A Sustainable Choice for Commuting

Dave Van Hattum
Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization-Commuter Connection

Sharing the ride by carpooling or vanpooling is a sustainable choice for commuting to work. A carpool is one of the most energy-efficient and low-polluting ways to get around town. Pools take up minimal road space and reduce the need for parking spaces. A carpool with four passengers is more energy-efficient than a bus and on par with commuter rail or light rail travel.

A carpool is simply any vehicle with two or more individuals. A vanpool is a commuter vehicle with five or more total passengers. Carpooling is a popular choice of commuters in the Metro area. In downtown Minneapolis, 16% of commuter’s travel by carpool while the figure in St. Paul is 22%.

If you were to name something you don’t have enough of, you would probably say either time or money. Ridesharing can save you both time and money. Carpooling is a great way to beat rising gas prices. It also allows you to save wear and tear on your car or eliminate the need for a personal vehicle. Above all, carpooling is a convenient and pleasant way to get to work.

Carpooling is easy. Call Metro Commuter Services to be matched up with someone travelling the same route and time to work. The regional rideshare database has over 20,000 individuals. If you live on the outskirts of town, you can also find a seat on one of over 35 vanpools that commute to downtown Minneapolis, or the eight vanpools that make the trip to downtown St. Paul on a regular basis.

Rideshare Incentives

Individual carpoolers and vanpoolers can take advantage of some great regional incentives:

  • Carpoolers avoid traffic on the region’s two high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-35W and I-394 and ubiquitous ramp meter bypasses. There are also 140 park-n-ride lots throughout the region that provide a free place to meet and leave a car behind.
  • Both downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul offer free parking for carpoolers. Please note that parking is located on the fringe, so plan on a short walk.
  • SuperPool Program provides new pools of four or more passengers with a $160 to $250 bonus that can be spent on gas or other commuting expenses.
  • Vanpool drivers travel for free through a new regional incentive.
  • Guaranteed Ride Home program offers $25 towards a taxi ride home four times a year if you have to get home at a time that doesn’t match with your carpool partner.

Employer Opportunities

Employers also benefit when supporting pooling. Employees arrive at work less stressed because parking costs are reduced. Through Metro Commuter Services, employers can arrange for a commuter consultant to help facilitate ride-matching and other alternatives to driving alone at your worksite. Employers can also allow vanpool commuters to pay for expenses on a pre-tax basis, thereby reducing costs substantially.

Tax Benefits for Alternative Commuting Options

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a tax break for traveling to work by bus or vanpool? With your employers’ help, you can. Employers can now allow employees to purchase bus passes using pre-tax income. This means employees can save 30% to 40% on the cost of bus passes, and employers save 7.65% on payroll taxes. In addition, employers can claim 30% of their contribution to employee bus passes (or vanpool expenses) as a credit on their state corporate income taxes. Transit tax benefits are easy for employers to implement. No other employee benefit receives the preferential treatment given to bus passes and vanpool expenses. To order a guide for implementing transit benefits, contact Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization.

Visit the Commuter Connection Resource Center for carpooling and other alternative transportation information such as: on-site ridematching, bicycle routes, storage and other information, 1-on-1 trip-planning assistance for using the regional bus system, and registration for a number of regional incentives (Guaranteed Ride Home Program) available to employees that use an alternative form of transportation.

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