An interactive public art display that we used during a community event to engage with residents and share information about TaaB.
“Transportation as a Benefit” (TaaB) Program
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)
Reliable transportation is the primary barrier to stable employment for shift workers. Our solution leverages existing technology to provide “transportation as a benefit” through an integrated network of on-demand transportation options. We will quantify savings for employers due to reduced turnover and increased employee productivity, incentivizing them to fund the program long-term.
Reliable transportation is the primary barrier to stable employment for shift workers, contributing to annual turnover upwards of 55%. Turnover costs approximately $3,000 per employee and has cascading socio-economic impacts.
Our solution delivers transportation as a benefit by connecting shift workers with the most appropriate and reliable transportation service through an integrated network of on-demand providers. As a result, employers benefit from reduced turnover and increased employee productivity and by quantifying these savings, we will incentivize them to fund the program long-term.
South Bend was named a Champion City in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge in February 2018. We spent the past six months running a series of transportation pilots to refine our innovative solution. The results from this pilot phase were compelling:
All participating employees reported that the program made it easier for them to get to work reliably and that they would be interested in participating again, even if they were responsible for paying a portion of the ride costs. The majority of participants were able to work more hours and their employers experienced a significant reduction in absenteeism and late arrivals, leading to benefits including increased scheduling flexibility and decreased overtime costs.
Our four employer partners from the pilot phase, including South Bend’s two largest employers, have committed to providing financial and operational support moving forward. As we transition from reliance on grant funding towards employer contributions, we will refine the cost structure of the program and continue to explore cost-sharing between employers and employees to deliver the benefit as efficiently as possible.
The TaaB program will increase take-home pay by preventing attendance-related job loss and allowing employees to work previously inaccessible shifts. Employers will benefit from reduced turnover and increased employee productivity, leading to cost savings and greater workforce capacity. New businesses will be drawn to South Bend and contribute to a stronger local economy.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Previous solutions have focused on increasing access to existing transportation providers to alleviate transportation problems. These efforts have been inefficient and unsustainable due to reliance on public subsidies and high operational costs.
Our solution does not require costly capital assets, instead leveraging on-demand, data-driven transportation providers (i.e. Uber, Waze Carpool) to lower cost of delivery and increase ridership. By pooling the demand of participating employers, the TaaB program achieves economies of scale to distribute overhead costs and risk of underutilization.
We will integrate data from transportation and HR platforms to demonstrate the financial impact of the program for employers. Cost-benefit analysis of turnover and productivity will allow us to quantify savings. Based on data-driven results and strong support from community partners, employers will be incentivized to become the program’s primary funders, ensuring long-term sustainability.
What is the current status of your innovation?
In February 2018, South Bend was chosen out of 300+ cities as one of 35 Champion Cities in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge and received $100,000 to pilot our innovation.
Over the past six months, we partnered with four employers and one vocational training school to test ridesharing solutions, including South Bend’s two largest employers. We offered transportation assistance via ridesharing to over 500 shift workers in food service, housekeeping, maintenance, and home medical care.
To conclude the pilot phase, we facilitated a co-creation workshop with managers, directors, and HR staff from our employer partners, inviting them to share their experiences, concerns, and ideas for the program. All four employers have committed to providing financial and operational support moving forward.
We have diffused lessons from the pilot phase and submitted a final application to Bloomberg Philanthropies in August based upon data analysis, employee survey results, and employer feedback.
Collaborations & Partnerships
We partnered with Uber and four local employers, including South Bend’s two largest employers, to pilot the TaaB program. Moving forward we will partner with additional transportation providers and employers to scale up the program. To avoid publicizing sensitive data, we will continue to work with a mission-aligned nonprofit partner to collect and anonymize ride and HR data. We will work with a local tech company to build a customer service platform and an integrated data management system.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The TaaB program provides benefits for employees and employers by preventing attendance-related job loss and allowing employees to work previously inaccessible shifts. As a result, employees experience less stress, increased take-home pay and opportunities for upward mobility. Employers benefit from reduced turnover and increased employee productivity, leading to cost savings and greater workforce productivity.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Pilot program participants unanimously reported that the program made it easier to get to work and reduced the stress of their commute, and 83% were able to work more hours. All said they would be interested in participating again, and 92% said they would participate even if they were responsible for cost sharing at $2 per ride.
Employees with access to ridesharing were 8 percentage points less likely to be absent, 1.2 percentage points less likely to be late, and worked an average of one additional hour per shift. Increased scheduling flexibility led to dozens of additional shifts worked, greater take-home pay, decreased overtime costs, and increased client satisfaction.
Our four employer partners, including South Bend’s two largest employers, have committed to providing financial and operational support moving forward.
Challenges and Failures
We thought Uber could be a comprehensive transportation solution. However, some employees faced barriers including a lack of smartphones, low tech-literacy, and discomfort riding with strangers. This informed our shift to incorporate additional transportation providers into an integrated, transportation solution.
We thought pilots would not require much time from frontline managers, but our most successful tests involved substantial time commitments and assistance in recruiting participants. In the future, we will clearly communicate expectations and provide additional administrative support to participating employers.
There may be pushback from employers who do not initially see the value in TaaB. However, program data collected over time will allow us to make an even stronger case for financial benefit to employees and employers.
Conditions for Success
Leadership and human/financial resources will be crucial for the success of the TaaB program. South Bend has already allocated financial support and a full-time project manager. This support will continue to grow as a team of full-time employees is hired to manage the program long-term.
We have formal commitments of financial and operational support from pilot phase employer partners who co-created this program with us from the beginning. Our solution will ultimately generate its own revenue to sustain operations.
TaaB’s success will depend upon two additional factors: 1) ability and willingness of employers to share data and 2) ability to leverage multiple on-demand transportation services. We will ensure that these needs are met by establishing strong relationships with employers and a local service-oriented tech company that will build an integrated transportation platform. We will provide additional administrative support and sign formal data-sharing agreements with employers.
Our innovation has not been replicated elsewhere, although the problem of transportation as a barrier to stable employment is shared by countless cities around the world.
Baltimore, San Francisco, and Detroit have identified transportation as a barrier for their low-income shift work populations, and they reached out to learn from our pilot phase results.
The Smart Cities Network invited us to share our initial findings, and we learned about Austin and San Antonio’s early-stage collaborations with private-sector transportation providers to address similar transportation issues.
Amazon identified transportation as a barrier for its warehouse workers in Pittsburgh, and we spoke with a Waze Carpool employee who wanted to learn more about the TaaB program and how they could improve their pilots with Amazon.
We were also invited to be the keynote speaker at the Mobiliti Conference in Pittsburgh in October where we will be sharing our preliminary results and lessons learned.
1) Start small. Consider which transportation barrier you as a municipality are best-positioned to solve. After you identify this barrier, co-create and test with the target population to refine your solution. Only once you have a solution that works well for this group should you move on to other transportation barriers.
2) Be humble. It is important to have a strong initial idea, but equally important to adapt based on feedback from those who are closest to the problem. Residents experiencing transportation barriers are the experts in understanding their own unique challenges.
3) Don’t go it alone. Transportation solutions are complex and require partners from different fields. Be proactive in seeking out employers, residents, transit agencies, nonprofits, and anyone else you think might provide unique insight. Once you find your niche, consider which partners can fill gaps to ensure residents have access to a comprehensive suite of transportation services.
We submitted our Bloomberg Mayors Challenge final application in August with the hope of receiving $1 or $5 million to make the “Transportation-as-a-Benefit” program a reality long-term. Finalists will be announced in October.