Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Dec
23

New Ways to Fuel Up at Dulles International

By Rob Yingling

airport-signA new on-airport gas station and convenience store is open at Dulles International Airport to serve the expanding needs of travelers. With 14 fueling pumps, the Sunoco station and its 8,400-square-foot APlus store has more space and amenities than the Exxon station it replaces next door. Drivers arriving from the Dulles Greenway, Route 28 or the Dulles Access Highway can easily reach the new station just off the highway next to the Economy parking lot entrance. Getting in and out will be much easier than before, thanks to 80 parking spaces onsite. The Dulles gas station has long been a popular stop for refueling taxis and rental cars. Prices will remain competitive with the surrounding market.

Customers who come inside will discover a different kind of fuel in the new food options. The Laredo Taco Company has a tasty menu that includes homemade tortillas and fresh salsa made daily. The concept originated in Texas but was only
recently introduced in Virginia. A Subway sandwich shop that was the mainstay of the older store joins Laredo Taco at the new location. More seats and tables inside and outside offer customers the option to take a pause and relax before resuming their journey.

The new Sunoco station is yet another way Dulles International is transforming a trip to the airport into a world-class experience.

Dec
23

From The DATA Community

Reston Community Center (RCC) Seeks Volunteer Drivers for RCC Rides, a transportation program that offers reliable, personalized transportation to Reston adults 55 years and older who cannot drive.

The senior adult population in Northern Virginia is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the population. At the top of the list of emerging needs for older adults is transportation. RCC Rides provides door-to-door rides to help get older adults to important engagements, ranging from RCC’s social and enrichment activities to medical appointments. There are no income-level requirements. Ride services are provided exclusively by volunteer drivers, free of charge, to anyone age 55 or older who resides in Reston Community Center’s Small District 5 boundaries.

RCC Rides will connect local volunteer drivers with older adults and be part of the community’s caring infrastructure that allows people who can’t drive to continue to safely and independently live in their own homes and neighborhoods as they age. It is our hope that this transportation program will enhance their quality of life by providing them access to support services and social programs. It simultaneously helps the friends and families of our non-driving older neighbors by reducing the stress of worrying about getting to essential services and Reston Community Center programs.

Since launching in July 2015, this innovative program has given 1,094 rides to Reston adults 55 years and older who cannot drive. Ride destinations vary but the majority of them are in or around Reston. More than 147 riders and 43 drivers are now a part of the Reston program. RCC continues to seek drivers to help meet the rider needs in Reston.

All volunteer driver applicants undergo a thorough DMV and background check paid for by NV Rides. Once volunteer drivers have been approved, they will learn how to use the easy-to-use web-based scheduling system, RideScheduler, where they will be able to freely choose the appointments that best suit their personal schedule – no minimum number of rides required. Volunteer drivers will also receive a mileage report for their annual tax filings. Interested volunteer drivers can apply immediately by going to www.restoncommunitycenter.com/nv-rides-reston/become-a-driver. For more information about RCC Rides, please contact Ali Clements, RCC Rides Coordinator, at 703-390-6198 or ali.clements@fairfaxcounty.gov, or visit www.restoncommunitycenter.com/RCCrides.

 

Dec
23

Telework Week is Coming Soon

By Lauren Frazier

It’s never too early to plan for Virginia’s 2017 Telework Week, coming again next March 6th through 10th. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and local commuter assistant agency partners are encouraging businesses across Virginia to allow qualifying employees to work from home at least one day during Telework Week.teleworker

Participating individuals and businesses can visit teleworkva.org where they can pledge to telework or allow qualifying employees to telework, and be recognized as Telework Champions.

Telework fits perfectly into a growing and competitive business world, offering significant advantages for employers and employees. Working from home even one day a week can provide multiple benefits that include improving employee morale, decreasing turnover, increasing the attractiveness of a company, increasing the pool of prospective employee candidates, decreasing harmful emissions in the environment, and reducing traffic.

Telework Week is also an excellent time for
businesses to start pilot telework programs where they can experience these benefits first-hand.  Such programs can test business resilience during the next winter Snowmageddon or summer hurricane season.  Other tactics may include integrating a new telework program into your COOP plan to ensure your company’s essential work functions can be continued seamlessly.

Telework!VA is a free online resource that employers can use to help start or expand a formal telework program.  On the Telework!VA website, managers and employees can find tips and answers to common questions that will help make telework programs successful.

Northern Virginia companies interested in implementing or expanding a telework program can also obtain free technical assistance and training through the Telework!VA program.  Expert staff will provide the support needed to develop a customized telework strategy. Begin exploring your telework program options by visiting the Teleworkva.org/nova website today.

Dec
23

Omni SmartCommute

New Services for Prince William County Based Employers

Wouldn’t be it nice if your employer offered perks to make your commute easier? Incentives such as flexible hours, telework options, and prime parking spots for those who rideshare are just a few of the ways that employers can simultaneously improve the commuting experience for workers, attract and retain talented staff, and help to reduce congestion on area roadways. It’s a win-win all around!

In Prince William County, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation vanpool-interiorCommission (PRTC) is focused on helping employers find and implement such strategies. PRTC is primarily known for operating the area’s OmniRide commuter and OmniLink local bus services; however its Employer Services program– known as Omni SmartCommute–has recently taken on a larger role.

Omni SmartCommute is a free service that helps employers in the Prince William County area to create and expand incentives that ideally will persuade employees to choose alternatives to driving alone. The end result: fewer vehicles on the road, more
predictable commutes, reduced stress, and workers who save time and money.

Omni SmartCommute is fully funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is available to help employers with:

Employee Commute Surveys– Omni SmartCommute can provide
research that holds key insights into staff and their commuting behavior. The data can be used to determine employee interest in commuter benefit programs as well as which types of benefits and programs might be most beneficial to a company and its employees. Surveys can be conducted on paper or online in both English
and Spanish.

