On Monday, June 27 th , Tysons Partnership hosted its first in a two-part series, Employer Forum: Talking Transportation. During the virtual forum, employers discussed the current challenges facing the return to public transportation after the COVID-19 pandemic, potential solutions to help entice employees to utilize non-vehicular modes of transit, and what the new Silver Line extension will mean for Tysons.
As companies have implemented a hybrid work model, the way in which people commute to work has changed. Meanwhile, employees see challenges in using public transportation to get to work. The two biggest challenges employers have heard from their staff regarding the return to public transit include Metrorail’s lack of expanded hours and the frequency in which trains run.
“The headways have just eroded overtime, and it is no longer quick and efficient to take Metro. in particular on the Silver Line,” says Hillary Zahm, Vice President of Development for Macerich.
Current ridership on Metrorail is at 35 percent of pre-pandemic levels. These numbers are slowly rising and will hopefully increase as Metro recently announced a plan to bring the 7000 series back into service. Even with these challenges, there are some positive signs that people are returning to Metro.
“I’ve noticed an uptick in people at MITRE taking the Metro recently—I just see it in our shuttle service from the Metro to the campus,” said Chris Boynton, Senior Manager of MITRE’s McLean Campus. “I’m anxious to start taking the Metro myself when they complete it out to Ashburn.”
Tysons Partnership and its members are dedicated to continually working with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to help address these challenges. In addition, many businesses are also offering incentive programs to help entice their employees to use public transit. Tammy Hoffman, Vice President of Enterprise Services at Fannie Mae, mentioned that their organization offers a 50 percent match on employees’ public transportation costs up to the tax limit of $265 per month.
The meeting perfectly coincided with WMATA’s most recent announcement that the organization had taken over control of the Silver Line extension from Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).
The Silver Line extension will include 11.4 miles of new track and six new stations, making the commute to Tysons from the west more accessible. Commuting is top of mind for many employers, as they look to attract and retain talent. The extension gives employers another solution to current and prospective employees who are dissatisfied with their current commute.
“As we all look at retention challenges, hiring challenges, etc, having something else in your toolkit with commuting being at the top of the list of complaints—they are all important,” says Hoffman.
Furthermore, with the Silver Line extending all the way to Dulles International Airport, the number of visitors staying in Tysons is projected to increase bringing an increase in visitors and tourists which will be great for Tysons businesses and the local economy.
The second part of the Employer Forum: Talking Transportation Series will take place in September. Stay tuned for more details.