Published February 19, 2008
Volume 16, Number 2

Alameda County’s Guaranteed Ride Home Provides Free Emergency Rides for Savvy Commuters

How many more people would use public transportation or carpool if it weren’t for that nagging “what if”—how to get home quickly in case of emergency?

Alameda County congestion-management professionals had just that scenario in mind when they introduced the Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) program, designed to allay commuters’ concerns about becoming stranded at the workplace when they opt for any of the multiple alternatives to the solo commute.  

“In an emergency, GRH provides a ride from the workplace directly back to the home, including any emergency-related stops, like going to the school first, or picking up meds at the pharmacy, even going to the hospital, at no cost to the user,” explains program administrator Jeff Flynn.

The ride home can take two forms, either by cab or rental car. Promised response time for the taxi, dispatched by a company contracted to provide the service, is within 15 minutes. Rental cars are recommended for those who live more than 20 miles away. The rental car agency offers a pick-up service, along with a ride from its branch office back to work the next day.

What makes both transactions even more attractive is that there is no cash exchange, Flynn points out. “There’s no reimbursement. When you sign up for the program, you get a voucher. That’s what you give to the taxi driver or the car rental agency.” 

GRH is company-based, so it doesn’t matter if the employee lives outside of Alameda County. However, employers must first sign up for the program on the web site and designate a contact person before their workers are eligible to participate. Flynn’s office has plenty of promotional material—sample emails, newsletter text, paycheck inserts, for example, all offered at no charge--to publicize the program in the workplace.

Paid for by a federal Clean-Air grant, the program’s long-term goal is to reduce congestion and improve air quality. With the exception of Marin, all Bay Area counties offer GRH, some requiring an employee co-payment. “Alameda has the largest and most flexible program,” Flynn says, noting that the only limit is a very reasonable six rides per year per person.   

How effective is the program? Based on annual, county-wide survey results, Flynn calculates that from its inception in 1998 through 2006, there was an annual decrease in single occupancy vehicle trips of 184,010 as a result of the GRH program. According to a study conducted by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates for the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency in 2004, “47 percent of those surveyed would not use alternate modes of transportation without a GRH program. In 2003, the number was 41 percent.”

While GRH utilization among Hacienda Business Park tenants is good, there’s plenty of room for many more companies to enroll in the service. Flynn would like to see all employers sign up for this free, easy-to-use benefit. For more information, visit alamedagrh.org, or call him at (510) 433-0320. 

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