Transportation Access And Employee Wellness

                                                                                            Heather Picardat                                                                              Marketing Intern


As an employer, one of your main concerns is to ensure that your employees are taken care of, they are able to do their job and they are provided a comfortable and healthy work-environment to the best of your capabilities. While most employers are checking off these lists and accommodating those needs successfully, it can be difficult sometimes to understand that employee wellness is a rounded effort that extends beyond your office doors.

Picture this; you’ve just completed your degree, and you’ve landed the job of your dreams, but you have no way to get there.  Because you haven’t started earning a solid income just yet, you do not have the means to pay for parking either. This is not just a scenario, though. It’s the reality for thousands of Michigan residents and it’s flying under the radar. Employers don’t know that it’s a need that they can help with, simply because it’s not the ship they’re sailing. When you think about employee wellness, the last thing you’re thinking about is transportation. Part of that is due to the fact that you most likely have a car that takes you to and from work each day. But that’s not true to everyone.

In fact, over 13% of communities in Grand Rapids alone are in a “Transportation Desert.” That means these residents do not have a vehicle of their own and they are not within the bounds of a walkable area with access to a bus stop. To put it into perspective, about 33% of Grand Rapids adult residents are college graduates, with roughly 8% of them being unemployed. High APR rates on new and used vehicles combined with the fact that Michigan has the highest car insurance rates of any state in America just further complicates things. Consider the high cost of tuition repayment with the possibility that a recent grad might live in a Transportation Desert to top it all off… It’s a vicious cycle, and can be a problem.  This is one prong of financial wellness considerations that can be made in your wellness strategy.  Employers can help in 3 simple ways.

  1. Implement a Wave Card Program.
    The Wave Card is a reloadable Rapid Bus card that allows you to purchase fare for public transit ahead of time. It’s accessible for individuals as well as corporations to purchase ahead of time and reload easily without ever having to leave the office. The nice thing about Wave is that it’s a simple option for reimbursement. There is even a 1-day option for the Wave Card that is very inexpensive. That could be used, for example, if you have an interviewee coming in without an option for transportation. Set up a pre-loaded wave card that could be picked up at their nearest Rapid Station. (https://www.ridetherapid.org/the-wave)
  2. Set up a Ride-Share.
    West Michigan Ride Shares offers a great program where several employees can ride together to arrive at work at the same time. All you have to do is map out the ride-share parking locations that best benefit your employees and everything else is provided at a small fee. You could even utilize ride-share parking lots, free of cost if you choose to set up an internal ride-share program in which employees trade off driving responsibilities using their own vehicles.
    (https://www.wmrideshare.org/employer-services)
  3. Offer Parking and Travel Reimbursement.
    For many employers, especially in downtown areas, parking can be a real challenge. Depending on the area you are in, chances are, there is a prominent parking facilitator nearby. Your company can contact that facilitator and request (x) parking spots per week at a nominal fee. All you have to do is either reimburse your employees parking on a monthly basis or provide vouchered parking that is pre-paid in those specific lots.
    (https://www.ellisparking.com/monthlyparking)

The implementation will take some financial planning, but it’s a worthy investment.  You put the money forward today to save the investment on repeat employment, training and hiring efforts. Not only that, but you become more of an employer of choice in a competitive work environment to gain the right employees.  You eliminate those needs by creating a more inclusive environment for getting your employees to and from work.

Sources:
Johnson, A. (2019). CEO of The Rapid.
Kelly, H. (2019). City of Grand Rapids, Transportation and Planning Supervisor.

Statsamerica.org. (2019). USA Counties in Profile: StatsAmerica. [online] Available at: http://www.statsamerica.org/USCP/ [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019].