Providing discounted, unlimited ride transit passes through area employers was a novel idea when the Metropass program began in 1998.
But twenty years after its inception, the program is attracting an increasing number of companies eager to encourage transit among their workforce.
Employees who work for participating employers can pay for a Metropass pre-tax through a payroll deduction. On average, companies kick in about a third of the $83 monthly cost.
When Metropass got its start, Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial and TKDA, a St. Paul engineering firm, were among the first to join. Nearly twenty years later, both companies continue to offer Metropass to their employees.
But they have a lot more company now. Around 37,000 employees from more than 360 employers now participate in the program. In 2017, Metropass holders took more than 12.8 million rides.
In October 1998, the first month the program was offered, Metropass customers took just over 90,000 rides.
Among those who ride with a Metropass is Janice Knight, an academic advisor at Capella University. Knight began using transit more than a decade ago to avoid costly parking in downtown Minneapolis. But there have been other perks to taking the bus.
“If I didn’t ride transit, I wouldn’t have met neighbors who also ride the bus,” Knight said. “In fact, several of us get together to celebrate birthdays, happy hour and holidays.”
Metro Transit works with Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) like Move Minneapolis to identify employers who want to offer Metropass.
Of the 30 companies added last year, 21 were in downtown Minneapolis, including Select Comfort Corporation, Kraus Anderson and law firm, Jones Day.
Move Minneapolis also worked with Thrivent Financial, a Metropass member since 2005, to significantly increase the company’s participation last year. Thrivent is building a new headquarters downtown, losing some parking spaces in the process.
In St. Paul, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Minnesota Science Museum and St. Paul Hotel are among the recent employers to join the Metropass program.
The program appeals to some suburban employers, too. More than 300 employees working at Amazon’s Shakoppe distribution center are using a Metropass.
"Metropass is great for any metro-area employer," Revenue Operations Supervisor Lisa Anderson said. “There are so many benefits, like reducing the carbon footprint and handling the growth we're expecting to see."
John Penland, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Saint Paul, is another longtime rider who appreciates riding with a Metropass. Penland regularly takes the bus between Mitchell-Hamline and downtown St. Paul.
“After a while, you meet the same people and it becomes a community where you can catch up with colleagues or friends during your trip,” he said.
> Learn more about the Metropass program