Nathan Byerly: Providing smooth commute for Genentech

For Genentech, both what employees do while they are at work and how they get there matters.

“Transportation itself can be very complicated for people,” said Nathan Byerly, the Employee Transportation Programs manager for Genentech. “We wanted to make it simple, easy and flexible.”

Enter seven full-time employees and a program dubbed gRide, which was recently honored by Bay Area nonprofit Acterra with the 2007 Commute & Transportation award.

Launched on Nov. 1, 2006, gRide now runs an intracampus shuttle, shuttles from Genentech’s South San Francisco campus to the Caltrain and BART stations, and three GenenBuses: one for the I-80 corridor, one for the Tri-Valley area and one for San Francisco. The GPS-enabled commuter coaches are equipped with Wi-Fi hot spots so employees can work or surf the Web on their way to and from work.

According to Byerly, the commute program grew out of Genentech’s 10-year master planning session for 2006-16. Parking was becoming a big problem on the South San Francisco campus, and with limited real estate it was more cost-effective for Genentech to provide employees with alternative transportation than it was for the company to convert more of the campus to parking.

“While it has that environmental aspect, it’s as much about the business bottom line,” Byerly said.

About eight months into the operation, Byerly reports approximately 80 percent of Genentech employees are aware of the program. There are about 200 new riders each month and the Tri-Valley GenenBus went from zero to 75 riders in two weeks. Across the company, there is already a 25 percent participation rate in gRide; Byerly said Genentech wants to top 30 percent.

Participants from the South San Francisco campus earn $4 for each day they travel via alternative transportation. The neat thing, Byerly explained, is that “alternative transportation” is anything besides driving alone to and from work. Employees can mix and match as they please.

The Business Environmental Awards were founded by Bay Area nonprofit Acterra in 1990 to recognize corporate sustainability. This year, the awards were judged over three months by a panel of 28 regional environmental and sustainability experts who conducted interviews, made site visits, and reviewed literature. Eleven awards were given to a field of more than 50 competitors. Other San Francisco winners included Farella Braun + Martel LLP (Susanne Wilson Award for Pollution Prevention/Resource Conservation: Medium Company) and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (Susanne Wilson Award for Pollution Prevention/Resource Conservation: Large Company).

Business

New project: Communications campaign on employee incentives

Last project: Bike to Work Day

Number of e-mails a day: 50

Number of voice mails a day: 20

Essential Web site: Genentech internal Web page

Best perk: Business Objects

Gadgets: ArchView analytical tool

Education: BS, Oregon State University

Last conference: Association for Commuter Transportation

First job: Busboy

Original aspiration: To be an architect

Career objective: This is more of an early retirement goal, but I want to become a scuba instructor and am working toward that

Personal

Age: 33

Height: 6’0″

Likes: I love being outside and specifically on the ocean

Dislikes: My biggest pet peeve is the amount of chewing gum that is stuck to the sidewalks in San Francisco

Defining quirks: I multitask at a level that makes people uncomfortable

Sports/hobbies: Scuba diving

Transportation: I typically take the GenenBus to work, but Ido have a car.

Favorite restaurant: 5th Floor

Vacation spot: Thailand, Australia

Favorite clothier: O’Neal

Role Model: Managers I have had in my various jobs

Worst fear: Embarrassing myself

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