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Propel Insurance Swaps Parking for Passes

What is the #1 way for a business to affect positive change in the rate of employees using forms of alternate commute?       Answer: Remove subsidies for employee parking and replace with a transit pass for every employee.

Leaders at Propel Insurance, with approximately 127 employees working in downtown Tacoma, came to this realization not so long ago.  Regulated by the state’s Commute Trip Reduction law, Propel is mandated to set goals for reducing the number of employees driving alone to work.  Despite their best attempts to meet these goals—promoting transit and other alternate commute options, providing transit passes for employees opting in, and generally supporting employees in making alternate commute choices—their efforts brought about only minor changes in their drive alone rate.  Propel leaders quickly realized that in order to meet their alternate commute objectives, something ambitious would need to be done.

Offering a year’s notice to employees, they came forward with the decision to stop subsidies for paid parking.  And with the introduction of ORCA, they strengthened this decision by opting in for the ORCA Area Passport, providing their employees with unlimited access to 7 Puget Sound transit agencies.

Initially, the change was a challenge.  But the significant advance notice, the ongoing support and resources provided by the organization’s Employee Transportation Coordinator, and the use of the ORCA card as a high quality employee benefit have all made the transition a smooth one.  In 2009, Propel realized a 48.7% drive alone rate, an amazing 30% below the average drive alone rate for downtown employers. As Patti Sutton, Director of Human Resources, says of the success of this change, “Employees have embraced it, and leadership has lead the way.”

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