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Written By: Krista Glotzbach, Partnerships Lead, Via
Many firms and employees are seeking alternatives to the traditional single-occupancy vehicle commute.
Across the country, ‘return to office’ has become top of mind, with employers piloting all forms of capacity management, desk scheduling, and vaccination requirements. But one question remains: For those employees who do return to physical offices, how will they get there? And how will they do so safely, without placing further stress on roads, parking infrastructure, and the environment?
In response, companies looking to get ahead of this trend have started partnering with on-demand shared ride providers to offer an alternative commute option for employees. Employer-sponsored, shared transportation lowers a company’s impact on traffic congestion and emissions, saves on costly parking facilities, and provides employees with a stress-free commute — with time to relax, catch up on work tasks, and get to know their colleagues while en route to the office.
In August 2019, Google tapped Via to pilot a shared ride program for employees to and from its campuses in Sunnyvale and Mountain View, California, the latter being the company’s largest office and headquarters. The program, called Via2G, ran from October 2019 to early March 2020 and, after a COVID-19 hiatus, restarted in April 2022.
High quality of service, determined by metrics such as rider wait time, are key to a successful on-demand shuttle deployment.
On the other side of the country, Brookfield Asset Management and Via launched an on-demand corporate shuttle service in New York City’s Financial District in the summer of 2020. Employees working out of the Brookfield Place complex could book rides to or from the office on a pre-scheduled basis.
As the service launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicle capacity limits were deployed from the start, along with strict sanitation schedules and daily driver temperature checks.
According to a survey conducted in February 2021, many riders expressed concerns about using mass transportation during the height of the pandemic, with one individual commenting, “I [am] hoping to continue using Via…. I am relatively more comfortable riding the trains home in full daylight with a highly-populated commuting path, the early morning feels quite a bit less safe.”
Over at Google, a study out from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and authored by Anne Brown, Alice Grossman, and Lucy Noble, analyzes Via2G’s performance with a focus on environmental impact.
One of the key findings of the extensive report on Google’s microtransit service concerns the program’s success in encouraging modal shift — moving employees away from single-occupancy vehicle travel and towards more sustainable modes of travel was a key reason for launching the microtransit pilot.
Note: Data was collected between January 1, 2020 and March 5, 2020
Drive alone rates for employees at Google’s Sunnyvale and Mountain View campuses decreased during the course of the initial Via2G pilot.
During the Via2G pilot, “drive alone rates for employees living in Via2G service areas fell from 53% to 46% in the Sunnyvale office and from 42% to 39% in the Mountain View campus.”
Additionally, Via2G consistently grew in ridership — both as zones were introduced and within existing zones. MTI also found that 59% of those who requested a trip usually “always or sometimes” drove to work prior to the program: another signal that the microtransit alternative brought more people out of private cars and into shared travel.
Google and Brookfield’s investments in on-demand, dynamic corporate shuttle programs have further cemented their positions at the forefront of smart corporate transportation. These metrics show that shared employee travel can achieve goals ranging from greater employee satisfaction to reduced environmental impact, charting a path for employee transportation post-COVID and beyond.
Download the full report (https://transweb.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/2002-Brown-Microtransit-Evaluation.pdf)