What has 848 wheels, travels nearly 3.2 million miles a year, is 30 years old, and setting records? Intercity Transit’s vanpool program! Intercity Transit, Thurston County’s public transportation provider and administrator of the 30-year-old program, celebrates the success and anniversary of the vanpool program this month.
A vanpool is a group of five or more people who travel at least 10 miles one way to work sharing the ride. Intercity Transit provides the vehicle, and passengers pay a monthly fare that covers the cost of operating the van including fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
The Puget Sound region is home to some of the longest-operating vanpool programs in the nation, including Intercity Transit’s, which began in May 1982. Their program started with two leased vans from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Now, 30 years later, the program operates 212 active vanpools and meets the long-distance transportation needs of more than 1,500 commuters every day. At a time when bus ridership is breaking records, Intercity Transit’s vanpool program is exceeding the growth rate – and vehicle fleet size – of its fixed-route service. In 2011 alone, 27 new vanpools began operating and the total number Intercity Transit vanpools traveling in the Puget Sound and southwest Washington regions made more than 684,000 passenger trips with more than 800 trained volunteer drivers.
The program is cost-effective for both Intercity Transit and the individual commuter. Intercity Transit recovers nearly 100 percent of the operating costs of its vanpools through the fares which, in addition to covering the cost of operating the vehicle, cover a large portion of the administrative costs. On average, a vanpool user pays approximately $94 and commutes nearly 1,500 miles a month.
“Vanpoolers pay the cost of operating the van and still save $8,750 year (average) over the cost of driving alone. It’s a very attractive way to get to work,” says Carolyn Newsome, Intercity Transit Vanpool Manager.
Fueled by escalating gas prices, shrinking household budgets, growing congestion, and increasing awareness of climate change and health issues, the program grew 29 percent between 2007 and 2011. Intercity Transit officials indicate about 1,550 commuters currently use Intercity Transit vanpools and travel from 34 different points of origin in the region to 24 destinations as far away as Seattle, Bellevue, and Aberdeen. They prevent nearly 1,300 vehicles from traveling our roadways every weekday.
In addition to benefiting individuals’ pocketbooks, Intercity Transit’s vanpools benefit the Earth as well. According to Newsome, in 30 years, Intercity Transit vanpoolers have eliminated 122,617 tons of CO2, saved at least 10.2 million gallons of gasoline, and eliminated at least 203 million miles traveled on our roadways.
Intercity Transit’s vanpool ridership continues to grow as more people discover the benefits of leaving their automobiles at home. Some state agencies and major employers, such as Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft, State Farm, and Joint Base Lewis McChord subsidize their employees’ vanpool fares.
For information, call 360-786-8800, or visit intercitytransit.com.
By the numbers
Current Over the past 30 years
Active Vanpools: 212 Total miles traveled: 31,155,595
Active Participants: 1,550 Total miles eliminated: 203,378,344
Number of Origins: 34 Gallons of fuel saved: 10,168,917
Number of Destinations: 24 Tons of CO2 saved: 122,617
Number of Counties served: 7 Dollars Vanpoolers Saved
Average Daily Commute (Collectively): $75,147,718
Per Vehicle: 69 miles
Longest Daily Commute: 142 miles