Telework Programs–Creating a telework program allows staff to avoid the hassles of a daily commute. Telework programs are often highly valued by employees and numerous studies have shown that employees who participate in
a telework program are more productive.

Emergency Preparedness–A snowstorm or natural disaster doesn’t mean that your business needs to shut down. Be prepared for an emergency, and develop a business continuity plan to keep your business open by helping employees with their commutes during a crisis. An established Telework Program is a key component to emergency preparedness.

Transit Subsidies–Employees who take public transportation or ride in vanpools are eligible to set aside up to $255 of their salary each month for their commuting costs. Employers can also provide up to $255 per month directly to employees as a tax free benefit. The SmartBenefits program administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro) helps employers manage their employees’ transit benefits for free!

Carpool/Vanpool Formation – Let Omni SmartCommute help find colleagues interested in starting a carpool or vanpool. Omni SmartCommute can also tap into the ridesharing programs run by OmniMatch, Commuter Connections, and others to find commuters with similar origin and destination points looking to share rides to work.

Biking/Walking to Work
Become a bike-friendly workplace by providing staff with places to lock up their bikes and change for work. Biking is an affordable and a healthy way to get to work. Omni SmartCommute has tips and ideas for how to make businesses bike-friendly.

Alternative Work Schedules– Whether it’s allowing employees to work more hours over fewer days or letting them choose what time they arrive and depart each day, Alternative Work Schedules are a great way to improve a commute. Alternative Work Schedules keep people off the roads during rush hour and can help them achieve a better work/life balance.

Parking Management–Overflowing parking lots are easily
controlled when staff uses transit, carpools, or works from home. Omni SmartCommute can help develop strategies for maximizing parking at your workplace by offering employee incentives to not drive alone.

PRTC is happy to talk with you or your employer anytime! Visit PRTCtransit.org, email us at info@omnismartcommute.org, or call (703) 580-6130.

Dec
23

Vanpooling – How One Rider Got On Board!

In March 2015, eleven Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employees discovered how one determined mom found a way for her and her co-workers to get to work faster and cheaper (not to mention, with less stress) by using resources available to commuters in Northern Virginia.  The following is Jennifer Sarchet’s account of how she got a vanpool rolling.

Getting Startedvanpool-interior

I was commuting 50-miles each way from Manassas, Virginia to Silver Spring, Maryland and knew there had to be a better way.  Like many parents, I needed a more reliable home arrival time than the daily, unexpected times that were occurring when I was traveling alone in the DC-region.

I learned about vanpooling though the FDA’s Employee Transportation Coordinator, Mr. David Manchas – he was instrumental in educating me on what vanpooling had to offer.  Mr. Manchas provides information on vanpools during every monthly FDA New Employee orientation, as well as in daily FDA e-mail notices.  In many ways, Mr. Manchas is the first “face” of vanpooling for those at the FDA.  His help with the Transhare application, Go Card process, and FDA parking permits was instrumental in getting our vanpool started. His superb knowledge, organizational skills, and speedy responses to questions gave me a good feeling from the start, and enabled me to feel comfortable moving forward.   I was particularly pleased to learn that the FDA offers special vanpool permit parking directly in front of the building!

Next Steps

Next steps in our vanpool journey included working with employees at Enterprise Rideshare.  Ms. Michelle Landrum-Althoff provided detailed answers to our many questions.  I also received support through the Dulles Area Transportation Association’s (DATA) Van Do Attitude grant, which provided riders with incentives and subsidies during a six-month trial period.  This was a huge benefit for our new vanpool because it allowed us to test vanpooling with little out-of-pocket costs.  In fact, the Van Do Attitude grant sealed the deal for me, and gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with coordinating the vanpool. Without the Van Do Attitude grant, our Manassas-based vanpool would likely not be functional today!

By the time the six-month Van Do grant had finished, our van was not only benefiting my family, but 11 other families as well – travelling from Manassas, Virginia to Silver Spring, Maryland all week long.  In addition to increased time with family, vanpooling has benefited our entire group in many other ways.  We have cut costs in personal vehicle maintenance and gas, saved time using the HOV and express lanes and enjoyed a less stressful commute to work. We’ve also made a positive impact on the environment and general road congestion, since 10 more cars have been removed from the Maryland/Virginia/DC
area roads!

 

On the Road

I feel that our vanpool was a success story for four main reasons.  First, we had a vanpool champion who was dedicated to keeping on top of issues affecting our vanpool.  Second, the Enterprise Rideshare team, including Ms. Justine Karst, Ms. Cindy Bowers and Ms. Amanda St. Clair, offered continuous assistance. They provided professional, pleasant and timely help with billing, gas card and maintenance questions.  Another reason this vanpool is a success story is due to the true testament of the members of the vanpool.  The group shares all responsibilities, from driving, to maintenance to filling the gas tank – we are a true team and share a feeling of community that even fostered new friendships outside of work.

Finally, none of this would be possible if it were not for the Van Do Attitude grant offered through DATA and funded through the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.  The Van Do Attitude grant provided the extra push, in a non-obligatory way, with great incentives such as rental subsides, gas cards, toll allowances and free Wi-Fi.  The entire vanpool extends our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Manchas, Enterprise and to DATA for helping make our vanpool a complete success!

 

With sincere thanks from Vanpool 16VP-007254.

Even though the Van Do Attitude grant has ended, DATA can still supply you with help – including subsidies from county governments – if you’re interested in starting a vanpool.  Call Sarah McGowan at 703.817.1307 or e-mail smcgowan@datatrans.org for further information.