Metrolink and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles reducing traffic congestion one commute at a time
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) isn’t just committed to the health of the young patients who visit the hospital more than 500,000 times a year, CHLA is also focused on the well-being of its 5,735 employees.
CHLA is a progressive employer making strides to encourage their employees to take public transportation. The hospital knows public transportation is good for the health of their employees, it reduces their carbon footprint and benefits the hospital’s bottom line.
“CHLA employees come from all over Southern California, from Lancaster, San Bernardino and Oceanside,” says Javier Maycotte, Manager of Commuter Services. “These long commuting distances prompted CHLA to promote viable commuting alternatives for employees.”
As the Manager of Commuter Services at CHLA, Maycotte isn’t just paying lip service about the benefits of using public transportation. He is also a three-year Metrolink commuter traveling from Lancaster to Glendale, a four and a half hour round trip commute. The one-way distance from his home to the hospital is 70 miles, a commute he does not miss driving.
Maycotte on Metrolink Antelope Valley Line Train 204 departing Lancaster at 5:19 a.m.
“I like that I can save money, save wear and tear on my vehicle, get less oil changes and reduce the number of service visits to the dealership,” says Maycotte. “I feel empowered that I am helping the environment and at the same time I can relax, read and catch up on work or sleep.”
In 2006 CHLA joined the Corporate Partner Program (CPP) a pre-tax benefit program that allows companies and organizations the ability to offer transit benefits to their employees.
Maycotte notes that CPP benefits the employees’ health and wallets. Participants in the commuter program say they feel more relaxed, more rested and are not frustrated by sitting in traffic. Employees in the program also receive up to a $260 tax free credit per month, reducing their taxable income.
CHLA goes to great lengths to promote employee use of Metrolink and other forms of public transit. Prior to 2017, CHLA subsidized 50 percent of their employees’ monthly public transit passes to encourage employees to use alternative transportation. On January 1, 2017 the hospital increased the subsidy to 75 percent.
“The increased subsidy has caused a surge in enrollment to the commuter program,” notes Maycotte. Currently, 1,056 CHLA employees including doctors, nurses, executives and non-care givers participate in the commuter program. Overall, public transit is growing in popularity, adding an average of 10 participants per month.
In addition to the 75 percent monthly subsidy, CHLA rewards employees in the commuter program during their Rideshare Appreciation Week by providing a free lunch. During Rideshare Appreciation Week, CHLA promotes the CPP program and its benefits to non-participants.
CHLA commuter employees on Rideshare Appreciation Day.
As part of the big push to increase commuter participation, CHLA has incorporated the program as part of their new hire orientation.
“For CHLA, participating in the commuter program is a win-win for employee and employer,” said Maycotte. As the employer, CPP allows CHLA to save on payroll taxes when commuter tax benefits are utilized, increase recruitment opportunities and reduce parking expenses.
If anyone is familiar with Los Angeles, they know that parking is a hot commodity that comes at a premium and is a headache to deal with. Even for a large employer like CHLA, parking costs can be problematic.
“The hospital leases 10 off-site parking lots to accommodate employee parking,” says Chuck Pickering, Director of Support Services at CHLA.
CHLA also pays for shuttles, drivers, security guards and other expenses associated with parking. To help combat the parking expenses, CHLA chooses to promote Metrolink and other forms of public transportation.
Pickering joined CHLA nine months ago as the Director of Support Services, where he has the extensive tasks of overseeing CHLA’s day-to-day safety, security, guest services, parking and transportation programs as well as the hospital’s Telephone Operators.
When considering his employment opportunity with CHLA, Pickering noted that the commute was a factor. Prior to making his decision, Pickering recalled a friend who works at CHLA advising him, “Chuck you will love the job. You will hate the commute.”
“However, as I researched my options with Metrolink and other transit agencies, I knew that this would alleviate some of the pain and agony of the commute.”
Pickering, a Brea resident notes, “I am fortunate that the Fullerton station is close to my house, about a 15-minute drive. Fullerton is a great station because the Orange County and 91/Perris Valley Lines meet there so I have a choice of either train line and Amtrak, as well.”
Whether he drives or takes Metrolink his commute ranges from one hour and 15 minutes to one hour and 30 minutes. “So, why not just drive?” Pickering asks. “Because I get to sleep, work or catch-up on some reading while taking the train. If I was driving I obviously couldn’t do any of that. It’s a big plus for me that I can check and respond to personal and work emails. In the morning I can keep in touch with my family in Boston. It’s a good time to connect with them because of the time difference.”
Pickering on Metrolink Orange County Train 606 departing L.A. Union Station at 5:46 p.m.
With a big smile, Pickering adds that he gets in about 11,000 steps per day, a feat he wouldn’t get if he was driving.
Pickering sees staying fit as another benefit for taking public transit, one that the hospital he works for values for its employees. At the same time, he feels good about avoiding the stress of driving while helping to reduce traffic and smog.
“Particularly working with kids at a medical center, our staff understands these hazards have a huge impact on the lives of our employees as well as our patients,” Pickering says, adding that taking Metrolink and other public transit contributes not only to better health but a better work/life balance, too.