Beat Back-to-School Traffic with a Smarter Commute
With back-to-school traffic looming, Katy commuters are no strangers to the increased roadway congestion this time of year, whether they live five or 50 minutes from work. Beating the traffic, however, is as easy as getting out of the car and trying an alternative to getting to work.
August marks Commute Solutions Month, an annual celebration empowering commuters to find a smarter way to avoid traffic, reduce stress, and save money. Here are three ways Katy commuters can find a #SmarterCommute:
- Park & Ride
For the commuter heading Downtown, there are several Park & Rides that will drop you within walking distance of work without the stress of searching for a parking spot or adding hundreds of miles of wear and tear on your car each week. Plus, commuters can spend their ride getting extra sleep, checking emails before reaching the office, reading a book, or simply relaxing.
The three stops in the Katy area include the Grand Parkway, Kingsland, and Addicks Park & Ride lots. Commuters simply park their car, pay a small fare, and ride a METRO bus with fellow residents heading Downtown for work. Some employers will even cover a portion of the cost, so commuters should check with their HR department at work. The routes typically run roughly between 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. A full bus schedule and the addresses of the Park & Ride locations can be found on METRO’s site.
Nervous about traveling on a Park & Ride for the first time? Give it a try on Aug. 29! The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) will be at the Kingsland Park & Ride to pass out free goodies and answer any questions. Visit findasmarterwaytowork.org/events.html for more details.
- Carpool or Vanpool
Similar to Park & Rides, joining a carpool or vanpool allows riders to spend their commute relaxing instead of wasting time behind the wheel during the morning and evening rush hours.
For those who travel far for work, joining METRO Star’s vanpool program is another easy option to save time and money while improving regional traffic congestion. Vanpoolers are matched with a group between five and fifteen fellow commuters who have similar travel patterns, with one or more volunteering to drive the van.
Riders split the cost of fuel, maintenance, and tolls, which averages out to $4 to $6 per day. Since employers receive tax benefits for participating in a vanpooling program, many will offer to cover a portion of the fare. H-GAC also has Commute Solutions programming in place for employers. To join an existing vanpool, or start a new one, visit starvanpool.com.
For smaller groups or shorter commutes, setting up a carpool with neighbors and/or coworkers is another viable option to split the cost on gas and speed by single-passenger drivers by accessing the HOV lane. For carpooling tips and resources, check out http://findasmarterwaytowork.org/commuter-resources.html
- Teleworking and Flexible Scheduling
The best way to stay out of traffic is to avoid getting on the road altogether. Some employers offer teleworking as an option, which allows employees to work from the comfort of their home. Contrary to common assumptions, teleworking can increase productivity while also reduce overhead expenses for employers.
Another option is shifting work hours, so commuters aren’t traveling at peak traffic hours, or work extra hours to compress the work week. For example, instead of the typical 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. shift, employees can work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Or, instead of five eight-hour work days, employees can work four ten-hour work days–that’s one less day spent in traffic! Commuters may also be able to work nine hours each day and receive every other Friday off in what’s commonly referred to as a nine-eighty (9/80).
The best way to implement this alternative, if it’s not already offered at work, is to get in contact with the company’s HR department or email firstname.lastname@example.org. An H-GAC representative can visit the office to talk to employers and employees about implementing commute solutions in the workplace.
For more information on commuting alternatives, visit findasmarterwaytowork.org or follow @HGACmpo on Facebook and Twitter for more commuting tips.
H-GAC is a voluntary association of local governments in the 13-county Gulf Coast Planning Region—an area of 12,500 square miles and seven million people. H-GAC is designated by the State of Texas as the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization for transportation planning in Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties.