Emergency ride home program

Emergency ride home programs provide a free or subsidized ride to commuters who do not drive alone to work.

Key characteristics

Setting/Location

All, Corridor, Urban, Suburban, Rural, Neighborhood

Cost

Technology

Collaboration

WSDOT regions

Statewide

Other names

  • Guaranteed ride home

Strategy description

Emergency ride home programs provide a back-up commute option for employees who use non-drive alone modes. These programs provide employees with a free or partially subsidized ride home in case of emergency, such as inclement weather, unscheduled overtime, and a sudden illness of the employee or their family members.

Emergency ride home programs reimburse employees who walk, bike, take transit, or carpool/vanpool to work for the cost of their emergency ride home. Reimbursements from these programs typically cover taxis, transportation network companies (e.g. Lyft, Uber, Via), transit costs, and rental cars.

An employer’s human resources or transportation office usually administers the program.

While some programs may only cover true emergencies, such as a sudden illness, less restrictive programs can have a greater effect on reducing drive alone rates.

Program costs are typically low because, by design, employees use them sparingly. Depending on the program, employers may cap reimbursements for each employee at a mile or dollar amount (e.g., $30 per month). Often, employers include emergency ride home programs as part of a suite of subsidized employee transportation incentives and commute trip reduction programs.

When to use this strategy

Emergency ride home programs make sense for communities that experience congestion due to commuters.

Employers located in denser urban areas with good transit service, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, limited parking, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities may especially benefit from these programs.

What you need in order to implement

The following are considerations for agencies implementing emergency ride home policies for employers in their jurisdiction.

Policy needs:

  • Include emergency ride home provisions in employer policies that incentivize employees to shift their route, travel mode time of travel, or eliminate trips altogether.

Planning needs:

  • Include employee incentives that reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips as a strategy in long-range transportation planning for vehicles, transit, bicycles and pedestrians.  
  • Include emergency ride home policy recommendations for employers and businesses in commute trip reduction and transportation demand management plans.

Coordination needs:

  • Coordinate with individual employers, regional or metropolitan planning organizations, chambers of commerce, and trade organizations to encourage incentives.

Equipment needs:

  • Provide on-site facilities that help encourage employees to walk or bike to work (e.g., showers, bicycle racks).
  • Allow employees to use company vehicles for emergency rides home.
  • Reserve parking spaces for shared car services in public parking lots. 

Agency resources needs:

  • Make staff available to work with employers, develop programs, as well as write, revise, and interpret related policies.

Learn more about this strategy

Best Workplaces for Commuters, Emergency Ride Home Toolkit. 2019.

Federal Highway Administration, Expanding Traveler Choices through the Use of Incentives: A Compendium of Examples. 2019

U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Commuter Choice Primer: An Employer’s Guide to Implementing Effective Commuter Choice Programs. 2003

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Guaranteed Ride Home Programs: Implementing Commuter Benefits Under the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative. 2001.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation Control Measures: Guaranteed Ride Home. 1998.

Victoria Transportation Policy Institute, Guaranteed Ride Home: A Backup for Commuters Who Use Alternative Modes. 2014

About key characteristics

Location notes:

Emergency ride home programs are most common in urbanized areas that provide multiple commute options beyond driving alone. However, employers may use the strategy universally, regardless of an employee’s home or work location.

Cost notes:

Emergency ride home programs are typically a low-cost, high-benefit method to encourage the use of non-drive-alone commute options. Costs are minimal, involving a mix of transportation costs (direct) and staff/administration time (indirect). Some emergency ride home programs have a mileage or cost cap over a designated period.

Technology notes:

Participants in emergency ride home programs may call for a ride using a phone or app. Administrators may use transportation management or commuter software to manage the program and fulfill reimbursement requests.

Collaboration notes:

Some areas of the state lack local transportation demand management service providers or providers with experience managing an emergency ride home program. Industry peers are available to assist.

Conditions this strategy addresses