Employer Options: No and Low Cost Ways to Help Your Employees

No-Cost Benefits

  • One of the easiest things you can do costs absolutely nothing. It’s the pre-tax payroll deduction for transit.  Easy and effective – just allow employees who use transit or vanpools to deduct the cost (up to $255 per month) from their taxable income.  You gain, too – you save on payroll taxes for this amount!
  • Right now, your employees are eligible for the TMA’s $1.00 to Downtown Carpooling We’re currently subsidizing commutes for over 500 Downtown employees who have registered on the Scoop carpooling app.  This means your employees can commute with one or more other employees who work and live near them for just $1.00.  If they drive a pool into town, Scoop reimburses them mileage (generally between $5 and $10 per trip).
  • Provide information. Many employees have no idea what their transportation options are or how easy it might be to use an alternative to driving alone to work.  That’s where the Palo Alto TMA can help.  We can help your employees find better ways to get to work.  We can consult with you on developing a commuter benefits program that’s right-sized for your business.  We can attend benefits fairs and other events to educate employees about the many options for getting to work in Downtown Palo Alto.  We can also work directly with individual employees to help them customize a commute plan tailored to their unique needs.
  • Do some of your employees live in Palo Alto? Can they use one of the Palo Alto free shuttles?  The City runs two shuttle routes – one that travels from Embarcadero to downtown, and a second Crosstown route that runs from Charleston to downtown.
  • Provide preferred parking for carpools if you have your own parking facilities. This set-aside (just a couple of spaces) are a huge incentive for employees to carpool!

Low Cost Benefits

  • You can offer to subsidize part or all of the cost of a transit pass; a subsidy for bicycling or carpooling, and deduct the amount of subsidy (up to $75 for transit per employee). You save on payroll taxes by offering this subsidy and your employees get a free, tax-free benefit.
  • Right now, if you have employees earning less than $50,000 a year, they may be eligible for a free monthly transit pass on Caltrain, VTA or SamTrans, courtesy of the new Palo Alto TMA. That’s right.  We’ll pay the cost of a transit pass for up to 6 months.
  • Provide memberships in car-sharing and bike sharing
  • Establish a rewards program for employees who don’t drive alone. Incentives like a bonus vacation day, free lunch, or gift cards are effective and appreciated.
  • Provide real-time transit and information about other modes (including services such as Lyft and Uber) in your lobby via TransitScreen displays. You can also use this as a way to promote your own messages to employees and customers.
  • Provide incentives ($3 per day) for carpooling; up to $20 per month for bicycle commuting, to help offset costs of using these modes.
  • If possible, allow employees to telecommute occasionally, and offer ‘flexible’ hours so more employees can commute in non-peak hours.
  • Provide indoor, secure bicycle parking to encourage this mode of transportation (which can easily be combined with transit).

Higher Priced Programs

  • Participate in bulk transit pass programs available at VTA or Caltrain. These programs offer businesses significant discounts on an annual transit pass.  The catch?  You have to meet certain minimums, and you have to buy a pass for every employee.  Even with those requirements, the return on your investment can be impressive.
  • Offer parking cash out to employees who forego a parking space. The amount of cash out is to give the employees the equivalent of a subsidized parking space when they use transit or use another alternative.
  • Provide company-sponsored shuttles – first and last mile services, long distance express services – for those who don’t live near transit.

Need help figuring out how to help your employees with their commute?  Call PATMA — we can help.