Monday, March 24, 2014


Metro makes a big deal about its "employer subsidized transit passes."  This, according to their website, "reduces traffic congestion."

They don't readily offer any proof of this (how many companies participate, how many people that have the passes use them, etc.).  They also do not mention what restrictions or conditions they put on the use (or disuse) of these special passes. 

Washington University is one participant.  "Benefits Eligible" employees receive, for free, a permanent (hard plastic) one year transit pass.  They have to show their employee ID with it when they use it.

If they use it.  "Benefits Eligible" jobs are the ones that lead to free tuition for the employee and their family.

In my (granted, brief) survey of Washington University employees boarding the #2 at the school, if you have the kind of job that pays a wage where you can't afford a car and aren't going to get free tuition, you are not "Benefits Eligible."

I have only seen a few of these passes in use, and always on the train, and usually only at Skinker Metrolink and the Central West End Metrolink.

So, Metro, could you please provide some more (verifiable) statistics on this great program? Or is this just more free money for you and "Feel-Good" unsubstantiated boasting?

EDIT: The following comment was added by a reader on Google:

I would like to add a few comments. I am not sure what your point is and I think you are only looking at this one sided. WUSTL is encouraging Metro use and its environmental impact.I know many employees who use the park & ride lots and take Metro to campus. Do you know that employees have to pay to park at WUSTL? And its not cheap to park on campus.

My response: It is nice that Washington University is encouraging people to use public transit, especially people that would not normally ride it.  You can park for free at a Metrolink station and ride the Blue Line train to campus.  HOWEVER, they do not offer these passes to the worker's on campus that need it the most, and many of whom rely on public transportation completely.  And while the Metrolink will cut commuter time, the bus usually won't.  "The bus is not convenient," a Metro executive told me today. 

Metro puts no conditions on the passes.  They also do not disclose how much the University is paying for those passes.  It's nice money for Metro, and even nicer if the people DON'T use the passes.  They get the money, but don't have to take on any additional passengers, leaving more room for people paying full fare.

Wouldn't it be nice if Metro offered these types of discounted passes to other groups-- say, churches and community groups in low-income areas, where more people rely on Metro? 

What about discounted passes for unemployed people or families on SNAP?

Wouldn't it be nice if Washington University and other schools offered discounted Metro passes to the employees that ALREADY ride the bus and train, and likely don't make a wage where they can afford to buy a car?  (And it seems like it might even feel a little insulting, to work somewhere that gives people that have cars free bus  passes so they don't have to pay for on-campus parking, but does nothing to alleviate the travel time and cost of the employees that make less, aren't benefits eligible, and ride public transit because they have to.)

Metro boasts of "the benefits" of this program, but without any substantiated evidence that this program is making a difference to the community.  Without knowing how much is paid for those passes, and how often they are used, the boast is groundless.

I hope that clarifies it.

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