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NIH Wins Award For Pushing Alternative Commuting Options

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 7/30/2013, 11:30am  ET

NIH Campus, BethesdaThe National Institutes of Health last month received a regional award for incentivizing a little more than half of its workforce to get to work in ways other than a single-person vehicle.

The county’s largest employer, with an estimated 20,262 employees at its 310-acre Bethesda campus, won the Employer Recognition Award for Incentives from Commuter Connections on June 25.

Commuter Connections is a program of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that coordinates and promotes commuter alternatives across the area.

NIH claims that about 12,500 of its 23,000 employees participate in its commuting alternatives program, which include Metro subsidies, exclusive parking for carpools and vanpools, telework and flexible schedules and thousands of on-site bike racks and lockers and showers for cyclists and walkers.

NIH is also one of the first federal agencies to offer a bicycle subsidy program and had 590 employees participate in Bike to Work Day in May.

“The National Institutes of Health has long been an outstanding example of employer leadership in encouraging smart employee commute choices,” said Sandra Brecher, chief of Montgomery County Commuter Services. “Their programs reduce 58 million vehicle miles of travel and save 3 million gallons of gasoline each year. Clearly, their award from Commuter Connections is well-deserved.”

The agency has plans to add about 3,000 more employees to its Bethesda campus over the next 20 years, causing concern from some in the county that the difficult traffic situation on Rockville Pike could get worse. NIH sits across from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which has about 10,500 employees and also has plans to expand. The move of Walter Reed to the base also meant double the amount of visitors to the campus annually, from 500,000 to 1 million.

In its draft Master Plan, NIH wouldn’t get its parking ratio to the federal goal of one parking space for every three staff members, a figure that encourages the use of mass transit.