105,000 people a day commute to or visit the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA), including 43,600 employees and 19,200 students and faculty. Each year, the LMA has an estimated 2.2 to 4 million patients and visitors.
Because of the access challenges in the area CommuteWorks, a service provided by MASCO, was designed to alleviate congestion in the LMA by promoting alternatives to driving and enhancing use of the T.
“Having alternatives is one thing,” says CommuteWorks coordinator, Kate Hewitt, “persuading people to use them is another. We have to be creative.”
A prime example of that ingenuity is CommuteWorks’ soon to be launched incentive program, CommuteSwap. Coming this spring, the program encourages people to swap their drive-alone commute for three months to a new form of transportation.
With this incentive program employees can put their parking space on hold while they experiment with taking the T or other modes. If the alternative mode doesn’t suit you, you can return to driving.
Doubters ask: but what if there’s an emergency at home? CommuteWorks has that covered as well. The Emergency Ride Home program guarantees you a taxi ride or rental car should a crisis arise.
While enrolled in the incentive program commuters are even provided two free parking vouchers per month in case they absolutely have to drive in, as well a monthly Commuter Check to be used toward the cost of their T pass and another reimbursement for the cost of parking at transit stations. The program will also offer an option for drive alone commuters who wish to try walking or biking to work.
Commuters can also try something different through the CommuteFit program. The goal of the program is to reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve personal health by encouraging walking and biking as a part of your daily commute. Each month CommuteWorks rewards participants who incorporate exercise by raffling off three $50 gift cards.
MASCO’s and its members’ efforts have contributed to the relatively small percentage of LMA employees who commute alone by car. The fact is, an astounding 66% of MASCO-member employees utilize alternative forms of transportation. Forty-four per cent use the T, 10% walk, 5% car- and van-pool, 3% bike and 34% drive alone, a 13% drop since 2000.
Missing no opportunity to help.
In addition, CommuteWorks provides an array of services that minimize the stress of travel to the LMA. For example, the program will create personalized summaries of an individual’s commuting options. This is an enormous advantage to someone new to Boston. CommuteWorks will also help you find or organize carpools originating in your area. (And carpools qualify for the Emergency Ride Home program.)
Always quick to adopt innovative solutions, MASCO members were early supporters of the City’s Hubway bike sharing program, sponsoring 9 of Boston’s 61 solar-powered Hubway stations located in the City. MASCO also organizes safe riding and bicycle maintenance seminars in support of bike commuting in general.
According to Kate Hewitt, MASCO meets regularly with T representatives to review ridership numbers and discuss ways of making service better to the LMA. This is a macro-level effort. At the micro end, Kate says she spends a lot of time educating new employees in the area.
“We want everyone to know the best and greenest way to get to the LMA,” she says. “Education and motivation around alternative transportation are what CommuteWorks is all about.”