The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority plans to roll out a six-month trial of a new corporate matching discount that could cut the cost of a $75 monthly pass down to $38.50 for some commuters.
Starting June 1, the transit agency will begin offering a $10 discount on Metro passes bought in bulk by employers who agree to subsidize at least another $10 toward the cost of a monthly pass.
The discount would be combined with the existing Metro Perk Program in which employees pay for monthly Metro passes using pre-tax dollars through payroll deductions.
"We're certainly looking to entice new corporate participation," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, NFTA public affairs director. "I think this program has a great deal of potential to increase ridership, which takes cars off our streets and eliminates emissions, and also alleviate the parking crunch existent in and around the downtown area."
The new program – which will be piloted through the end of the year before the NFTA evaluates its worth – would be available to employers throughout the transit authority's service areas in Erie and Niagara counties.
This is how it works:
In order to participate, the NFTA will require each company to have at least 25 employees signed up for the program. That employer would then kick in a minimum $10 per employee or could offer a higher subsidy. The NFTA would then match that with a $10 discount off each pass.
"We're willing to knock $10 off the cost of each pass, and ask the employer to subsidize by a minimum of another $10," Hartmayer said.
That would lower the $75 monthly pass to at least $55 for commuters, depending on the amount of the corporate contribution.
Companies that participate in the new pilot discount program would be required to have their employees enroll in the Metro Perk program. That program typically reduces the cost of a monthly pass by about 30 percent. Given that, the approximate cost of a monthly Metro pass could be whittled to as low as $38.50, compared to the normal $75 rate, Hartmayer said.
About 85 companies currently participate in the Metro Perk program.
The majority of companies currently enrolled in Metro Perk are located downtown, but Hartmayer said some companies in suburban areas also participate.
The NFTA will also begin allowing smaller companies to band together to come up with a cumulative 25 participating employees to meet the requirement for the $10 matching discount.
"We don't want a smaller company to feel left out," Hartmayer said.
The new discount and the ability for smaller companies to band together to access the corporate deal could be a benefit for some companies on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Thea Hassan, transportation program manager for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., the nonprofit organization coordinating services on the campus, sees it as a big plus.
"They're trying to make it easier for smaller groups, such as startups in the Innovation Center," Hassan said.
Hartmayer said the program is a ready-made fit for the Medical Campus.
The transit authority is sending letters to companies to notify them of the new discount program.
After the six-month trial run, the NFTA's Board of Commissioners will evaluate its success before making a recommendation on whether to continue offering the new matching discount.