How 511NY Rideshare put New Yorkers back in action with the state on PAUSE

How 511NY Rideshare put New Yorkers back in action with the state on PAUSE
Jan 12, 2021
ICF helps NYSDOT handle the COVID-19 crisis and meet the needs of essential and non-essential employees

511NY Rideshare isn’t new to crisis management. Our Transportation and Communications teams supported the state’s response to a major summer construction project in 2017, due to emergency Amtrak rail construction at Penn Station. A looming Long Island Railroad strike in 2014. Five back-to-back winter snow storms in 2018. A closed train station—as a result of a train crash—in 2016. And more.

But then came COVID-19, where, for a time, ridesharing went against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols unless you were an “essential employee.” Governor Cuomo made it official on March 20, putting New York State on PAUSE.

Pivoting NYSDOT’s 511NY Rideshare program to enhanced telework support

It was time for 511NY Rideshare to find a new way to support their now-housebound customers. The first step was to overhaul the existing telework program and assist more diverse employers. We then emailed hundreds of the state’s largest employers and invited them to learn more about telecommuting—and how 511NY Rideshare could support their efforts through statewide systems already in place.

ICF worked with Montefiore Hospital, the city of New Rochelle and Circuit, an electric, micro-transit solution, to provide free rides to the visiting nurses.

ICF also developed a Telework Services page with tailored tips for employers and employees, including information on virtual collaboration. Overhauled 511NY Rideshare’s social media presence to focus on telecommuting. And hosted a sold-out webinar on best practices to maintain a remote workforce long term—which included presentations from telework experts from ICF’s own 511NY Rideshare team. 

The revamped webpages did their job. By April, the average user was spending almost 4 minutes on the Telework page—as opposed to 48 seconds on a typical Rideshare page. “When people find this information,” Cara Politi explains, “they’re getting what they need.”

Carpools for essential employees

Not everyone, however, was “on pause.” Essential employers—including hospitals and medical centers—still needed an onsite workforce, every single day. Slammed with tens of thousands of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the possibility of reduced or completely shut down transit, essential employees were understandably nervous about how to get from point A to point B. But thanks in large part to a robust program supported by an ICF-developed communications plan, their employers knew how to respond. “Contact 511NY Rideshare.”

The majority of online registrations came after hospitals emailed their entire employee network.

The result? A 235% online registration increase in March alone, primarily from medical centers in New York City.

While everyone did their best to “flatten the curve,” the 511NY Rideshare team did its part to soothe the nerves of frazzled New Yorkers—starting with personalized service that continues to focus on the people. “Northwell Health Systems asked for help setting up preferences,” explains ICF transportation consultant Susan Heinrich. Employees wanted matches within their organization to limit exposure to those potentially infected with the virus. “So, we created step by step instructions—complete with screenshots.” 

In New Rochelle, one of the hardest hit areas early in the pandemic, Montefiore Hospital brought in traveling nurses from across the country to meet the overwhelming demand from the surging cases. The nurses were walking nearly a mile between the hospital and their hotel, after exhausting 12+ hour shifts. So ICF worked with the hospital, the city of New Rochelle, and Circuit, an electric, micro-transit solution, to provide them with free rides. 

ICF’s 511NY Rideshare team members even secured donations of homemade masks from a mother-daughter team on Long Island.

We don’t know when it will be safe to travel freely again. But we do know one thing: The 511NY Rideshare program is growing, and good habits are forming.

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