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The New Way to Get to Work in a Smart City

Originally published on Medium.com.

Cities and employers can change what it means to commute to work. If they do, they will be the first companies that more their people to in a self-driving cars. SHARE was exhibiting at LACoMotion a few weeks back and hundreds of people joined together to talk about the future of mobility. A lot of the conversation revolved around correcting the mistakes of the past. Cities know they have a transportation. Public transit agencies are working to reinvent themselves, but until they start taking risks, experimenting, and failing fast, the progress is going to be brutally slow. People are ready for the change and there is no good reason that change cannot happen now. George Hotz has referred to this as, “rent collecting”, with automakers stretching out the pace of innovation so they can keep collecting rent from an outdated business model and their under achieving innovation.

Now consider the public criticism of smart city projects around the world. Equity is held out as a necessity in a smart city and I believe that is a true. But it doesn’t stop the general public from asking: “Is this ever going to help us?” or “Do I want to live in a smart city that is not helping my family?” People working inside smart city projects are busting it to implement change. We need city leaders to be forward thinking and to start acting like a startup. Smart cities will be a great example of the statement, “We overestimate what we can do in 1 year and under estimate what we can do in 10.” In 10 years, we will reflect on a world that has been greatly changed by smart city initiatives and it will certainly be different. Now if the employers would please stand up, we need you to lead this change.

Do you have reliable transportation? This is a disqualifying field on job applications and often an area where someone is forced to lie so that can get the job they need, to support their family. For too long, nothing has been done about the transportation gap . . . a problem so daunting that no one even started. It’s time to take a bite out of this elephant and change what it means to Go to Work. Today, employers are afforded the ability to help their employees more than ever before by offering Mobility Benefits to employees.

Want to be the best place to work to attract top talent? Offer Transportation Benefits.

Changing what it means to “get to work” with a redesign of a job application to include transportation benefits.

One of our customers calls it “Banning the Box”. They are a staffing company that provides opportunities for entry level work. A standard question on any given job application is: “Do you have reliable transportation?” Having recognized the barrier that this question creates, they want to eliminate that box all together, making transportation a standard benefit of employment that is powered by SHARE. Today, almost all employers expect you to find your own way to work. The portion of our commute from home to the office is not eligible for IRS mileage reimbursement, but if you were sharing a ride to work, it would qualify for pre-tax deductions. (The law just changed and we are publishing recommendations for our customers. If you have questions regarding the Tax Benefit following the 2017 Tax revisions, please email go@ridewithshare.com.

SHARE has a vision for transforming what it means to get to work (we are currently working with companies to make this a reality for employees). Jobs generate demand for transportation, something that is repetitive and predictable. Just look at the Amazon HQ2 city requirements. Transportation was essential for moving upwards of 50,000 new employees. Most companies take a hands-off approach to transportation. Employers did not have the tools and services to provide a personalized transportation as a benefit program. Imagine rewarding your employees that bike to work with transportation credits they can use in the evening and weekends. Now you are helping your employees live car-free because of a benefit that you provide (and other employers do not). The affordability of transportation is relative. Those who earn the least pay (proportionally) more for their transportation, further exacerbating their economic challenges.

Launching Mobility as a Benefit in 5 Steps:

Step 1.) Get Outside Help: Transportation is not your core business so don’t try this alone. Shared mobility providers help you network with other employers to increase utilization that saves everyone.

Step 2.) Be the Champion & Make the Case: Are you the transportation champion in your company? (We hope it is you) This person is crucial to the success of any transportation benefits program. They work as an internal advocate for mobility services while making the business case to senior management. Part project manager/part marketer, this person helps to identify the early adopters.

Step 3.) Find Your Early Adopters: with new products and services we often consider early adopters to be those who are willing to pay the most. For employment mobility, we work with our customers to identify the employee segment with the greatest need and

Step 4.) Communication, Pilots, and Incentives: Start small. If/When a mobility provider is pushing you for a big, upfront investment, run. They are taking the wrong approach and the roll-out needs to be done strategically and incrementally or it will inevitably go up in price (and later fail).

Step 5.) Total Mobility Benefits: Once you have implemented pilots, it is time to start building your total mobility benefits program. Not every employee will ride the same. Some with SHARE rides, others will carpool, some will insist on driving, and the future of work means many employees will telecommute. These options will contribute to higher levels of adoption in your organization.

When companies make transportation part of employment, they reduce turnover, improve employee satisfaction, and they help their employee save money every day they ride to work instead of driving a car they own.

With Mobility as a Benefit offerings in place with top employers, cities will be able to hit their single occupancy vehicle reduction goals easily. Commuting miles make up a major portion of transportation (as well as a major parking problem).

These are just a few scenarios where Mobility as a Benefit can help your business:

• Hotels with high occupancy rates can free up necessary and sometimes revenue-generating parking space by providing employees with shared rides to work.

• Light manufacturing employers can know 45 minutes to an hour earlier if an employee is not coming to work when they provide scheduled transportation.

• Call centers and logistics facilities located 10–20 miles outside of a city center can provide employees with higher wages (compared to the jobs in their neighborhood).

• For downtown workers, parking is expensive and employers can eliminate this cost by providing rides for employees directly to your front door.

• Mobility benefits can provide your employees with a productive commute (or just a relaxing commute). Either way, they will arrive to work less stressed.

• Employers or employees can opt-in to pay for transportation “pre-tax elections” for transportation services, like SHARE.

• Transportation services that accommodate car seats and booster seats for kids can allow your employees to use shared mobility while still taking care of their parental responsibilities. This allows parents to drop-off and pick-up children as part of their commuter service and employees that need it can pay just a few more dollars per ride.

In closing, Employers can lead smart city transportation by embracing mobility as a benefit. Employment drives a majority of the transportation demand in cities. Solving this problem at the employer level will accelerate transportation evolution in our cities. There is no one magic solution, it is about embracing multiple modalities and offering a suite of transportation options to meet the various lifestyles and desires of your employees. We are working with partners to drive behavior change in employers today to contribute to smart city goals of SOV and CO2 reduction. The roads get a whole lot better when we ride together and learn how to SHARE.