Guaranteed Ride Home

A Backup For Commuters Who Use Alternative Modes


TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Updated 11 June 2014

This chapter describes Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) programs, which provide an occasional subsidized ride to commuters who use alternative modes, to help deal with unexpected conditions.




Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) programs provide an occasional subsidized ride to commuters who use alternative modes, for example, if a bus rider must return home in an emergency, or a car pooler must stay at work later than expected. This addresses a common objection to the use of alternative modes. GRH programs may use taxies, company vehicles or rental cars.


GRH trips may be free or they may require a modest co-payment. The cost of offering this service tends to be low because it is seldom actually used. GRH programs are a common component of Commute Trip Reduction programs. Although it is sometimes called “Emergency Ride Home,” it is most effective if requirements are not restricted to “emergency” trips. For example, a commuter may need a ride to participate in an unplanned social event that is not an emergency, but can still affect their decision whether or not to drive.



How It Is Implemented

Guaranteed Ride Home is typically a Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) service managed by a CTR administrator or Transportation Management Association (TMAs). A GRH policy should specify the following:


·         Who is eligible. The program could cover all employees, or only those who use alternative modes for a specified portion of commuting.

·         What trips are eligible. The program could cover any trip, or it could be limited to unexpected business appointments, employee or family member sickness.

·         Maximum number of uses allowed during a certain period, maximum miles within a period, or maximum cost per trip.

·         Which staff or department is responsible for implementation.

·         Procedures for using the GRH service.

·         Appropriate forms (e.g. registration and reimbursement vouchers).



Travel Impacts

GRH programs can significantly increase use of alternative commute modes. One study found that the existence of a GRH program is among the most important factors determining the effectiveness of a Commute Trip Reduction program (Comsis, 1994). One survey of commuters found that 59% of rideshare and transit patrons consider GRH important in their decision to use alternative modes (K.T. Analytics, 1992). Another survey found that the availability of GRH has a value roughly equivalent to subsidized transit fares at a fraction of the cost (Hunt and McMillan, 1998).


Table 1          Travel Impact Summary

Travel Impact



Reduces total traffic.


Supports Commute Trip Reduction programs.

Reduces peak period traffic.



Shifts peak to off-peak periods.



Shifts automobile travel to alternative modes.



Improves access, reduces the need for travel.



Increased ridesharing.



Increased public transit.



Increased cycling.



Increased walking.



Increased Telework.



Reduced freight traffic.



Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Benefits And Costs

Benefits include increased commuters security, flexibility (employees who use alternative modes can stay late when they are needed at work, which addresses a common employer concern), and participation in Commute Trip Reduction programs. By supporting use of alternative modes, GRH helps achieve all TDM objectives.


Costs include program administration and the costs of subsidizing trips. Comsis (1993) estimates that Guaranteed Ride Home programs typically cost $30 per trip for a taxi or rental car, and less than 10% of eligible employees take advantage of the service in any one year, so costs typically average less than $5 per employee year (1993 U.S. dollars). Other reports find even lower costs per employee. The Warner Center TMA in Los Angeles found about 1% of the 6,000 eligible rideshare patrons used the service (Park, 1991). A survey of eleven GRH programs nationwide found average use is about 13 rides per 100 eligible employees per year. However, higher usage rates are found among programs serving commuters working late or overtime versus programs offering emergency service only during the workday (K.T. Analytics, 1992).


Commuter Transportation Services in Los Angeles suggests for planning purposes one should estimate between 0.5 and 20 percent of current rideshare patrons will use the service. The high end of the range applies to companies allowing rides for overtime, errands or business trips, while the low end applies to companies allowing emergency use only. Given average suburban distance taxi rates, this indicates typical costs of  $2-3 annually per rideshare patron.


Table 2          Benefit Summary




Congestion Reduction


Helps reduce automobile commuting.

Road & Parking Savings


Helps reduce automobile travel and trips.

Consumer Savings


Provides savings to users.

Transport Choice


Increases travel choice.

Road Safety


Helps reduce automobile travel.

Environmental Protection


Helps reduce automobile travel.

Efficient Land Use


Helps reduce automobile travel.

Community Livability


Helps reduce automobile travel.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Equity Impacts

Guaranteed Ride Home programs require subsidies, although these are usually small overall, far smaller than typical parking subsidies. It tends to increase equity by making alternative modes more feasible, by providing benefits to non-drivers, and by accommodating high-value trips, such as domestic emergencies. Lower-income employees are likely to place a high value on this benefit, because it helps them save money and avoid unexpected expenses.


Table 3          Equity Summary




Treats everybody equally.


Generally, all employees at a worksite who use alternative modes are offered this benefit.

Individuals bear the costs they impose.


Involves subsidies, although these are usually small.

Progressive with respect to income.


Benefits lower-income commuters.

Benefits transportation disadvantaged.


Benefits non-drivers.

Improves basic mobility.


Supports access to employment.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.




GRH is an appropriate as part of a Commute Trip Reduction program in virtually any geographic condition. It is implemented by individual employees, often as part of a TDM Program sponsored by local or regional transportation agencies.


Table 4          Application Summary





Large urban region.


Federal government.


High-density, urban.


State/provincial government.


Medium-density, urban/suburban.


Regional government.




Municipal/local government.


Low-density, rural.


Business Associations/TMA.


Commercial center.


Individual business.


Residential neighborhood.




Resort/recreation area.


Neighborhood association.






Ratings range from 0 (not appropriate) to 3 (very appropriate).




Improved Transport Choice



Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

GRH is an important component of Commute Trip Reduction programs. It supports most other TDM strategies. It may be supported by Taxi Improvements that make taxi use more convenient and affordable.




