Aug. 07--ALBANY -- Most of the Capital Region's colleges offer bus passes to their students, faculty and staff.
Now, Capital District Transportation Authority is hoping to get more employers -- and their employees -- on board through its Universal Access program.
ShopRite has offered the program to its 1,000 employees, freeing up parking spaces at its stores.
When ShopRite announced plans to participate in the Universal Access program, Tom Urtz, its vice president of human resources and community affairs, had expected about two-thirds of employees to sign up.
Instead, "ShopRite does 20,000 rides a month," said Jonathan Scherzer, CDTA's director of marketing.
For ShopRite, the arrangement made sense. Its supermarkets are on bus routes, and many of its employees also live near bus routes. The employees can use their store identification cards to ride buses to and from work and also for other trips.
ShopRite is the only corporate Universal Access participant, but Scherzer said Wednesday that CDTA expects additional participants in the next few months.
Schools or employers pay a fee based on projected usage, which can be adjusted as usage warrants, usually with a cap on how much will be paid.
Advantages for employers who use the program include workers who don't have to fight traffic and are less stressed when they arrive for work, and potentially reduced turnover. Offering such a benefit also tells employees that an employer is thinking about the effect its policies have on the environment and that it is trying to reduce its carbon footprint.
Oh, and the need for fewer parking spaces.
When ShopRite's participation was first announced, then-Mayor Jerry Jennings estimated that the Albany supermarket being built would need another 200 parking spaces; the program helped make that unnecessary.
CDTA says it also has been working to make riding the bus more convenient, with apps for smartphones, real-time arrival information on its BusPlus service between Albany and Schenectady, and Wi-Fi on some buses.
A new farebox system has been installed and sometime next year customers will be able to pay for their ride with their smartphones
Universal Access accounts for one in five riders, and most of them -- nearly 2.8 million last year -- were students at area colleges.
The program has helped boost overall ridership. CDTA is projecting it will reach 17 million boardings in the current fiscal year.
Scherzer said that employers who are interested in the program can contact the CDTA sales and marketing department for more details.
Copyright 2014 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.