TRANSPORTATION INFORMATION CLEARINGHOUSE
Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies, Research Methods/ Statistical Methods,
The Transportation Information Clearinghouse (TIC) Project was the result of collaboration among the Regional Transportation Authority, the Workforce Boards of Metropolitan Chicago and the Urban Transportation Center (UTC) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The primary objective of the project was to identify privatelyprovided, employer-based, non-traditional transportation services in operation as well as specific information about these services in order for employers, Workforce Boards, One-Stop Centers, transportation planners and policymakers to facilitate low-income workers and job seekers to access employment opportunities. The non-traditional transportation information has been used to create an information clearinghouse to supplement the region’s public transportation resources. Additionally, such information was sought to identify potential service coordination opportunities for service providers to pursue as well as enhance the current body of transportation information on services currently in operation in the region. The study found that employer-provided services are an integral part of the region’s transit network which “bridge the gap” for workers unable to utilize traditional public transportation due to temporal and/or spatial mismatches. A secondary goal was to market commuter benefits to employers and employee groups to facilitate increased transit access and usage. The project was unique in that the Workforce Boards, whose caseworkers directly manage job-seeking activities, had oversight of the project while transportation and planning agencies acted in an advisory capacity. To obtain information on non-traditional transportation services in the region, a survey instrument was developed and delivered to each employment site with more than fifty employees (over 14,000 sites) in the eight-county region. A summary of key preliminary survey findings include: • Only 5% of responding companies have, at some time, offered transportation services to employees. • Only 40% of responding companies were aware of pre-tax transportation benefits (e.g., RTA Transit Check Program or RTA/CTA Transit Benefit Program); however, one in five respondents did request, and was provided, additional pretax and commuter benefit related information. • Over 30% of responding employers offer staggered work hours and flextime to their workers. • 8 out of 10 employers do not share transportation services with other companies. • Responding employers were equally likely to subcontract service operation as to operate transportation services with their own personnel. • 92% of companies offering transportation services do not charge employees fares. • There is a significantly high turnover rate of transportation coordinators among regional employers. • The decision to offer transportation was largely based on employee recruitment and retention concerns. 3 • The decision to discontinue transportation services was due primarily to dwindling participation and the ending of pre-defined time limits (e.g., during a company relocation). • Significant transportation issues employers cited include: high cost, logistics, liability, safety, and overcoming the preference to drive alone. • Beneficial outcomes of offering private transportation services include employee retention, improved employee morale and appreciation, and an expanded labor pool. Ultimately, 156 employers were identified as current providers of non-traditional transportation services. The findings serve to reverse commonly-held misinformation, i.e., that public transportation can and does serve the needs of all job seekers in the region. During the course of the project, an indirect discovery revealed that a majority of employers in the region lack understanding and usage of pre-tax transportation benefits. This finding points to the need for further exploration to potentially expand the programs. Recommended additional follow-up work necessary to maintain, update and enhance the Clearinghouse in order that the data continues to be a regional resource to facilitate access to employment opportunities include: • Develop an ongoing update and maintenance of the existing Clearinghouse database of information. It is critical that the information obtained through the project be properly maintained, kept current and accurate in order to assist those individuals who require information to access employment opportunities. • Develop ongoing procedures for Workforce Board and One-Stop Center staff to utilize so that changes, additions and new employer transportation services are captured, recorded and included in the Clearinghouse database. While the study obtained a significant amount of detailed information, which was previously unknown about employer-offered transportation services, there are still opportunities available to expand and improve the information database. • Integrate and incorporate the Clearinghouse information for inclusion within the RTA Regional Transportation Asset Management System (RTAMS). The Clearinghouse information needs to reside in a well maintained, user-friendly and easily accessible network-type environment. RTAMS is the perfect location for this type of information to reside. • In conjunction with Workforce Board staff, train the region’s One-Stop Center job counselors on the RTA RTAMS system. In order to provide the maximum level of assistance to persons in need of transportation to and from work, it is crucial that staff from these entities be proficient in all facets of RTAMS. • Explore service coordination and expansion opportunities. Through partnerships with existing employers and transportation providers, there are numerous opportunities for existing services to be shared and/or expanded in order to serve a larger client base and increase service efficiency and effectiveness. • Investigate coordination opportunities of the TIC findings with other nontraditional public transportation programs (e.g., CATS Ridematch 21, Pace VIP Vanpool, car sharing and station car demonstration projects) in the region. There may be untapped benefits and opportunities among and between these non4 traditional services that could address some of the unmet commuter related transportation needs. • Sponsor additional employer-targeted pre-tax commuter choice benefit educational workshops. These will provide a way for employers and employer associations to enhance their awareness and learn about available employee transportation benefits as well as assist them in implementing and administering programs, such as RTA Transit Check, to their employees.