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The EcoPass Edition

January 7, 2014

For two years Red River College has offered the EcoPass — a 60% subsidized monthly transit pass — to employees who work at one of our downtown buildings. Negotiated as part of the Collective Agreement, the purpose of the program is to provide a benefit to our downtown employees in light of higher parking rates and more frequent and accessible bus service in Winnipeg’s downtown.

We’ve crunched the numbers on the Ins and Outs of this program and discovered some interesting tidbits to share with you, our sustainably-minded readers. 🙂

Tidbit #1: Bus ridership rates vary considerably across our downtown campuses.

November 2013 EcoPass Ridership rates“What accounts for the 45 point spread in downtown ridership?” you might ask. We chalk this discrepancy up to the EcoPass. The Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (PGI) is the only RRC building to come on stream since the College started offering EcoPass program. When PGI staff weighed their commuting options, the draw of a $33 monthly bus pass compared to shelling out $120+ monthly for parking was enough of a financial difference stop and consider the bus as a viable commuting option.

Tidbit #2: Bus Commute Times and Car Commute Times aren’t that different

In advance of staff moving to the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute last year, I calculated how long it would take those staff to commute to work by bus and by car. I figured out the bus commute time (which includes the time it takes to walk to a bus stop and/ or wait for transfers) using Navigo, Winnipeg Transit’s Trip Planner. For the car commute time, I used Google maps and included the time it would take to walk from a nearby parking lot to the building.

Much to my surprise (and delight) I could not believe my eyes to discover that it takes an average of 4 minutes longer for Winnipeg-based staff to commute from their homes to PGI. For those staff who live outside city limits, it took an average of 14 minutes longer to get to work by driving to one of the city’s 12 Park and Ride locations and busing to work. (To see the complete transportation analysis, go here.)

I encourage you to try this little experiment for yourself to see how your commute times stack up. You might be surprised.

Tidbit #3: The EcoPass sets Red River College apart

Red River College has been recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2011, 2012 and 2013. We receive this award for breadth and impact of our sustainability initiatives on campus. On the transportation front, we have a bunch of programs in place to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. These include: biodiesel production for our fleet, free online carpool matching, preferred parking for carpoolers, free indoor bike parking and the EcoPass program.

There are 109 employers in Winnipeg who offer the EcoPass program. The amount of the EcoPass subsidy can vary from 5% to 100%, though a 30% subsidy is a common rate. Red River College is the only post-secondary institution in Winnipeg to offer the EcoPass and we’re proud to be one of only two large Winnipeg employers (with the United Way of Winnipeg being the other) to offer the program at a 60% subsidy level.

Anyways, those are our tidbits. Happy commuting. 🙂