directly serving individuals residing or working within its 13-county coverage area, Commuter Services likewise aids area employers. Through their programs, Commuter Services offers employers ways to recruit and retain workers and increase the labor pool, save on payroll taxes, reduce parking costs and/or spaces, get employees to work on time, improve attendance, enhance productivity, improve morale, and achieve environmental benefits.
There are currently 225 local employer partners. Typically, Commuter Services targets employers with 50 or more employees. The nonprofit employs four outreach managers who support these partners by helping to set up events, conduct employee orientations, and provide free health and benefit fairs. Boyer said that Commuter Services of
Pennsylvania’s programs are a free benefit which employers can offer their employees.
There are a number of employer partners from Lebanon County, including Bayer HealthCare, Comcast (Call Center), Cornwall Manor, Farmers Pride, Good Samaritan Hospital, HACC Central Pennsylvania’s Community College Lebanon Campus, the Lebanon VA Medical Center, Schott
Pharmaceutical, TE Connectivity, and Weaber Lumber, just to name a few. In fact, Bayer HealthCare was presented with an award at the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” Awards Ceremony on July 24 of this year. The ceremony was held at HACC Central Pennsylvania’s Community College Lebanon Campus and Bayer was recognized for its telework program by Commuter Services. This was the first time any business from South Central Pennsylvania was recognized with this award.
There are four main marketing events which Commuter Services promotes on a yearly basis. Earth Day is celebrated in April, Bike to Work Week is featured in May, Dump the Pump is in June, and Try Transit Month is in September.
Commuter Services is always looking to add more Ride Share applicants to their database, and is always interested in partnering with new employer businesses and organizations. Anyone interested in learning more about the programs and events which Commuter Services offers can contact them at www.PaCommuterServices.org or at 1-866-579-RIDE.