Metro’s Employer Annual Pass Program continues to grow

There’s no getting around that persuading people to take transit to work can be a challenge, especially in a place as sprawling and car-centric as Los Angeles County where free parking at work is often the norm.

But there’s some good news on this front. As the above staff report to the Metro Board explains, the agency’s Employer Annual Pass Program continues to perform well. Ninety one percent of firms that bought transit passes for their employees last year renewed for 2017. And the program has enjoyed 38 percent annual growth since it began in 2003.

About 550 firms in Los Angeles County participate in the program covering about 20,000 employees. In the 2016 fiscal year, the program brought in $6.37 million and managed to turn a profit of more than $4 million.

Some background: Metro has two employer pass programs. The ATAP program allows employers to buy annual non-discounted passes for individual employees. The BTAP program allows employers to buy annual passes for all employees at a heavily discounted group rate ranging from $11 a month to $23 a month, depending on the level of Metro service near the employer.

That’s an amazing deal, considering a Metro 30-day pass costs $100. It’s a good way for employers to provide a nice benefit to employees who don’t drive or don’t want to drive to work. The program is a win for Metro because it introduces employees to the system and boosts ridership.

In that sense, there are similarities to Metro’s U-Pass program, which is designed to make it cheap and easy for college students to get a Metro pass. How it works: colleges buy passes from Metro (the price is adjusted to reflect actual student boardings at the end of each term) and then sell them to students when they register for classes each quarter or semester. The schools can decide how much of the cost to subsidize. And students are saved the hassle of applying for a Metro pass, which can take weeks. Instead, an electronic sticker is put on their student ID allowing to be used as a TAP card. Easy peasy.

Thus far, eight colleges are using the U-Pass program (with Pierce College on deck to become the ninth) and more than 8,000 students. The sticker idea will soon be used as part of the Employer Pass program because it just makes everything easier.

My two cents: it’s great to see that the Employer Annual Pass Program growing. And the program can probably do even better as there are certainly more than 550 firms in all of Los Angeles County! I think this effort is especially important given that no transit agency can afford to overlook potential riders, and Metro is going to have a lot more potential riders as the system expands in the coming years.

To find out how you can partner with Metro and become an ATAP or BTAP client, please click here: https://metrola.wufoo.com/forms/m1cx0f9p1ixow34/ or call 213.922.7983 and a Metro annual transit pass expert will gladly assist you.

Any Source readers have a pass purchased by your employer? Your thoughts?

7 replies

  1. It’s very disappointing USC ended their transit subsidy to employees/staff last year. Considering they have the Expo Line near the main campus and Union Station shuttle to the Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights, you’d think they be more transit friendly.

  2. You should have a website where people can search to see if a particular employer participates. I know if I were looking for a new employer*, I would definitely consult this list. I love riding the train. (*Disclaimer: Should my employer read this comment – I am absolutely NOT looking for a new employer.)

  3. My employer switched from the general CommuterCheck benefits to Metro BTAP last year, and it’s been great for me and many others in the office. Having your employer provide this pass changes how people think about using transit. Several of my friends at work use Metro more because there’s no per-trip cost to them with a BTAP. My wife also has a UCLA Metro pass and said “it’s like a game” – she tries to use it as much as possible so it feels like she’s getting the most value out of it.

    The statistics about how the program has grown are nice, but Metro should also do some analysis of TAP use from BTAP cards versus non-pass TAPs – do people with passes make more trips (per day, per week, etc) than the average? Employers can be convinced not just that it’s an easy benefit to provide, but also that it’s one their employees will really value and utilize.

  4. It should be noted that while employers sign up for the passes not all employers cover the cost for their employees. Everyone in my office who has the pass has to pay out of pocket. Yes, it is heavily discounted and for those who take transit to/from work it is a huge benefit to be able to purchase these passes at a discount.

    However, one criteria of the BTAP is that every employee in the office who lives within Metro’s service area has to participate, including those within walking distance of the office. (I think the only exceptions allowed are two managerial level positions.) Before my office decided to renew for 2017 we had an office meeting to discuss this criteria because I have colleagues who have requirements, such as dropping off/picking up kids from daycare, that make it difficult to rely on transit. Since my employer refused to pay for any passes, the rest of my colleagues had to agree to cover the cost of those passes.

    Despite the heavily discounted program, if Metro requires nearly 100% office participation, then some employers may not be able or willing to qualify for the program, especially those firms that do not cover any transportation costs for employees. Lowering the required participation rate, perhaps to 80% or 85% may help increase the number of firms that participate, especially larger offices where it can be challenging for everyone to take transit.

    • Thanks for the feedback, KM. Very helpful and I’ll pass it along to the team that works on the BTAP program.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Although the program requires 100% participation, it does allow exemptions for certain categories, such as employees that need their cars for work and those who already ride Metrolink or Vanpool. The average participation rate of our companies is actually about 70% under the existing rules.