• Vanpooling offers commuters savings

  • Vanpooling is cost-efficient.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    As of Sept. 30, 2018, there were nearly 9,000 personnel working on post.
    More than 5,000 of those employees, including military and Department of the Army civilians, do not reside on post, which means they are commuting from surrounding cities as close as Leavenworth or Lansing, Kan., and as far as Lawrence, Kan., or Lone Jack, Mo.
    Travelling to Fort Leavenworth five days a week from some of these places can quickly amount to wear and tear on a vehicle and accumulating fuel costs.
    To help, Fort Leavenworth has a vanpool option through the Mass Transportation Benefit Program, which is supported by Enterprise.
    “A vanpool functions like a large carpool,” said Dan Culver, Enterprise business rental sales director. “The program provides a new make/model vehicle, fuel, maintenance, roadside assistance, personal use miles and more.”
    The program started in 2011. It is open to all federal civilian employees, military service members, non-appropriated fund employees and members of Reserve components serving on active duty, said Debbie Hazelbeck, Fort Leavenworth environmental protection specialist.
    Neil Bass, Department of Public Works natural resources specialist, has been using the vanpool since he began working on Fort Leavenworth in 2015.
    “The vanpool options made it a much easier decision to accept the Fort Leavenworth job than it would have been if I was having to make the commute every day on my own,” Bass said. “Vanpooling, besides saving fuel costs and wear and tear on my vehicle, allows me to share the driving responsibilities.
    “I drive about 20 percent of the time now, but have driven less,” he said. “The other 80 percent I use to read, sleep or converse with my fellow riders. I have enjoyed the good conversations that we have had in the van and getting to know the other riders. Our vanpool discussions stay away from inflammatory topics such as politics or religion, which has been nice. The other riders in the vanpool all work for the (Command and General Staff College), giving me a completely different perspective than my job with the Garrison.”
    Bass, who lives in Lone Jack, Mo., said vanpooling has saved him more than 60,000 miles on his personal vehicle.
    Currently there are five other Fort Leavenworth employees who ride with Bass every day from Independence, Mo.
    Bill Bringhurst, DPW energy engineer, has participated in the vanpool program since it started in 2011.
    “It saves gas, mileage, wear and tear, insurance and adds an extra two hours a day of relaxing and not driving,” Bringhurst said. “For every vanpool van you see on post, there were probably five to eight fewer cars waiting ahead of you at the gate, and five to eight more parking spaces on post.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Bringhurst is part of the Lawrence vanpool, which currently has six riders. He said he has saved more than 75,000 miles.
    Other current vanpool locations include Olathe, Lenexa and Shawnee in Kansas and Parkville, Mo.
    “Looking at the bigger picture, we are making a positive impact on our environment,” Hazelbeck said. “The Fort Leavenworth vanpool program is very carbon footprint friendly.
    “By taking cars off the roads, we are reducing our (carbon) output and helping slow global warming,” she said.
    While using the vanpooling program is a convenient, cost-efficient option, there are some regulations and contingencies to be aware of, Hazelbeck said.
    Fort Leavenworth employees can qualify for up to $265 per month in federal funding to pay for the program as long as all guidelines are met.
    “Each rider or participant is required to ride 50 percent of the time each month, which, depending on the month, works out to be 10 or 11 days,” Hazelbeck said. “The government accepts no excuse for riding in a vanpool, not annual or sick leave, deployment or TDY. If you are not riding for whatever reason it counts against you, and you will have to reimburse the government some monthly funds.
    “Each participant is required to get permission from his or her supervisor prior to them joining a vanpool, too,” she said.
    The recommended minimum number of passengers per van is seven.
    “Normally, we use seven-passenger vans for the vanpools, and the government does not pay for any empty seats,” Hazelbeck said. “Most vanpools only have six riders because the vans that are available are very small, but they have one empty seat, so each month everyone in the vanpool is required to pay for the empty seat out of their own pocket.
    “If you only have four people riding in a vanpool,” she said, “paying out of pocket for three riders can become expensive and defeats the reason of riding in a vanpool to save money.”
    Vanpool drivers also have to meet specific criteria, Culver said.
    “We have all of our drivers complete and sign a driver agreement,” he said.
    In addition, drivers must possess a valid driver’s license, be at least 25 years old, have no more than two moving violations and/or at-fault accidents in the past three years, have no major convictions in the past five years, and be licensed in the United States for at least five years, Culver said.
    “We recommend as many members of the vanpool submit a driver application as possible so that there is always a driver available if someone is out sick, on vacation, etc.,” he said. “We also have riders. If someone is not qualified to drive or doesn’t want to, they are more than welcome to simply be a rider in the vanpool.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Each vanpool must also have one designated coordinator, Culver said.
    “(The coordinator) is a member of the vanpool who is Enterprise’s main point of contact for things such as missed payments or maintenance of the vehicle,” Culver said. “This person may or may not be an approved driver of the van.”
    For more information about MTBP, how to join a current vanpool or to start a new vanpool, contact Hazelbeck at deborah.a.hazelbeck.civ@mail.mil or an Enterprise representative at gp05@commutewithenterprise.com.
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