Employee transit pass program gets into gear

Apply by November 14

- October 26, 2012

Office of Sustainability's Caroline King gets on the #10 Dalhousie.
Office of Sustainability's Caroline King gets on the #10 Dalhousie.

A long-anticipated employee transit program is ready to leave the bus station and hit the road.

Today, Dalhousie and Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) SmartTrip initiative announced the launch of the EPass, a reduced-cost Metro Transit pass available to all permanent full-time and part-time employees, as well as associate employees.

Dalhousie is the first institution announced by HRM that will pilot the EPass program starting January 1. The EPass, which can be purchased as a standard Metro Transit pass or as a pass for the MetroLink Service, will provide a savings of 25 per cent to employees versus the standard monthly rates.

In total, 600 passes will be available to Dalhousie employees for the 2013 calendar year, paid for via payroll deductions. Eligible staff and faculty will need to apply for the passes by Wednesday, Nov. 14. (See application information at the bottom of this story.) If more than 600 employees apply, the passes will be assigned by random draw.

As well, approximately 100 of those passes will be set aside for “new riders” – staff and faculty currently paying for a Dalhousie parking pass via payroll reductions and who are willing to trade in their parking pass for an EPass (or not renew if they’re paying by term). These new riders will receive an additional $80 total reduction towards their new transit pass and will also be entered to win one of four new bicycles.

A sustainability priority

A transit program for employees has been near the top of Dal’s sustainability wish list for some time.

“We’ve been doing commuter surveys for the past four years, asking employees and students about what they want to see in terms of campus transportation – and an employee transit program ranks the highest with staff and faculty each year,” says Rochelle Owen, director of the Office of Sustainability.

Dalhousie has been working with HRM on the program for more than a year now. The partnership involves HRM and Dalhousie helping to subsidize the savings for employees.

“We’re one of the largest employers on the peninsula, and by helping make it more affordable for employees to take transit to and from work, we’re providing support for our staff and benefitting campus transportation and city-wide transportation more generally,” says Ken Burt, vice-president finance and administration.

Some Dal faculty and staff have already expressed their eagerness to get signed up.

“The majority of time, I drive my own vehicle to work,” says Maria Hill of Dal Security, who says that with the EPass, she’ll rarely need to do so.

“This is a good fit for Dal faculty and staff, as parking is at such a premium,” she adds. “It’s a good example of faculty and staff leading by example – green living – and saving money while doing so.”

“Dalhousie cannot just teach sustainability – we have to practice it,” says Eric Rapaport, associate professor in the School of Planning, who uses a mix mode of transportation (including car) and says the E-Pass helps make transit a more affordable option for him.

“This partnership between the city and Dalhousie is another example that shows progress towards achieving a more sustainable city and workplace.”

Cost savings

The EPass will cost Dal employees $52.50 a month for a regular pass and $63.75 a month for a MetroLink pass. That compares to $70 and $85 a month, respectively, to buy monthly transit passes at the regular price. (The EPass can be used on the MetroX routes for Fall River and Tantallon, but users will be need to pay an additional $1 with an EPass or $0.50 with a LinkPass per trip — the same charges applied to users with a UPass or transfer.)

Owen says that the savings — approximately 25 per cent — exceed those of other employee transit programs that she and her team have investigated: most programs in Canada offer a discount of 10 to 15 per cent.

She hopes that the EPass ends up a big step towards making transit a more attractive option for Dal staff and faculty.

“It’s about providing incentives to Dal employees to take transit by reducing the cost,” she says. “We hope that this both provides a benefit to some employees who already use Metro Transit, and also brings new riders into the mix.”

It also represents steps towards a stronger transit relationship with HRM, which Owen hopes will produce opportunities in the future. Her team is working with other institutions to promote transit options such as priority bus lanes and transit corridors, as well as study shuttles and other ways that transit can be improved for Dal employees.


How to apply for an EPass

To register for an opportunity for one of the 600 available passes, eligible employees should send an email with the subject line “EPass Sign-up” to rethink@dal.ca by Wednesday, Nov. 14 including their name, email address, work phone number, B00#, their preferred type of pass (EPass or LinkPass), and if they are a new rider (this will be confirmed via Payroll and the Parking office).

For more information about the program, check out the Dalhousie SmartTrip website.


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