October 21, 2019
The City of South Bend, in partnership with local employers, has launched Commuters Trust, a new transportation benefit program. The program is a result of South Bend winning a $1,000,000 three-year grant through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge.
Commuters Trust is a collaboration between the City, local employers, and transportation providers – including Transpo and Lyft – that provides local employees with more options to get to and from work. Access to reliable transportation is frequently cited as a top barrier to accessing and keeping a job in the South Bend-Elkhart region.
By the end of the three-year grant period, the City aims to establish a sustainable program operated by a partner organization and funded by employer and employee contributions.
“This grant from Bloomberg provides South Bend a unique opportunity to test and develop innovative solutions to help employees get to work,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “Cities across the U.S. are trying to figure out how to leverage innovation in mobility to solve transportation issues, and places that are similarly low density and car-dependent will be able to learn from what we do here in South Bend.”
The City launched the first phase of a multi-year implementation in early September. Beacon Health System, the University of Notre Dame and the City of South Bend’s Venues Parks & Arts department are contributing as founding employer partners. Across all three employers, the program will initially enroll around 200 employees in selected departments, before the end of the year.
Participating employees are offered a free Transpo bus pass as well as a limited number of discounted classic Lyft rides on trips taken to or from their worksite. In this phase, both employers and employees are contributing to defray the cost of transportation. The City and employers will use the first phase of the program to further study the impact of the program and inform future expansion. The City intends to expand the program to additional local employers and partners in the months ahead, as well as incorporate additional modes of transportation. By the end of the grant period, the city envisions a program serving hundreds of employees in the region.
“We are excited to build on the lessons learned during the 2018 Mayors Challenge pilots. In this phase, we are especially focused on working with local employers to better understand the value of this benefit and secure their ongoing support,” said Aaron Steiner, Commuters Trust program director. “Partnerships with forward-thinking local employers and partners will be critical to the sustainability of this program.”
The Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge is a yearlong competition that challenges city leaders to uncover and test bold, inventive solutions to confront the toughest problems faced by cities today. South Bend’s program is one of the nine winning ideas of the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge.