The MITRE Corp. Sees Green in Employee Commute
Major Northern Virginia employer participates in Best Workplaces for CommutersSM to enhance its already vibrant program.
When a MITRE Corp. employee confided that she had accepted an employment offer at the company’s McLean, Virginia, headquarters because the campus was easy to reach via Metrorail, Nicholas Amatuzzi knew his employee commute program was having an impact.
Metrorail, locally known simply as Metro, is the subway system serving the Washington, D.C. region. A new Metro station opened a convenient ten-minute walk from MITRE’s campus in July 2014, and the company subsequently began offering employees a $30 per month transit/vanpool subsidy — on top of a one-time transit incentive funded by Fairfax County. The Fairfax County program, called SmartBenefits® “Plus50,” provides a $50 Metro SmarTrip fare card via area employers to commuters interested in trying a transit commute.
Amatuzzi, a Senior Finance & Planning Analyst and also Commuter Solutions Program Manager at MITRE, said he is gratified by how far the whole program has come since its inception more than 16 years ago — including being named Best Workplaces for CommutersSM 2015 “Best of’ Employer” in the annual Race to Excellence competition.
“We’ve experienced a reduction in solo drivers,” Amatuzzi said. “For many years we’ve offered employees the opportunity to purchase and fund their SmarTrip cards with pre-tax income. And since the SmartBenefits® ‘Plus50’ incentive launched two years ago, over 385 MITRE commuters have used it — and more than half have chosen to continue taking transit.”
Mobility Options & Support
With approximately 3,600 employees in the D.C. region, MITRE offers a variety of mobility-related services and solutions in addition to promoting transit use, including:
- Wi-Fi-equipped shuttle connecting MITRE’s buildings and the Metro station
- Preferential parking for carpools/vanpools
- Flexwork and telework arrangements (subject to manager approval)
- Bicycle-friendly on-site facilities, with racks, showers, air pump, patch kits, and other repair/maintenance tools
- New-hire transportation packets and employee intranet page featuring commuter benefit information
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Regional Guaranteed Ride Home program information
- NuRide rewards program membership information (an even more extensive ride-matching process and commuter competition is in the works for summer 2016 roll-out)
- Discounted Zipcar membership
- Robust on-site amenities aimed at minimizing off-campus trips, including* coffee shop, cafeteria, catering, two self-serve pantries, credit union, fitness center, nurse/medical office, dry cleaning drop-off/pick-up, car detailing, tire replacement van, haircut, massage, chiropractor, and physical therapy services (*source: 2015 Commuter Connections Employer Commute Benefit Program Case Study)
“We want to offer a maximum amount of choice for employees so they can make the best decisions for themselves and find commute options that meet their needs,” said Amatuzzi.
The company maintains its commuting program for three key reasons: sustainability, talent attraction, and development requirements.
- Sustainability: Reducing solo-driver commuting fits with MITRE’s initiative to advance green practices and ease area traffic congestion. (In fact, the company supports non-solo driving at its locations nationwide, not just at its headquarters campuses, said Amatuzzi.)
- Talent Attraction: MITRE strives to offer an attractive benefits package to aid in recruiting and retaining employees. Its commute benefits are part of a larger and competitively generous benefits package, Amatuzzi explained.
- Meet targets and honor other transportation demand management requirements related to the construction of MITRE’s newest office space.
Participating in Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) has been a rich source of education and networking to keep the employee commute program fresh and effective, Amatuzzi explained.
“We initially joined when Fairfax County made a push about five years ago for employers to get involved with BWC,” he said. “We now participate fully in BWC initiatives, benchmarking, and webinars featuring other employers and commuter specialists from around the country. BWC is a great way to share ideas and learn ways to enhance your own program by talking with other employers.”
Amatuzzi credited BWC’s Race to Excellence as a great way to earn extra recognition for MITRE. “It enabled us to demonstrate to other employers the kind of results we’ve been able to achieve and encourage them to enhance their own programs. BWC connects us with an engaged group of people who share a common goal of trying to persuade more employees to use commute alternatives.”
Amatuzzi said MITRE was proud to be part of Fairfax County’s ceremony last year in which County leaders celebrated reaching their goal of having 50 companies involved in BWC. “We were glad to be one of the first 50, and we’re looking forward to seeing the BWC network grow far beyond that number to make Fairfax County an even better place to work,” he added.
While Amatuzzi’s core duties focus on finance and budgeting, he has always been passionate about sustainability and how transportation fits into a portfolio of green strategies. When an opportunity arose to become more involved in the company’s sustainability efforts, he recognized the commuting program as a key element in MITRE’s dedication to going green.
“I saw a lot of potential for our commute initiative and felt it could be enhanced. So, with my supervisor’s help, I carved out time to manage the program on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I wanted it to be something that brought a lot of value to MITRE employees, and it’s been great to have a lot of latitude to make improvements. In just over a year, we’ve seen the percentage of drive-alone commuters drop from 84 percent to 77 percent. I’m excited to see how much farther we can push that number down.”
(c) 2017 Best Workplaces for Commuters