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Employers See Massive Success with Caltrain Go Pass

The benefit is helping companies all over the peninsula.

Contributed by Caltrain:

Would you ride Caltrain if it was free? That’s the lure of Caltrain’s Go Pass, which allows employers to purchase an annual pass for unlimited rides throughout Caltrain’s system for all employees.  

Subsidizing an employee’s commute is a powerful benefit and can actually help companies recruit and retain staff.

The Skoll Foundation has just 36 employees but sees major benefits from its participation in the program.

“The foundation has a strong commitment to the environment, and we were looking for ways to encourage our employees to use public transportation,” said Controller Rob Lenahan. “At the time, we had a few people using the train, but many were driving.”

Lenahan called the Go Pass “wildly successful” with more than half of the foundation’s employees now regular Caltrain riders.

“It’s one of the most popular benefits that we have,” said Lenahan. “And it has been a huge boon in helping us recruit employees who live in San Francisco.”

Lenahan also said that at one point the company was considering a move to another location.

“We are so convinced that Caltrain is the way to go that we decided we would only move to a location within walking distance of Caltrain,” he said.

The Go Pass - a small sticker affixed to an employee photo ID badge - is purchased by employers for all of their regular, full-time employees and can be used in any zone throughout the system, seven days a week.

Employees traveling on Caltrain simply present the badge with the Go Pass sticker when asked for proof of payment by a Caltrain conductor or fare enforcement officer.

Introduced in 2003, the pass has proven to be a winner among employees who are enjoying a commute that was once far more stressful. For employers, the Go Pass is an attractive addition to their benefits package, an asset for recruiting and retaining employees.

Stanford University is the largest participant in the Go Pass program, with nearly 50 percent of its employees participating. The university considers the pass a valuable tool in meeting its goal of a zero-net increase in peak-commute traffic.

“Since we have so many employees living on the Peninsula, the Go Pass is a wonderful option for us,” said Brodie Hamilton, director of parking and transportation services.

The Go Pass also has been a winner for Caltrain, which offers the program as a way to increase ridership on the commuter railroad. Since 2009, revenue from the Go Pass has increased from $2.3 million to nearly $6.5 million. The number of participating companies has nearly doubled, from 35 to 60, and the number of eligible employees has gone from 20,407 to 38,398.

To participate in the program, companies pay an annual fee of $165 per eligible employee, regardless of how many use the transit pass. The total cost for employers to participate in the program is determined based on the total number of employees. The minimum participation cost is $13,750.

Companies interested in participating in the Go Pass program can call Caltrain’s Market Development Department at 650.508.6292 to inquire about the program or visit www.caltrain.com/gopass

relentlesscactus February 15, 2013 at 09:01 PM
How much of that $6.5 million would have been used by employees that would have bought tickets? That is the magic number.
Mark Taylor February 16, 2013 at 12:19 AM
So let me understand this. An employer pre-pays for employees to use Caltrain with the cost of $165 per eligible employee with a minimum participation cost of $13,750. In return the employee gets a badge with sticker to ride all zones seven days a week. Pretty nice deal considering the rest of us buy a monthly pass good only for those zones during weekdays (but all zones on weekends/holidays). I assume the companies get some nice tax credit to make it worth while. I suspect down the road this will become a taxable benefit (just as paid monthly parking is taxable if employer pays for it).

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