Get a ride and money in your pocket with Emory's Commute Alternatives Program

By Leslie King | Emory Report | July 31, 2018

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Emory’s Commute Alternatives Program helps employees save money and support sustainability by giving up the solo drive to work in favor of carpools, vanpools, shuttles and public transit.

Emory Transportation and Parking Services offers a Commute Alternatives Program (CAP) that saves employees money and links to the state’s Georgia Commute Options program for even more financial incentives to give up driving solo to work.

“Whether you carpool, vanpool, take public transit or one of our Emory commuter shuttles, walk or bike, CAP saves a lot of money compared to driving alone to work,” says Jessica Wang, transportation program coordinator at Emory TPS.

Options and incentives include the following:

  • For public transit, Emory University will pay for an unlimited monthly pass. Emory Healthcare subsidizes it over 80 percent.

  • For carpools, Emory heavily discounts parking, including free parking for carpools with three or more members.

  • For vanpools, Emory increased the subsidy this year to $100 per seat each month.

  • Emory also provides free parking at North or South DeKalb malls and a shuttle service to bring employees from their cars to campus.

“No matter what they choose, they’ll receive a back-up benefit that allows them to park on campus for free, assigned to their current deck, up to 20 times a year in the event that they do need to drive,” Wang notes.

Participants in alternative transportation options may also receive additional benefits through Georgia Commute Options, she adds.

“Our incentives and subsidies are on top of what Georgia Commute Options offers,” says Wang. “Through the GCO incentives program, employees can receive $5 a day up to $150 for switching from driving alone to a clean commute, $40-$60 monthly carpool gas cards, and log clean trips to win $25 Visa gift cards.” That’s on top of Emory’s discounted parking, subsidized transit passes and back-up benefits.

Emory TPS also offers custom commute planning. Employees can submit a request for a commute plan. “We’ll look at the maps and determine what commute alternative would be most suitable for them,” Wang says. “This is a totally free service and there’s no obligation to take the option we suggest. It’s mostly to provide employees with information and tools so that they can make an informed decision.”

Happy travelers

Barbara McGhee, a Winship Cancer Institute employee, joined a vanpool in October 2017 when intense frustration with the 70-mile roundtrip commute from her Douglasville home — “I would literally be in tears sometimes when I got home,” she recalls — overcame her apprehensions about giving up her car for the drive to work. 

Between Emory’s subsidy and the savings of fuel, maintenance and the campus parking fee, “I gave myself a raise,” McGhee says, estimating she increased her bottom line by at least $250 a month, money that is subsidizing both fun activities and other financial obligations.

Tamika Poleon, who works in the Department of Medical Oncology at Winship, signed up for the Gwinnett Transit Express Bus in September 2017, initially motivated to improve her budget. “The benefits have been nothing short of amazing,” she says. “Since I need less fuel, less car maintenance and drive fewer miles, my car will last long enough to pass down to my son.” 

A new schedule for the GCT [Gwinnett] 110 route helped Jennifer Combs, who has been using an alternative commuting plan for four years. “Now there are more options for getting home, which helps with my schedule, especially during our busy season,” says Combs, academic degree program coordinator in the Office of International and Summer Programs.

To participate in a carpool, Netta Stampley-Williams had to change her work schedule. “My supervisor was very sympathetic and allowed me to make the change to 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” she says. This cut her commute time by 30 minutes. Gas costs are shared among the three carpoolers.

“I love the fact that I am creating a positive impact on the environment and get to save money on gas,” says Stampley-Williams, administrative assistant in the Rollins School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology.

Margaret Burks, program administrative assistant in the Office for Undergraduate Education, became a carpool participant in March of this year. “It began as temporary arrangement until my neighbor’s car was repaired,” she says. “We quickly realized this was a great arrangement and decided to continue. Once we added a third person, we received a free carpool parking space.

“As a carpool participant, I am also able to register with Georgia Commute Options, which pays me $5 a day up to $150 for logging my commute. They pay me for carpooling and provide a monthly gas card,” Burks adds.

Other benefits

In addition to the monetary perks, there are many other benefits to Emory’s alternative commute options. Frequently mentioned is camaraderie.  “Our vanpool is like a family,” McGhee says, sharing breakfast, great conversation, Vidalia onions and more — even helping each other out at work.

Other benefits touted by participants: 

  • Lower stress levels. “I can nap, if I need to,” says Combs. Notes Poleon,“I especially use the time on my evening commute to decompress so I’m refreshed when it’s time to do the important work of parenting.” 

  • Time to listen to podcasts, books, tablets or music without becoming a distracted driver.

  • Networking opportunities. “I continue to make friends along the route, including staff from the Centers for Disease Control, the university, the clinics and the hospital,” says Poleon.

  • Helping Emory be a good neighbor and citizen. “Emory, our neighbors and the region benefit when employees use other more sustainable means to commute rather than driving alone,” says Wang. “These benefits include a reduction in traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, reduced demand for additional parking facilities, and our employees save money.”