Catching a worry-free bus, train or bike ride to work just got a little bit easier, thanks to changes in the Guaranteed Ride Home program.
The Alameda County program that offers free rides home to encourage people to use alternate modes of transportation now has easy reimbursement for emergency trips.
"Guaranteed Ride Home lets people feel they have the flexibility of a car in emergency situations, even when they're using alternate transportation modes," said Matthew Bomberg, assistant transportation planner with the Alameda County Transportation Commission.
"Employees who enroll in the program are eligible to receive a free ride home if they take an alternate commute mode to work and they need to get home early because of an emergency," he explained. "Another common situation is if someone takes a carpool to work, but they have to stay late and can't take the carpool home."
Guaranteed Ride Home was started in 2000 by the Alameda County Transportation Commission to remove barriers that commonly keep people off public transit or discouraged from bicycling or walking to work.
"A common reason people feel like they need to drive alone to work is they want the flexibility of having a vehicle with them at work in case something comes up," Bomberg said. "This is basically an insurance policy for people to feel comfortable being at work without a car. If something comes up, they have options."
The more than 5,000 people enrolled in the program, including many from Hacienda, may take a taxi or get a rental car if they get in a pinch and need a ride home. Recent changes to the program make it easier to get those emergency rides.
"Historically, the way the program has worked is that when people enroll, they were given vouchers that they could give to a taxi or a rental car company," Bomberg explained.
The problem with the paper vouchers is that people often misplaced them or did not have them handy when they really needed them, he said.
"We're switching from vouchers to a reimbursement program," he said. "People will be able to submit up to six reimbursement requests or up to a total of $600 in reimbursements each year."
"Most people use it once in a year," Bomberg said. "Sometimes, people will use it two or three times. We rarely have people use it six times in a year."
The only catch with the new change is that everyone, including people already registered with Guaranteed Ride Home, must sign up for the new reimbursement program. Registration is free and easy to do online.
Requests for reimbursement may be made online, Bomberg said. Employees may have reimbursements mailed to their home or deposited directly into their PayPal account.
Another change is that employers no longer have to register their company for employees to be eligible for the free ride program.
"That's just one more barrier to the program that we're removing," Bomberg said. "We're still interested in having contact information for representatives within the companies so that we can work with them to help get the word out if there are any changes in the program."
Everyone is encouraged to re-register or sign up for the program to get more cars off the roads, Bomberg said.
Visit grh.alamedactc.org/register/ to re-register or sign up for Guaranteed Ride Home.
Also in this issue...