Despite numerous ways that taking public transit, walking and biking can improve our health, grow our economy and protect our environment, many of us continue to drive most places we go simply because it is so darn easy.Copious amounts of free parking, minimal traffic and high flexibility are just a few reasons why we often default to our personal autos.
Naturally, if we want to shift our transportation culture, we must find ways to encourage the use of other modes of transportation and make it just as easy to take public transit, walk or bike as it is to drive. Employers who recognize the benefits of sustainable and accessible transportation options are finding ways to incentivize different ways of getting around.
A partnership between TheRide, a Trans4M member, and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is doing just that with the go!pass. The go!pass is available to all downtown Ann Arbor employees free of charge through generous financial support from the DDA and a $10 fee paid by their employer. The pass provides unlimited public transit use, discounts at downtown businesses and other commuter services. The pass is a component of the broader getDowntown program which provides commuting programs and services to downtown Ann Arbor employees to make biking, walking, carsharing and public transit more accessible and fun.
According to the getDowntown website, there are 457 employers that participate in the go!pass program and about 4,000 individuals who have a go!pass. While the program is offered to those who work downtown, go!pass holders are able to take TheRide buses free of charge all over the Ann Arbor area — with many commuting from Ypsilanti and other outlying communities.
I spoke with Nancy Shore, Director of the GetDowntown, to learn more about how the go!pass has impacted commuter culture in Ann Arbor:
What have been the greatest impacts of the program?
The go!pass has been able to keep hundreds, if not thousands of cars out of downtown Ann Arbor, increase employees use of public transportation. The go!pass also encourages people to bike and walk because they know they’ll have the bus as a backup if the weather is bad or they get sick. Finally, we’ve had businesses who tell us the go!pass helps them retain and attract high quality employees because either the employer can’t afford to pay for parking or because they have the type of employees who would rather use public transportation than drive.
From what you’ve heard, why do people enjoy having a go!pass?
They enjoy it because the pass makes it easy for them to ride the bus. And of course because they don’t have to pay for parking. They also like it because they can get discounts from downtown stores just by showing their pass.
Do you think the go!pass has helped increase transit support or improve culture around public transit in Ann Arbor?
I do because one of the barriers to using public transportation is figuring out how to pay. The go!pass eliminates that barrier and therefore makes it easier for people to use public transportation.
The go!pass and the getDowntown program are excellent examples of ways that employers, businesses, local government entities and other organizations can team up to make a wide range of commuting options easy for employees. Changing the way people move on a day-to-day basis has wide spread, positive impacts that are good for individuals, families, businesses and the community as a whole.
Written by Liz Treutel, Trans4M Policy and Communications Associate