Step 2: Establish Guidelines

An employer typically faces a variety of issues when establishing a new ERH program. Should the program be called “emergency” or “guaranteed” ride home? Which employees should be eligible for the service? What circumstances should merit providing a ride? How should rides be provided? How often will a commuter be able to use the service?

Choosing a Program Name: “Emergency” versus “Guaranteed”

In this toolkit, the term “emergency ride home” is used in a broad sense. It refers to services that arrange transportation for commuters who do not have a car at work and who need an emergency ride home. Some employers choose the term “guaranteed” to stress the customer service and reliability of their programs. Others choose the term “emergency” because it conveys the out-of-the-ordinary nature of circumstances that justify the ride and that the term “guaranteed” communicates a sense of excessive entitlement to commuters. Ultimately, the choice between “emergency” and “guaranteed” depends on the image you wish to project.

Eligibility Requirements

Determining who will be eligible for an emergency ride home is among the first steps to take in developing your program. A more restrictive eligibility requirement will limit the number of commuters who can utilize the service; a less restrictive policy may result in greater effectiveness at getting participation from employees. Here are some common parameters used to restrict eligibility:

Commuters must pre-register for the service.
Commuters must participate in a rideshare program.
Commuters must buy a weekly or monthly transit pass.
Commuters must rideshare, bike, walk, or take transit to work a minimum number of days. A typical cutoff might be:
At least 2 or 3 times per week; or
At least 8 to 12 times per month.

Figure 1 below shows the distribution of maximum number of rides from a survey of 54 employers conducted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida in 2007. Click the image to enlarge.

Pie chart showing the range of emergency ride home trips allowed by employers or providers. The majority allow 4 riders per year.

Source: “Results from 2007 Employer TDM Program Benchmarking Survey” CUTR 2007

Figure 1  Maximum Number of ERH Trips Per Year

In addition to these eligibility requirements, most ERH programs exclude commuters who drove to work on the day they request a ride. Under this rule, for example, an ERH program would not provide a ride to a commuter who drove alone to work and then experienced engine trouble.

Additional Criteria for Granting or Denying Emergency Rides Home

ERH programs should have guidelines to specify when rides will be provided. Here are the usual circumstances for which ERH programs grant rides to commuters:

Personal or family emergency.
Personal or family illness.
Unscheduled overtime.
Driver of a commuter’s carpool or vanpool having to leave work unexpectedly.

Here are circumstances under which ERH programs normally deny a ride request:

Pre-arranged appointments, such as visits to the doctor or dentist.
Weather emergencies, earthquakes, or other natural disasters.
Work-related travel, such as rides to the airport or business meetings across town.
Rides to work.
Transit disruptions or delays.
Overtime that occurs regularly or is scheduled in advance.
Transportation to a hospital or doctor’s office following an on-the-job injury. Expenses associated with these types of injuries and accidents are typically covered under workers compensation insurance programs.

Providing Rides

Emergency rides can take many forms. Most programs balance cost and convenience. Programs may use one or multiple means of providing a ride, including:

taxi cab, if the destination is within 20 or 25 miles (or if the commuter is unable to drive or does not have a driver’s license)
rental car
company fleet vehicle
ride with a coworker

Figure 2 below shows the use of each mode and who is the provider (employer, third-party or not used).  The data is from a survey of 54 employers conducted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida in 2007. Click on the image to enlarge.

Emergency Ride Home by Mode and Provider

Figure 2 – Emergency Ride Home by Mode and Provider

Limiting Rides

Programs usually limit how often a commuter may receive an emergency ride home. Many programs limit commuters to a fixed number of rides per year, typically between 2 and 10. Some programs limit riders to a total dollar amount spent on rides, such as $100 per year. Others do not impose usage limits–they find that commuters rarely use the service more than once per year. Your ERH program materials should describe the program’s usage limits. Ideally, programs should also notify those employees who are nearing their usage limits.

Resources on Establishing ERH Program Guidelines

Intro video for Emergency Ride Home program (South Florida Commuter Services, Miami-Dade, FL)
Center for Urban Transportation Research Emergency Ride Home Checklist