Densford states, “Again, being the second-tiered city, it’s not really been quite the focus, but we felt like stepping up and partnering with TARC.
“It would introduce mass transportation to other people who otherwise wouldn’t have used it, to get them interested in it.” He adds, “It would hopefully be one catalyst that would help build infrastructure that would then help the downtown continue to grow in residential units.”
This initiative with TARC really came out of dealing with the first issue, a way to help associates have some alternatives. During the middle of the conversations, gas prices were starting to rise. “That was another catalyst for people to be interested in looking at a program like this,” Densford says.
Developing a Solution
Humana and TARC developed an initiative where employee IDs work as transit passes, NextBus display signs in Humana lobbies let employees know exactly when the next trolley is coming with Trapeze software ensuring that it all talks to each other.
Partnering with members of the community is nothing new to TARC, Executive Director J. Barry Barker mentions. “What we’ve done over a number of years, we did first with the Univeristy of Louisville.
“We started some circulator service, shuttle service on campus,” he says. Part of that was also that the university ID worked as a transit pass. The university was able to relocate its parking because of the shuttle service, and that led to a better use of central campus land for things other than parking lots.
“Then metro Louisville itself, city government, got on board,” he says. “So we have been promoting this in terms of the better way to serve and facilitate using public transportation.”
Densford explains Humana was looking to step up its partnership with TARC. “We were talking to TARC about what it was costing us to do that [voucher program]. We were explaining to them what we were trying to do from a perspective of the experience and environmental issues.
“Barry’s team, they were already working on a federal grant for the NextBus technology but they were looking for a corporate sponsor for that,” Densford says. “We felt that was interesting and it provided our associates another piece of technology support, being able to see when buses would come, being able to manage their time.
“We said we’ll step up and we’ll be a sponsor of that,” he states.
Barker says, “We’re paying for the software and the equipment on the trolleys, Humana is putting hardware in the lobbies of their buildings that tells them, tells anybody that looks at the TV screen, when the next trolley is going to be there.” With a laugh Barker adds, “The interesting thing is, we’ve now found out that there are these TV screens that are telling us and the rest of the world how are schedule adherence is.”
In a short time, Humana has seen benefits of the program and Densford is able to explain how the initiative fits with Humana’s corporate objectives, metrics and retention.
“It costs about $21 per associate per year, so it’s a very low-cost benefit for us to be able to offer this,” he says. “From a financial investment, it was very minor.”
The program was opened the first of June in 2007. In June, he says they saw a 7 percent increase. For July, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of people taking the TARC buses that were not taking them before.
“On our new hires, in the month of June and July, the people going through open enrollment, 60 percent of that group were selecting not to accept the parking card,” Densford states. Humana subsidizes 75 percent of the employee’s parking in downtown Louisville as a benefit. Densford reiterates, “60 percent of our new hires actually opted for the bus rides in June and July. They see the value in not bringing their vehicle, reducing their gas and not paying their 25 percent.”
“The ROI is very simple,” Densford says. “50 people not picking up a parking card, or giving their parking card back, pays for the program.” Out of 8,500 employees, that is half a percent that have to convert to the program. “That’s how we look at it from a financial perspective,” he states.