The city of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are teaming up to offer the city's first guaranteed-ride-home service to encourage alternative commuting options.
Called the Fare-less Cab, the program offers a safety net for Annapolis-area commuters who work at enrolled businesses and end up working late or need to get home early because of an emergency.
"It's like life insurance - it's there just in case," said Paula Chase-Hyman, coordinator for the partnership, Clean Commute Annapolis.
A similar program, Commuter Connections, exists for commuters who work in and around Washington and has provided more than 15,000 trips since 1997.
In Anne Arundel, the BWI Business Partnership has offered a ride-home program in North County for at least the past five years, said executive director Linda Greene. One is also offered for South County businesses through the Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association.
As for the Annapolis program, the three businesses participating so far are Loews Annapolis Hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites in Annapolis and SpinSheet Magazine.
Commuters are eligible for the service, which can be used four times a year, if they work at an enrolled business. They must also hold a city bus pass or travel to work via carpool, bike or foot at least eight times a month.
The cost of the program is absorbed by the employers, who agree to pay up to $50 to one of five Annapolis cab companies to get an employee home.
"We have quite a few employees who use buses. We have people who work at different times because of the occupancy levels ... so people might have to stay longer," said Marci Bixler, general manager for the Hampton Inn & Suites in Annapolis.
Bixler said that about one-fourth of her staff of about 40 is eligible for the Fare-less Cab, but no one there has used the service so far.
Lucy Iliff, who works for SpinSheet, a sailing publication, said she was motivated to get the company involved to encourage what she considers a worthwhile environmental effort.
"I like to bike myself," said Iliff, who rides seven miles from Arnold to work when the weather is good.
Employers who enroll in such a commuter program are eligible for a state tax credit, Chase-Hyman said. That credit could be up to $30 a month for each eligible employee.
Bixler hopes that the program can be used as "a selling point for hiring." Through her work with the transportation management association, she is encouraging other area hotels to participate.