Money Talks: "Ride the Bus"

Can Phoenicians be lured out of their cars? One downtown business has found the answer is yes. But it takes more than just slogans and hoopla. It takes the green stuff.

Valley National Bank boasts one of the best records of any Valley company on getting its employees to use the bus. The bank subsidizes those who want to purchase monthly bus passes. Out of 816 workers at the bank's headquarters at Central and Van Buren, 315 have taken advantage of the offer. And it's quite an attractive offer: A regular monthly bus pass, normally $25, costs a VNB worker only $10; another $5 buys a pass for express bus routes that normally cost $30.

Steve Roman, public information officer for the bank, says the bus pass sales don't necessarily mean that 39 percent of the bank employees are using the bus every day. Some may use the heavily discounted passes only a couple of days a week. "We don't keep track of that," he says.

About his only clue is what he sees in the surrounding offices. He says only about eight of the 35 employees on his floor actually take the bus every day.

Beyond that, the bank also makes company-owned cars available for workers who take the bus to the office but need transportation for bank business during the day.

The bank further encourages bus use by refusing free parking for workers in the company-owned garage across the street: A covered spot costs $33 a month. Roman says employees can find cheaper parking in lots elsewhere, but that means the car sits in the sun all day.

Roman, who lives near Tatum and Shea Boulevards in northeast Phoenix, doesn't use the bus himself. He says he has to get in around 7 each morning and often doesn't leave until 7:30 at night. "The bus is not going to do it for me," he explains. But Roman says if ValTrans is approved and there is more frequent late-night service to his neighborhood, he would be happy to leave his wheels parked at home.

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Howard Fischer