Employer-subsidized commuter tickets encourage the use public transport

An employer-subsidized commuter ticket is an attractive benefit to employees. According to a survey commissioned by HSL, an increasing number of employees of companies offering the scheme are using public transport instead of a car.

Almost 400 employees from over ten companies offering employer-subsidized commuter tickets to their personnel respondent to the survey conducted by IRO Research in September. Over 80 per cent of the respondents had made use of the scheme. Over 50 per cent of the respondents were content with the employer-subsidized commuter ticket. Only one tenth of the respondents were not happy with the ticket.

In recent years, HSL has been actively promoting the employer-subsidized commuter ticket, for example, by influencing legislation, by means of marketing as well as by making it easier to purchase the tickets (invoicing, commuter vouchers). The survey results show that HSL has been successful in its goal of encouraging commuters to use public transport.   

Prior to starting to use employer-subsidized commuter tickets, 11 per cent of the survey respondents traveled daily by car while 61 per cent traveled by public transport. After starting to use the ticket, only six per cent of the respondents continued to travel by car and 72 per cent travelled by public transport.  

Number of employer-subsidized commuter ticket users steadily increasing

There are two ways for employers to provide the benefit for their employees. The employer can pay for season tickets loaded on the employees' personal Travel Cards, or the employer can purchase from HSL commuter vouchers, which it then distributes to its staff. The employees can use the vouchers for loading a season ticket or value on their Travel Cards. Over half of the survey respondents used commuter vouchers and almost 85 per cent of them were satisfied with the system.  

In most of the companies, the value of the benefit was between EUR 120 – 300.  Over 75 per cent of the respondents gave the amount of the benefit a grade of 4-5 on a scale of 1 to 5. In other words, the users were satisfied also in this respect.

The number of people using employer-subsidized commuter tickets has been steadily increasing. At the moment, some 65,000 people use an employer-subsidized commuter ticket in the HSL area. In 2008, the figure was 40,000. Over 1,000 employers are currently offering the benefit to their employees.

Employer-subsidized commuter tickets are already far more popular than company cars in the HSL area; some 36,000 people are using a company car.

Wärstilä Oy staff happy with commuter vouchers

Petra Metsola from Wärtsilä Oy has used commuter vouchers for loading value on her Travel Card. “I sometimes need a car during my workday but mostly I travel from Hiekkaharju in Vantaa to the Wärtsilä Oy head office located in Helsinki’s Hakaniemi by train”, she tells. “The vouchers have clearly increased my use of public transport; it would be a shame not to make use of this benefit”.

The head office of Wärtsilä Oy started to offer commuter vouchers to its staff in July. Over 150 of the 220 employees entitled to the benefit had taken the vouchers by mid-September.  

“Our employees were clearly interested in the vouchers but somebody had to get things going so we suggested to our HR Manager that we should acquire these vouchers," Saara Eder-Falck from the HR Department at Wärtsilä Oy tells.

Wärtsilä Oy's employees can get EUR 290 worth of commuter voucher a year and the company pays the vouchers in full. As HSL’s one zone 30-day pass costs EUR 45.90, a person working at the Wärtsilä head office and living in Helsinki can pay the journeys of over six months with the vouchers. Those using a regional ticket, can travel for four months.  

Employer-subsidized commuter tickets are a tax-free benefit for employers up to EUR 300 a year.

As the expenses incurred by the purchase of the vouchers can be deducted in the company’s taxes, the only costs for the company are incurred by management and distribution of the vouchers.

However, commuter vouchers are not only about money.

“The employees appreciate that the company supports their commuting and the vouchers can also be a benefit for the company as we recruit new employees," says Eder-Falck.  “Encouraging our employees to use public transport for commuting is also in line with our pro-environment products."

The only negative comments about the scheme have come from people who cannot use the benefit because they commute from outside the HSL area.

“Some of these employees have, however, taken commuter vouchers and started to use Park & Ride,” says Eder-Falck. “They leave their cars at parking sites at the fare zone boundary and continue by public transport.”

It seems very likely that Wärtsilä Oy will continue to provide its employees with commuter vouchers also in the future.