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Columbia Bank

Removing a direct parking subsidy for employees and instead offering ORCA can be a great way to incentivize use of transportation options—especially if cost savings are returned directly to the affected employees.

The key to making this change: a little creative thinking, and a lot of communication with employees.  Case in point—Columbia Bank’s transition from a direct employee subsidy for parking to the equivalent “cash out” for the value of parking.

In early 2009, approximately 150 Columbia Bank employees working in Tacoma and Seattle received a “bump up” in pay equivalent to the value of their parking spot.  This cash equivalent will remain constant over time, regardless of the cost of parking, so employees will pay for any future cost increases out of their own pocket.  Employees now have the freedom to choose the commute option they prefer—use transit, buy a bike, walk to work, carpool, or continue to drive alone and park—and will pocket the cash savings for all but the latter.

To further support and encourage employees in their realization of these savings and reduce their use of the single-occupancy vehicle, Columbia Bank also reimburses employees for their purchase of a monthly Pierce Transit ORCA pass.

Has Columbia Bank experienced success in this transition?  Preliminary data shows that they are well on their way, with an 8% decrease in their drive alone rate between 2007 and 2009.  Employees now have more freedom to choose the commute option that works for them, with an added incentive to use transit via employer subsidy.  A win-win for all, especially those that choose not to drive alone!

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