Employers, TMAs or transit agencies must develop and administrate GRH programs. Employees should be involved in planning the program. Taxi companies or Carshare organizations may be contracted to provide the service.



Barriers To Implementation

The main barrier is simply establishing an appropriate Commute Trip Reduction program that can provide services such as GRH. Some employers may hesitate to provide GRH due to the possibility of high costs or liability exposure, but experience indicates that costs are usually low, and that GRH programs are a very cost effective way to encourage reductions in automobile commuting.



Best Practices

·         A written policy should identify GRH eligibility and procedures.

·         Maximum number of trips, mileage and costs should be specified.

·         Requirements should not be overly restrictive (non-emergency trips should qualify).

·         Users should be involved in planning the program.



Wit and Humor

Did you hear about the guy who went ice fishing and brought home a hundred-pound block of ice?

He planned to mount it on the wall, but before he could take it to the taxidermist his wife found it and cooked it. He still tells stories about the bigger one that got away.



Case Studies and Examples

Ride-On TMA Offers Guaranteed Ride Home (

Ride-On, the Transportation Management Association for San Luis Obispo County in Central California, offers door-to-door Guaranteed Ride Home service anywhere in the area on weekdays between 8 am and 7 pm. Employers can set up a GRH program to fit their needs. In the event of an emergency, authorized staff call Ride-On to request a Guaranteed Ride Home. The TMA will send a vehicle within 15 minutes. This program is insurance against ever being at work without a car, to help increase rideshare commuting. The cost of the rides home range from $5 to $20 depending on the distance traveled. Some businesses pay the fare for the actual ride or let the employee pay the fare. The GRH Program has proven to be a significant benefit for employees.



City of Albuquerque GRH Program (

The Albuquerque SunTran's Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) Program is offered to commuters that use any form of alternate transportation at least three times a week. Monthly bus pass purchasers are automatically registered for GRH. Commuters who use other forms of alternate transportation can register on-line at This service can be used up to five times a year for personal illness, family illness, unscheduled overtime or any other emergency that requires commuters to leave work or school.



The Pennsylvania State University TDM Program (

All participants in the Pennsylvania State University Rideshare Program are automatically enrolled in the Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) Program. In case of an emergency (medical, disaster, or work related emergencies) for a rider or driver, GRH provides free transportation home via a rental car or taxi.



TDM Status Report (

A 1992 study identified the following GRH programs:


·         Hughes Aircraft Back-Up Vanpool Program, Tucson, Arizona: provides an emergency van only for vanpoolers during the day and after work. For after work service, employees must call the Hughes rideshare office before 4 p.m.


·         Golden Gate Bridge District Flex-Pool Program, San Francisco, California: provides vanpool services for all commuters using District transit, vanpools, carpools or club buses in downtown San Francisco. Vans are owned by the District and driven by volunteer commuters in exchange for unlimited use of the van. Reservations must be made by 3:30 p.m.


·         Montgomery County Government Subsidized Taxi Program, Montgomery County, Maryland: provides county employees who use transit and carpool with reimbursement for taxi or transit use in emergencies.


·         Denver Regional Council of Governments, Denver, Colorado: 16,500 registered car-poolers who rideshare at least twice per week are eligible for two free taxi rides for emergencies over a 6-month test period.


·         Xerox Company Fleet Car Program, Palo Alto, California: rideshare patrons may use company cars in emergencies. Use is limited to two hours, though cars can be brought home and returned the next day.


·         City of Bellevue Subsidized Taxi Service, Bellevue, Washington: carpool, vanpool and transit patrons are eligible for the program. Applicants are given taxi vouchers good for limited mileage for one year. Users must pay for the cab themselves, then send in the voucher to the regional transit agency (Metro) and request reimbursement. Metro refunds the taxi fare less a $1.00 co-payment.



References And Resources For More Information


Comsis Corporation (1993), Implementing Effective Travel Demand Management Measures: Inventory of Measures and Synthesis of Experience, USDOT and Institute of Transportation Engineers ( Available at


Comsis Corporation (1994), A Survey and Analysis of Employee Responses to Employer-Sponsored Trip Reduction Incentive Programs, California Air Resources Board (


CTS (1990), Guaranteed Ride Home: Taking the Worry Out of Ridesharing, Commuter Transportation Services, Los Angeles.


CUTR (2006), Guaranteed Ride Home/Emergency Ride Home, (, National TDM and Telework Clearinghouse, Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, which provides the following documents:


·         Guaranteed Ride Home Fundamentals (


·         Guaranteed Ride Home Programs ( highlights the benefits of Guaranteed Ride Home programs and outlines seven steps that employers can take to implement an effective program.


·         Considerations for Developing a Guaranteed Ride Home Program (, adapted from material from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.



John D. Hunt and JDP McMillan (1998), A Stated Preference Examination of Attitudes Towards Carpooling to Work in Calgary, Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (


K.T. Analytics (1992), TDM Status Report; Guaranteed Ride Home, Federal Transit Administration, USDOT (


Eileen Kadesh and Laurie Elder (1989), “Guaranteed Ride Home: An Insurance Program for HOV Users,” Transportation Research Record No. 1212, Transportation Research Board (


William B. Menczer (2007), “Guaranteed Ride Home Programs: A Study of  Program Characteristics, Utilization, and Cost,” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 10, No. 4,

(, pp. 131-150.


Christopher Park (1992), Evaluation of Second Year Effectiveness of Guaranteed Ride Home at Warner Center TMO, Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (


Cosette Polena and Lawrence Jesse Glazer (1991), “Examination of 11 Guaranteed Ride Home Programs Nationwide,” Transportation Research Record 1321, TRB (, pp. 57-65.


USEPA (1998), Guaranteed Ride Home, Transportation and Air Quality TCM Technical Overviews, US Environmental Protection Agency (

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.




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