MIT Lincoln Laboratory receives a 2015 Excellence in
Commuter Options Award

The Laboratory's commuter services program earns highest award ranking

At the Massachusetts Excellence in Commuter Options (ECO) Awards celebration, held at Boston's Fenway Park on 26 March, MassCommute, an organization promoting transportation options that reduce carbon emissions, presented MIT Lincoln Laboratory with a 2015 ECO Award for its extensive, highly successful program to encourage alternatives to single-occupancy-vehicle travel. The Laboratory's commuter services, managed by the Facility Services Department (FSD), connect employees to opportunities, such as vanpooling or reduced-cost commuter rail passes, that are best suited to their needs.

Vanpoolers and vans outside Lincoln LaboratoryDozens of employees from Lincoln Laboratory and Hanscom Air Force Base are saving money, wear and tear on their personal vehicles, traffic-related stress, and the environment by participating in the vRide vanpool program.

"This program has grown immensely over the past few years," says Jay Dolan, head of FSD. "Anna Maherakis [FSD's coordinator of the commuter programs] has put a great deal of effort into communicating the many benefits available to those who choose greener commuting methods, and the response from the Lab community has been very positive. It's nice to know we are doing our part to help the environment while also helping employees save money."

The numbers confirm the success of the Laboratory's programs. Currently, 23 van pools with riders from both Lincoln Laboratory and Hanscom Air Force Base are operating under a partnership with the vRide company. "This program has grown dramatically," says Maherakis. "In 2011, we had zero vans." Vanpools typically involve five to seven riders who share the driving and fuel expenses for the vans supplied by vRide. Maherakis explains that the combination of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's (MassDOT) $600-a-month subsidy to a vanpool, MIT's $100-a-month subsidy and $30-a-month pre-tax individual payroll deduction, and decreased per person gas expenses make the vanpool option very attractive financially. And people who dislike driving can escape that burden, if not daily, at least on a rotational schedule. "Twenty percent of MassDOT's statewide vanpool subsidies go to Lincoln Laboratory," cites Maherakis as evidence of employees' enthusiasm for the program.

Lincoln Laboratory's carpool program, which provides commuter-matching, now boasts 109 carpools. Drivers enrolled in this program are eligible for preferred parking at the Laboratory and are registered with MassDOT's NuRide commuter incentive program, through which registered carpoolers, vanpoolers, bicyclists, walkers, and public transportation riders earn points toward coupons redeemable at local retailers and entertainment venues.

"In 2014, we registered the most trips with NuRide," says Maherakis. "In addition, Laboratory vanpools logged 41,673 miles and carpools logged 138,401 miles." Depending on the number of people in those pools, these statistics represent the savings of a lot of miles that might have been traveled by solo commuters.

Both carpool and vanpool riders can take advantage of the Emergency Ride Home Program that accommodates riders when they have to leave work early or stay beyond their regular departure times. Under this program, registered NuRide participants are reimbursed for up to four under-$100 liveried trips home.

Besides the car- and vanpool programs, Lincoln Laboratory offers other services that help improve air quality by lowering gas-powered vehicle usage. Electric vehicles can be recharged at stations in the lower level of the parking garage. Bicyclists enjoy a variety of amenities—from bike repair stations to loaner bikes to shower facilities—that promote cycling to and from work. Commuters who use public transportation can take advantage of cost-cutting options, such as bus, T, and commuter rail passes, offered to MIT employees by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

This array of services, as well as MIT's administrative policies such as work-from-home arrangements and flexible work schedules, earned Lincoln Laboratory its ECO Award with a Pinnacle ranking, the highest rating given by the sponsors of the Awards: the MassCommute coalition of transportation management associations and MassDOT. Last year, the Laboratory's carpool and vanpool initiatives, also coordinated by Maherakis, along with James Armao, supervisor, and Richard Powers, assistant supervisor, in FSD's utilities and transportation sectors, earned an ECO Award Spotlight ranking. The commuter services team is not resting on its laurels; they are pursuing new ideas to make shared commuting even more desirable: reduced highway tolls, automobile insurance discounts for car- and vanpoolers, and short-term vanpools.

"It’s great that the Laboratory was recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for our diligence and hard work with our commuter options programs," says Armao. However, the program's greatest compliments come from commuters like Vic Ingram: "The vRide experience not only saves wear and tear on your automobile but is also a fun ride. A few of us sometimes extend our day simply by working on the van, and not surprisingly, usually one or two of us are napping. Other than a shorter commute, vRide is a great option; it's worth the trip!"

Posted May 2015

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