If your commute to work is 25 miles or more, or you are simply not near other transit options, vanpooling is one of the most cost-effective and convenient commuting options. Vanpooling provides multiple benefits – including saving time and money, reducing commuter stress, and reducing the wear and tear on your personal vehicle.
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A vanpool is a group of seven or more people who share a similar commute and schedule and join together to travel to and from work in a single vehicle. The vanpool group can be made up of people who live near each other or near a convenient pick up location like a park-and-ride lot, and are co-workers in the same office or work near each other. The whole group enjoys the economy of sharing their commuting expenses and the convenience of sharing the ride to work.
The vanpool group rents or leases the van from a vanpool company and the vanpool riders pay a monthly fee based on the monthly lease and commuting costs (fuel, parking). Insurance, vehicle maintenance and repairs and a backup vehicle are all covered by the vanpool company.
Vanpoolers are also eligible for Guaranteed Ride Home or Emergency Ride Home programs that provide free, or for a nominal fee, a ride home or to your parked car when one of life’s unexpected circumstances occur.
To join an already established vanpool, contact your local Commuter Assistance Program to receive a list of vanpools that are near you. Each vanpool is unique, but some programs may offer to waive the fare or offer a reduced fare for participants willing to drive or serve as the vanpool coordinator.
Here are some helpful dos and don’ts to keep in mind when sharing a ride to work.
- Be on time and communicate in a timely manner with your fellow vanpoolers if you will be late. If something comes up, and you cannot ride with the vanpool that day, notify the rest of the group and give them enough notice to make other arrangements.
- Be a safe passenger and create a safe environment for everyone in the van. If you are a passenger, make sure you are not distracting the driver and are considerate to your fellow passengers.
- Promptly pay your monthly share. Be sure to know how much and who to pay your share of the vanpool each month. For riders who receive transit benefits from their employers, they can use the amount they receive to pay for their monthly vanpool expenses.
- Respect any rules of the vanpool, such as restrictions on eating and drinking.
- Be a safe driver. Don’t drive recklessly or tailgate.
- Use the vanpool for your personal errands while commuting to and from work without discussing it with the other vanpoolers. Some vanpool companies allow drivers to use the van for incidental personal use when not commuting.
- Make a habit of being late. Your vanpool should decide how long the driver is expected to wait for passengers before leaving.
- Have lengthy conversations on your cell phone or play loud music.
And remember, vanpooling only requires a 30-day commitment. Passengers must give a month’s notice to the driver when planning to leave the ‘pool. The vehicle lease offers a 30-day cancellation provision, so there is no long-term commitment by the driver of the group. The vanpool company will provide details on van leasing terms.
- Cut Commuting Costs: Pay less for your commute with pre-tax dollars up to $260 per month or a subsidized transit benefit and spend less on gas, tolls, and personal vehicle maintenance. Save up to $10,000 in commuting costs annually!
- Guaranteed Ride Home/Emergency Ride Home: This service ensures that you can get an emergency ride home if you choose to vanpool.
- Less Stress: Vanpooling takes away the stress of commuting. It adds time to your day to rest, socialize or catch up on your favorite podcast.
- No Tolls: Vanpools can ride the Express Lanes on I-95, I-495, I-66 and I-64 FREE! No tolls! You only need an E-ZPass Flex.
- Preferred Parking: Some employers offered preferred parking spaces to employees who vanpool.
- Helping the Environment: You can feel good knowing you are helping the environment. Each year, vanpools in Virginia reduce CO2 auto emissions by almost 65,000 tons.
- Helping Reduce Traffic Congestion: Each year, vanpools in Virginia take more than 3 million cars off the road.
Employers also benefit when their employees vanpool to work. Work with your local Commuter Assistance Program to set up vanpools with your employees.
- Better Commute = Happier Employees: Increased job satisfaction, productivity and morale by reducing the stress and costs associated with commuting.
- Low Investment. Big Rewards: Vanpool expenses paid by the employer can be excluded from the employee’s gross income, up to certain limits. For 2018, the tax exclusion limits are $260 per employee per month.
- Fewer Cars. Less Parking: Fewer cars coming to your office location means reduced parking demand, potentially lowering the costs of office parking. If parking spaces are part of the company’s lease arrangement, inquiry about unbundling parking from the office space lease.
- On-Site Seminars and Vanpool Formation Meetings: Commuter Assistance Programs may offer presentations for employees on the benefits of vanpooling.
- Marketing Material: Free resources such as flyers and brochures may be available from your local Commuter Assistance Program.
Go Green: With vanpooling, you can contribute to a better quality of life for your employees, your community and the planet. It feels good to go green!
Vanpool Operators and Providers receive a variety of benefits when operating vanpools in Virginia.
- VanStart – This program provides assistance with newly formed vanpools. The program subsidizes empty seats during the critical start-up phase and is open to all new vanpools who register for assistance with a commuter assistance program.
- VanSave - This program assists existing vanpools that are experiencing a sudden, drastic loss of passengers. An eligible vanpool operator/provider may apply for assistance a maximum of once every 12 months per van. Contact your local commuter assistance program for more information.
- I-395 Express Lanes VanStart financial assistance.