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Corporate School Buses March 17, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in business, sustainability.
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I heard on NPR yesterday that Washington, DC has jumped to #4 on the list of most-traffic-bound US cities after LA, NY, and Chicago with the biggest problem occurring in the Northern Virginia suburbs. It’s actually gotten where people are turning down jobs in the area and businesses are moving out. One anecdote was of a woman who spent an hour and forty-five minutes in traffic on the way to her first day at work. She called from the car and resigned before she ever got there. Of course, Virginia is running a budget deficit right now and a combination of political timing and pure finance is making investments in public transit infeasible right now. Not that an investment in public transit would provide relief in the short term anyway. Unless the particular form of public transit was buses and buses are slow and generally not convenient. Except there is one form of bus transit which is pretty convenient–the school bus. A school pick you up close to your house and takes you right where you need to go. And while you are riding, you can relax and socialize with friends from school. Of course, school buses are a form of public transit. But why are there no (or few) private corporate work buses?

Say you are a medium to large sized company with a semi-rigid work schedule. How much would it cost you to run your own bus/van pool to transport some significant subset of your employees–the ones that can’t reasonably get to work using public transportation and the ones that don’t live in faraway areas isolated from other employees–to and from work every day? Wouldn’t that make your company a more attractive place to work? Wouldn’t that improve your employees’ QOWL? It wouldn’t eliminate their commute. In fact it would probably make their commute a little longer (if for instance they were the first stop on the pick-up route). But it would eliminate the stress of driving and replace it with a chance to relax and socialize with co-workers, which is probably good for the company anyway. It would be like car-pooling, but on a larger scale and company-organized, operated, and funded.

Actually, it doesn’t have to be company funded. I currently pay $8 a day to park at my workplace. I would gladly pay $8 a day for someone to pick me up at a spot within a few blocks of my home and drive me to work. Heck, I would pay a premium to save on stress, gas money, and maybe even the need to own a second car. And don’t you think that a company could get a tax deduction for an expense like this? Or maybe a carbon credit or six assuming we ever install a carbon cap-and-trade system? And what about the free advertising on the side of the corporate vans? And savings from reduction in on-site parking capacity? The company may even get a little something from the city just for reducing congestion. And this isn’t just for large employers either. Smaller employers at the same complex could band together to support an efficient system like this.

Think this is a nutty idea? I worked at Intel in Haifa (Israel) in 2000. The site had about 1,500 employees at the time and they had a van-pool system like this. It was free, and I gladly availed myself of it. I am sure that some US companies have this sort of thing although Google searches on “corporate transit”, “corporate van pools”, and several other permutations of “corporate”/”company”/”transportation”/”carpool” didn’t turn up anything relevant (maybe I should have used Bing?). But why isn’t this commonplace? Come on people, isn’t this a no-brainer? Or alternatively, is it not a no-brainer? Or alter-alternatively, is it a brainer?

P.S. My new inspiration, Donna Simpson!

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