In response to overtures to adopt alternative transportation such as walking, cycling, public transportation and carpooling to reduce traffic congestion, vehicular pollution and parking woes, Kiwis have risen to the occasion by adopting alternate modes including carpooling. While they acclaim the benefits of carpooling they express apprehension about their predicament they could face when they have to rush home on their own steam to attend to an emergency or crisis. The Guaranteed Ride Home Program (GRH) addresses this issue rather well.
What is a guaranteed ride home program?
Sometimes, employees who use alternative transportation may have to leave their place of work in a hurry to attend to an emergency or crisis at home or stay back for authorized overtime or miss their scheduled ride back home because a carpool driver does not show up. In such instances, GRH guarantees them a ride back home at no cost to the employees, subject to specific terms and conditions.
GRH, implemented by employers under pre-determined terms and conditions, comes to the help of employees when they need a ride back home during unscheduled times. Employers work out a suitable plan at their own cost to compensate employees who use the scheme. For instance, they can set a cap on the amount of subsidy per single trip and limit the number of trips allowed in a year. They can also specify the conditions under which the GRH will apply.
Typically, GRH arranges transport using public transport, fleet car, rental car or taxi.
GRH is a program that dispels the worry of not being able to find transport when required outside alternative transportation motivating employees to opt for different modes including carpooling.
How effective is a guaranteed ride home program?
There are no definitive studies of the effectiveness of GRH in New Zealand.
In its Workplace Travel Tool Kit, Greater Wellington Regional Council has found that
- GRH can significantly increase use of alternative commute modes
- Car-poolers and public transport users consider GRH important in their decision to use these modes
- The vast majority of GRH users found the program either ‘very useful’ or ‘useful.’
Elsewhere, a GRH Evaluation done in 2013 for the Alameda County Transportation Commission in the US found that
- 29% of participants stated that without the GRH program they would not use an alternative travel mode or would use one less frequently.
- 82% of participants stated that, with the program, they use alternative modes four or more times a week.
- 29% of respondents reported commute trips were by driving alone before joining GRH, but only 15% of trips were drive-alone trips after participants enrolled
- GRH eliminated approximately 11 million vehicle miles from roadways in 2013
- GRH saved participants over 318,691 gallons of gas or 2,231 tons of CO2
The experience of other places where GRH is in operation has been positive.
How much will it cost for your company?
As of now, there is no cost calculation, but medium-sized organizations in New Zealand report that the take-up rate is less than one ride a month.
Costing is a function of the kind of GRH offered. The elements that affect costing include
- Nature of the free ride – company car, fleet car, rental car, taxi or public transport
- Reason for the free ride – emergency or crisis or overtime or truancy by carpool driver
- Fringe Benefits Tax and GST
Some companies are offering up to $80 per trip and limit the number of trips to 4 in a year. This can come down significantly if the ride offered is through fleet cars and public transport passes.
The Christchurch City Council puts it beautifully when it said that GRH is rarely used but acts like a safety net for employees, much like how an insurance policy works.
It is in the overall interest of New Zealand for people to increase the use of alternative transportation including carpooling.