Pilot Commute Options program gives Chicago-area employers menu of options to help workers drive less - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Pilot Commute Options program gives Chicago-area employers menu of options to help workers drive less

Up to 10 employers will test effectiveness of strategies to get workers out of their cars, into better commutes


What is the Commute Options program?

  • A new pilot program led by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) will offer up to 10 employers in metropolitan Chicago the opportunity to persuade their employees to trade driving solo to work for a different type of commute.
  • The pilot is in partnership with the Civic Consulting Alliance, and inspired by the Chicago Climate Action Plan.
  • For each participating employer, MPC will conduct an upfront survey and evaluation of their employees (at no cost to the employer), using the results to craft a customized program that encourages as many employees as possible to choose alternatives to driv­ing alone.
  • MPC will link employers with a range of regional partners to implement their program incentives. See below for a list of partners.
  • Six months after each employer’s program has launched, MPC will conduct another no-cost evaluation to measure the program’s fiscal and environmental impacts. This data—which will measure reduced commute times and greenhouse gas emissions, fuel savings, employee retention rates, and more—will allow MPC and the Civic Consulting Alliance to refine the program and available incentives in 2012. 
  • Learn more at www.metroplanning.org/commuteoptions.

What is the purpose of Commute Options? 

  • Some 71 percent of Chicago-area workers drive alone to work each day. A shared goal of the regional Chicago Climate Action Plan and the Commute Options program is to curb transportation emissions by helping to remove 19,000 Chicagoland cars from the road.
  • Employers can play an integral role in achieving regional energy efficiency and sustainability goals. In exchange for helping their employees and the environment, employers participating in Commute Options programs report enhanced employee satisfaction, improved retention, reduced costs, and better success meeting internal sustainability objectives. 
  • MPC’s 2008 Moving at the Speed of Congestion report showed that $7.3 billion dollars is lost annually in the Chicago region due to traffic gridlock. Part of that loss is attributable to employers losing money when employees are absent or tardy, stressed or sick – and therefore less productive – as a result of their commutes.  

Who is involved? 

Participating companies, to date:

Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Central Office is located in Chicago’s Loop. CPS is well situated for public transit use yet 30 percent of employees drive to work for a variety of personal or professional reasons. More than half of CPS survey respondents who currently drive would change modes if commuting barriers were addressed. In June, CPS Central Office rolled out Phase 1 of a multiphase “Smart Trips” campaign focusing on “Bike to Work Week,” and increasing employee awareness of pretax transit benefits.

“Many of our employees already take the train, bus, walk, bike or carpool when they can.  With such a wealth of options into the Loop, we want to help and continue to educate our workforce to use public transportation options or bike to work more often.”
Suzanne Carlson, Director of Environmental Affairs, CPS

CPS contact: Franklin Shuftan, CPS Office of Communications, (773) 553-1620, frshuftan@cps.k12.il.us


Goose Island Beer Company

Goose Island Brewery, located on the West Side of Chicago, already encourages its employees to use alterative commute modes through its “Green Steps” program. The company instituted pretax commuter benefits two years ago, and would like to encourage more employees to participate in the program. Also, Goose Island has a sizeable number of Spanish-speaking employees, and will be conducting the survey in Spanish as well as English to learn about their Hispanic employees’ commuting needs. Goose Island plans to conduct the survey in July. 

“As a company that is dependent on natural resources and energy, we are always trying new ways to lower our impact on the environment. When we can wrap in our employees, it helps us not only reach our environmental goals, but also helps our employees make a direct contribution to those goals. Cheers to that!”
Tony Bowker, Chief Operating Officer, Goose Island Beer Company 

Goose Island contact: Ellen Malloy, emalloy@gooseisland, 312-307-4457 


W.W. Grainger, Inc (Grainger)

Grainger is headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., and has office locations in Lincolnshire, Niles, and Northbrook, Ill. More than 80 percent of team members at these facilities drive to work, and 47 percent of them commute 20 miles or longer every day. Grainger offers pretax commuter benefits, and provides a shuttle from the local Metra stations free to employees.  Grainger is conducting a pilot campaign this summer at its Lake Forest headquarters to promote awareness of transit options, including pretax benefits. The company will also start offering a direct shuttle from the Metra stations with a guaranteed ride home, preferred parking for registered carpoolers, and a greater awareness for employees to register with Pace’s Rideshare program to find car and van pool options. 

“Grainger is a leader in offering customers the solutions they need to maintain their facilities in a sustainable manner. We are equally committed to reducing our impact on the environment. We are delighted to pilot a program that offers more convenient commuting options to our team members while contributing to a better environment in Chicago.”
Gail Edgar, Vice President, Corporate Facilities Services, Grainger 

Grainger contact: Anjali Reddy, Corporate Communications, anjali.reddy@grainger.com, 847-535-4197 



The following partners are providing funding or commute options services to make this program possible:

What incentives are participating employers offering to help their employees drive less? 

Employers will be able to select from a range of existing and new incentives to help workers live near work or transit, or ride transit, bike, or walk to work. These include: 

Additional Quotes 

“Oak Park is fortunate to have convenient access to all of the Chicago area’s job centers via public transit or highway,” said Oak Park Village President David Pope, who has been a strong supporter of environmental programs and incentives to urge residents and visitors to use alternate commuting modes. “The Village encourages area employers to play a significant role in encouraging their employees to try alternative commutes, rather than driving alone to work, by participating in the Commute Options program.” 

“Everyone in our region pays the price of a lower quality of life caused by traffic congestion,” said Metropolitan Planning Council President MarySue Barrett. “Through the Commute Options program, employers can play a significant role in unlocking gridlock and improving regional air quality, while improving employee satisfaction and retention and decreasing company costs.” 

Contact information 

For more information on Commute Options, contact MPC Project Manager Tim Grzesiakowski, at 312-863-6040 or tgrzesiakowski@metroplanning.org. 

Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth.


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