NATICK, Mass. -- To better understand why George Zazoulin would tolerate a 3 ½-hour roundtrip commute to and from work at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, you might want to visit him in the Family Housing Office and have a look at his computer monitor background image.

The screen sports an impressive ocean view from his hometown on the Massachusetts North Shore.

"At the end of the day, I'm in Marblehead," said Zazoulin, "so this is worth it for me."

Before you jump to any conclusions about his carbon footprint, know that Zazoulin's daily commute is accomplished via public transportation. He is one of a number of NSSC employees who use mass transit to get to and from work.

"I haven't registered a vehicle since 2007," Zazoulin said. "If I were driving, it would be over an hour ride (one way)."

Zazoulin and other NSSC civilian employees using public transportation receive a monthly commuter stipend of up to $125 apiece. Terry Garrahan, the installation's transit benefit coordinator, said U.S. Department of Transportation TRANServe Debit Cards make the process easier than ever.

"A debit card is now provided to commuters to offset fare amounts," said Garrahan, adding that "$125 is electronically uploaded to a debit card on the 10th of each month. Each employee has until the 9th of the following month to use the uploaded amount towards purchasing a monthly commuter pass."

According to Zazoulin, the stipend helps to defray his $278 monthly cost for using express buses, commuter rail, and shuttles to reach Natick and home.

"It's really nice to have this program," Zazoulin said. "It beats hopping in the car every day."

Zazoulin pointed out that he avoids wear and tear on a car, buying gasoline, and dealing with congestion on the roadways around Boston. Instead, he works on his laptop, reads or sleeps while he rides.

"You're not sitting in traffic," Zazoulin said. "You're not getting stressed out."

What about the occasional delays associated with using public transportation? Zazoulin gets MBTA schedule updates through a smartphone application.

"You can tell when the next train is arriving, when the next bus is arriving," Zazoulin said.

According to a recent online survey of NSSC employees conducted for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 83.2 percent of respondents commute to and from the installation alone by car. Zazoulin's daily trip shows that alternatives -- mass transit, ride matching, guaranteed rides home, and bicycle incentives -- do exist.

"It's pretty safe and pretty reliable, and it's pretty extensive for a transit system," Zazoulin said. "I have taken a train, a boat ride, a bus ride and a shuttle ride, all in one day."

For more information about commuting options, contact Terry Garrahan at X5993 or by email at