By Will Reisman, @WillReisman
With its close location to both Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and as the home to Stanford University, Palo Alto is in the thick of so many things currently driving innovation and commerce in the Bay Area. While the continuing excellence of the region is great for local economic development, an unfortunate consequence of that success is that more people are commuting to work, leaving the Bay Area’s roadways congested and rife with delays.
Lorenz Maurer, general manager of the Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto, considered that fact when deciding whether to purchase Caltrain Go Passes for his employees, many of whom were travelling from San Francisco or San Jose. Caltrain’s Go Pass program allows companies to purchase unlimited-ride fares for their employees for a fixed price. Typically, the program is used by larger research institutions, such as Stanford, or major tech companies, like Google and Facebook.
“Finding a reliable transportation option for my employees was always at the top of my mind,” said Maurer. “We looked at all our alternative and decided to go with the Go Pass, really as an employee benefit program.”
The Epiphany, which opened in March of 2014, is located just two blocks from the Palo Alto Caltrain Station, making the train a convenient and reliable commuting option for the hotel workers. Plus, under the terms of the Go Pass program, the hotel employees –roughly 80 percent of whom speak English as a second language—don’t have to shoulder the burden of paying the monthly Caltrain pass. Instead, the Go Pass program allows Epiphany to purchase unlimited rides for about $180 a year per employee.
“It’s awesome for our workers,” said Maurer. “I mean, you beat Highway 101 every time when you take Caltrain.”
Along with providing a huge benefit to the workers, the Go Pass program also helped the hotel address the City of Palo Alto’s concerns over traffic and parking. Technically, the hotel could add an additional 200 parking spaces for its workers, a development that local residents feared would bring even more congestion to the city’s crowded local streets and highways. For now, the hotel is banking on Caltrain to provide an alternative to car commuting. Maurer said that 30 of the hotel’s 100 employees are currently enrolled in the Go Pass program, and he hopes to increase that number to 50 workers by the end of the year.
There are some logistical obstacles for the hotel, particularly for employees that work non-traditional hours and get off work after Caltrain service stops operating. Still, Maurer said that the program has really been embraced by employees, many of whom did not know about their public transportation options before they began using the Go Pass.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” said Maurer. “We’re hoping to get as many workers as possible on this program. It’s a huge benefit for the people who can take advantage of the Go Pass.”