Central Florida agency uses Best Workplaces for Commuters to spotlight employers’ commuter program innovations. Courtney Reynolds was beaming. In fact, her whole team at reThink was exchanging high fives on December 17, 2015, after learning they had received the “Best of Supporting Agencies” award and a gold medal in the Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) Race to Excellence virtual awards ceremony.
The annual Race to Excellence awards recognize organizations that have taken exemplary steps to offer transportation options for their employees — and the “Best of” category is reserved for a supporting agency, a university and an employer that has gone above and beyond the already-advanced level of distinction common to BWC participants.
Reynolds was especially proud because she had invested years in helping build BWC into a respected and sought-after designation among Central Florida employers. As a project manager with TranSystems, Reynolds had served as the program manager of reThink since its inception in 2010. ReThink, a service of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), is Central Florida’s number one resource for commute options. The service has worked with hundreds of employers and thousands of commuters to help them literally rethink their approach to mobility in the region.
Leading the Leaders
Serving as a BWC supporting agency is challenging, because the organization has to lead by example, walking the walk while talking the talk. And the reThink team lives into that example week after week as it works with area employers. ReThink, like other supporting agencies, nudges, nurtures and educates employers toward making changes in their policies, practices and organizational culture so employees will adopt new commute behaviors.
Reynolds learned about leading people in the right direction way back in the fifth grade as a member of the safety patrol at Port Orange Elementary. She learned how to engage audiences in imaginative ways as a theatre arts major at Rollins College. And she applied all those skills in her transportation career — with a little extra knowledge thrown in via certificates from the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research in Commuter Choice, Social Marketing for Transportation, and the Transit Manager Certificate program.
The native Floridian is also a Cycling Savvy Instructor, certified by the American Bicycling Education Association. She has taught traffic cycling safety to more than 350 people over the last two years.
Finding a New Tool
reThink has always worked hard to find new ways to incentivize employers. But Reynolds credits BWC Program Manager Julie Bond for bringing the agency in as a BWC supporter.
“I had met Julie way back in 2008, when I was with LYNX. So I had a comfort level with what BWC was all about. When we formed reThink, I knew I wanted BWC to play a big role in our outreach. BWC has such a great history, shining a spotlight nationally on the dedication of participating employers. And Julie has made more resources available to get employers excited — not only with updated marketing materials, but especially through the webinars that enable employers to learn best practices and continue the conversation about improving their programs.”
After becoming a supporting agency, the reThink team was elated to see employers’ positive response to BWC. “Companies quickly grasped that getting BWC recognition would raise their profile as an ‘employer of choice’ in Central Florida,” says Reynolds.
Building on Success
“The City of Orlando was the first employer we helped achieve BWC designation,” says Reynolds. “They got their designation back in 2012, when they provided discounted transit passes, showers, bike parking and more. But the City realized there were additional opportunities to build on their program, so they have added other benefits.”
Since receiving its BWC designation, the City started offering employees SunRail passes — then followed that by adding a $50/month vanpool benefit.
“And they’re still growing their commuter program by responding to employee feedback about what is needed,” Reynolds says. “It’s great to see an employer who responded so constructively to employee mobility challenges.”
Florida Hospital Orlando is another employer that has worked closely with reThink to achieve its BWC designation. One of reThink’s top employer commuter programs, Florida Hospital Orlando has provided discounted LYNX bus passes for years, making it easier for its staff to take the bus to work. Recently, the hospital added a 25 percent subsidy for SunRail passes and set up a pre-tax commuter benefit program.
“They’ve actually designed the campus to be a walkable, pedestrian friendly, transit-oriented development, which benefits visitors as well as employees,” says Reynolds. “It goes a long way toward making train and bus use a realistic option.”
The hospital also sponsors a Juice bike share station on campus, which adds a mobility choice that’s especially helpful on such a large campus. For those who absolutely must drive, a shuttle connects the campus to an offsite parking location.
reThink continues to explore new strategies for boosting employer participation in BWC. The next step: creating a commute ambassador network to help the approximately 25 BWC employers within reThink’s service area become more connected locally for peer-to-peer support.
“It’s something we’re really excited about,” says Reynolds. “I would encourage any local TDM program around the U.S. that wants to give its employer outreach a boost to reach out to BWC!”