Carpools working for area company

When Capital One opened its Federal Way office three years ago, managers asked the state Department of Transportation what they would need to do to comply with the Commute Trip Reduction law.

Three years and a 15 percent commuter rate later, the DOT awarded the company a Diamond Award recognizing its leadership in providing alternative forms of transportation to employees.

Shortly after opening its Federal Way location, Capital One hired a full-time employee transportation coordinator — a job generally delegated to an existing employee in addition to his or her regular duties — to explore and implement a range of alternative transportation options for employees.

Today, Capital One’s employee carpool rate is about 15 percent — one of the highest in south King County. Capital One employs almost 600 people at its Federal Way office, meaning about 90 people use alternative forms of transportation to get to work.

Capital One started an intranet site where employees can set up car and vanpools. The company provides reserved parking spaces for them and offers a Guaranteed Ride Home program for employees who unexpectedly need to leave work early or stay late.

Capital One also has covered bicycle spaces and a locker room and showers for employees who bike or walk to work.

Flex time allows employees to adjust their schedules in case they need to meet a bus, carpool or vanpool. Telework and compressed work-week programs eliminate some commute trips altogether for some employees.

Capital One spokeswoman Debbie McGee said providing alternative forms of transportation is a way for the company to help out its associates and its community.

“We believe in being a good corporate citizen,” she said.

The Legislature passed the Commute Trip Reduction law in 1993 (it was incorporated into the Clean Air Act) to cut down on traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.

The law requires local governments in counties with the greatest auto-related air quality problems to implement plans to reduce single-occupant commute trips.

Major employers — those with 100 or more full-time workers at a single site who begin work between 6 and 9 a.m. on weekdays for a full year — also must come up with ways to cut down on commuter trips.

The state program was intended to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption. Today, more than 1,100 work sites participate in the program, according to the DOT.

In 1999, the program removed 18,500 vehicles from the roads each morning — 12,600 in the Puget Sound region.

DOT officials also saluted the city of Federal Way for its efforts in reducing the number of commute trips for its 280 full-time employees.

The city provides reserved and priority parking for car and vanpoolers, bicycle parking and showers, subsidies for transit/vanpools and financial incentives for carpools, walkers and bikers.

The city also offers a guaranteed ride home, as well as internal ridematch services, compressed work-week and flex work schedules.

Estimated Sound Transit bus use is higher than average in Federal Way, according to Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Stuckart.

On average, 220 people board buses on the two routes — the 565 to Bellevue and the 574 to SeaTac — in Federal Way every day, Stuckart said.

About 266 people parked in the Sounder train lot in Auburn, which is the closest lot to Federal Way, early this week, he said. An average of 2,373 people rode the train every day between March 11 and March 15.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and

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