Photo courtesy: Land of Sky
About the Program
Commute Friendly NC is a statewide recognition program that offers a simple and easy platform to celebrate leadership of all the businesses and organizations (large and small), throughout the NC State, who are taking valuable steps to support and shift single-occupancy, car-driven trips of their employees to alternative sustainable modes, such as carpool, vanpool, telework, public transit, biking, walking and flexible work weeks. The program is funded by NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
NCDOT funds five different Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs throughout the state: Land of Sky Regional Council (LOSRC), Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), City of Wilmington (GoCoast), Piedmont Authority for Regional Transit (PART) and Triangle Transportation Choices (TJCOG). Commute Friendly NC is the result of several months of collaborative partnership amongst all these five TDM Partners, plus two other organizations- Sustain Charlotte and GoTriangle. The collaborative effort was led by the Triangle Transportation Choices project team at TJCOG. Like so many other programs, it went on a pause in spring 2020 due to the pandemic but caught steam again early on in 2021. Grad and undergrad student interns at TJCOG have done a phenomenal job in assisting with the branding and website design aspects of the program website throughout 2021 and the program shall always remain thankful to them for their efforts.
Why Commute Friendly NC?
To understand the origins of Commute Friendly NC, it is imperative for one to know about the Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) program. BWC is a national level program that provides qualified employers with national recognition, as well as an elite designation for offering outstanding commuter benefits, such as free or low-cost bus passes, vanpool fares, and strong telework programs. It is an annual fee-based membership program.
Triangle Transportation Choices has been promoting and participating in BWC in the Triangle area for several years. As of now, Triangle BWC is housed at TJCOG. It encourages Triangle area employers to get the BWC designation and supports them by offering public recognition, technical assistance, training, web-based tools, and forums for information exchange.
Over the years, the pushback often received by the five TDM Partners in their individual program efforts to promote BWC was that the BWC’s annual fee was a major barrier especially for smaller businesses; it did not provide NC State bragging rights and hence lacked the luster to participate; and lastly the single threshold of getting the recognition was daunting for those organizations who were more comfortable taking baby steps.
Commute Friendly NC was developed to address all of the above barriers and be more inclusive in nature. It is a multi-tiered State-level recognition program with zero participation fee. The Program anticipates that its three tiers and zero cost would be a big attraction especially to the smaller businesses.
The Town of Chapel Hill in fact did a pilot test in late fall of 2020 and found tremendous success with smaller businesses. It had more than thirty-five participants in a very short time. They have provided valuable feedback to the program to make the necessary revisions.