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What’s Your Transit Competitiveness Score? And Why Should You Care?

What’s Your Transit Competitiveness Score? And Why Should You Care?

Want to know how many of your employees could be taking transit? A transit competitiveness score is a great place to start.

Ruth Miller
May 30, 2024

Every employee is unique and has their own needs from their benefits. Just like how employees may elect different plans based on how far they are from retirement, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to commuter benefits. Jawnt believes that transit is an essential component of our urban communities, but we also know that some employers and employees are physically located in places where transit just isn’t going to be appealing for them.

Jawnt also knows that employers have to be strategic with their benefit offerings, internal communications, and time. If the employer’s goal is to reduce demand for parking on site, they want to know where they’ll get the biggest impact for their effort. They don’t want to spend time engaging the employees who already ride transit. They also shouldn’t spend too much time on the employees who live in remote, car-dependent areas. Instead, they want to find those people on the fence, for whom taking transit maybe isn’t obvious but worth a second look. Using data, Jawnt helps employers understand their employees’ current and potential relationships to transit.

What is transit competitiveness?

Put simply, we want to compare what it would be like for each individual employee to commute by transit and by driving, and then gauge how close that transit experience would be to driving.

  • Someone commuting within New York City, for example, would find transit to be highly competitive. Given how much time it would take to navigate traffic and find parking, plus the cost of parking, compared to simply tapping onto the subway – transit would almost always outcompete driving, and often even a taxi.
  • On the other hand, some areas aren’t supported well by transit. When taking transit means riding multiple buses, waiting long periods of time to transfer, and making lots of stops, driving directly is going to be a better experience.
  • Then there are cases in the middle. Maybe there’s no transit that’s walkable from the employee’s house, but the traffic downtown is horrible. Perhaps they could drive a few miles and leave their car at a commuter rail station, charting a course with the best of both worlds.

There are of course several factors that go into deciding whether or not to take transit: time, cost, safety, number of transfers, comfort, frequency, opening and closing times, and the ease to make other stops, to name a few. But travel time is often a good approximation of overall experience, and an easy one to calculate.

Calculating transit competitiveness

When we begin working with a new organization, we often start with a transit competitiveness analysis to get a sense of how transit benefits will be perceived by their employees. Jawnt wants to provide the most useful analysis with the least amount of an employee’s personal information, so the only data we use is their office location and home ZIP codes. We start with a list of employees per ZIP code by office location, like the example shown below.


Next, we calculate how long it would take to get between each ZIP code and their office location. A ZIP code can be quite large, so we randomly sample multiple locations within the ZIP code.

We calculate how long it takes to get from each location to the office, for both transit and driving, assuming

  • Arriving at the office by 9 AM, to capture traffic conditions. Morning traffic is generally worse than afternoons, because commuters have less flexibility and fewer other places to be.
  • Commuting on a Tuesday in a non-holiday week. Enough people take three-day weekends throughout the year that Mondays and Fridays tend to have slightly reduced traffic.
  • Arriving on time 90% of the time. Traffic varies, but commuters have to be on-time. We want to know how early they have to leave their house to be on time 90% of the time.

For transit, we’re sure to include any private shuttle systems that might be available, and allow an extra five minutes for transfers.

Finally, the fastest transit time, and divide it by the safest driving time. For example, if a trip takes 45 minutes by transit, and 40 minutes to drive, that employee has a transit competitiveness score of 1.125.

To make sense of these results, we keep it simple and assign a transit competitiveness letter grade for each commuter’s trip. 

  • A+: the trip can be completed by transit in under 20 minutes, regardless of how long it takes to drive. For these trips, transit is of such high quality that driving and parking is likely more trouble than it’s worth.
  • A: the trip is faster to take by transit than drive (transit score of 1 or below) 
  • B: transit takes only 25% longer than driving (<1.25)
  • C: transit takes 50% longer than driving (<1.5)
  • D: transit takes 75% longer than driving (<1.75)
  • F: All other trips

Transit competitiveness in practice

There are two primary ways we’ve seen our analysis put to use by employers.

The first is helping them understand the potential of their transit benefits program. If an employer has hundreds of employees with A+ and A scores, but only dozens of people are enrolled in their program, then perhaps we can work together to identify other barriers that are reducing participation.

The second is employers improving communication and marketing efforts to expand program participation. Understanding the transit competitiveness for a given employee’s commute can help employers better tailor their messaging.

  • Employees with A+ and A commutes just need to know the benefit is available, and won’t take much convincing to enroll.
  • Employees with B and C commutes may not know the benefit is available, but also may need personalized information about their own personal commute options.
  • Employees with D and F commutes will have a hard time finding value in a transit benefit and aren’t worth scarce internal marketing efforts.


Analyze your Transit Competitiveness with Jawnt

Are there as many people participating in your transit benefits program as you’d expect? How do you currently segment and target your employee population when you promote your transit benefits program? Are you curious about how well transit can compete for your employees’ commutes? You can email Kapish on our business team at

Ruth Miller

The Jawnt blog

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