"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars."
- Henry Van Dyke
|May 19, 2013|
Company Takes The Commuter Challenge
January 18, 2001
Think the idea of getting out of your car to get to work sounds too awful to contemplate? The employees of one software company have put all the pieces of sustainable commuting together and are finding it means exercise, community, great workplace morale, clean air, cash in pocket, and -- without fail -- a guaranteed ride home.
NEW Read sustainable commuting opinions and ideas from our readers.
Many employers have become convinced that the employee who commutes easily and contentedly works more productively. Take the case of Seattle-based WRQ, Inc., a leader in business software willing to bet cold, hard cash on it.
WRQ kicks back $20 cash every month to employees who drive four or fewer times that month. But it's not like paying your kid to get A's in school. Area employers like WRQ are saving sometimes upwards of six figures by not having to provide expansive parking lots or garages. It's money that WRQ believes rightfully belongs to the employees who made it possible.
And WRQ employees -- through their own creativity and motivation -- are reaping more than financial benefits. Says David McLean, who, along with Kjell Swedin, has canoed to work once a week for three years, "There's nothing like paddling on the dark, dead calm of the lake in December with the traffic above you on I-5 all stacked up." Others take advantage of the company's secure bike rooms, showers, and lockers that make bicycle commuting a pleasure.
Certainly, some of the WRQ faithful are a bit more conventional -- but no less enthusiastic. They've formed active vanpools that not only represent cross-sections of the company (imagine sales, support, and IT folks riding alongside software engineers!) but also yield diverse benefits:
But what of the necessity of individual flexibility? A guaranteed ride home program covers the cost of cab fare should a vanpooler miss a scheduled departure time.
While building a $150 million company among the industry leaders, CEO Doug Walker still finds time to lead by example. He rides his bicycle 18 miles each way, to and from work each day. His ad hoc Geo Metro loaner program is also a favorite among employees who crave an alternative to their cars but still need to be able to run errands quickly and efficiently during the day. Walker's "trust and respect" management style carries over to the Geo sign-out board just inside the door of his own office.
This creative style has not gone unnoticed. The Commuter Challenge, a partnership between the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, area cities, and state and regional agencies, recognized WRQ as a 2000 Diamond Award Winner at its seventh annual awards breakfast on January 18. Since the Commuter Challenge began recognizing employers in 1995, WRQ has remained one of the standard-bearing employers helping to change the conversation about commuting in Seattle and throughout the country -- by changing the conversations among their employees.
HOW DO YOU COMMUTE? Tell us all your commuting stories -- the most interesting ones, the funniest ones, the wackiest ones, the most creative ones, the most sustainable ones. We want to hear 'em all!
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I had been doing some informal research on incentives given to people for walking or riding their bicycles to work and was pleased to see that the goodletter had something about the subject. I've been trying to put together a suggestion of sorts for my company. They used to have a subsidy for bus passes, but it's gone away with budget woes. Now, we're on the way up budget-wise, but no alternative transportation incentive has been reinstated because so many people ride their bikes that they don't know what to do since you can't give someone a "bike pass." And, the general feeling of the powers that be is that any incentive wouldn't change anyone's transportation choice, so why bother?
Of course, I'm interested in the point of it all, especially at a firm where "sustainability" and "environmental integrity" permeate office marketing materials and proposals. I want my company to step up to the plate and be a leader! I have received a "bonus" for riding my bike to work at another job - $50 each pay period if I rode just 3 times/week. That's probably a bit much, and I'm thinking cash might scare people. I should say that the senior associates get - and have gotten even through the budget crisis - a free monthly parking pass at the garage next door ($140/month)! This is seen as a "benefit" for senior folks, and I think it's pathetic that the only transportation-oriented "benefit" encourages people to drive and isn't a true benefit to the ones who receive it, the firm, the city, or the environment.
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Even though I don't work outside of my house anymore, this is a very good idea that could be used here in Florida. It would really help with the traffic situation here. It would also be good for the environment, and with the high cost of fuel, I have to congratulate whoever thought about it the first time.
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