Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
As Fort Leavenworth begins to reopen and personnel return to work full-time, Bill Bringhurst, Directorate of Public Works energy engineer, said they’re hoping to restart the vanpool program by mid-summer.
Before COVID-19, nearly 9,000 personnel were 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 cost.
To help, Fort Leavenworth began a vanpool option in 2011 through the Mass Transit Benefit Program through the Department of Transportation and Enterprise. The program is open to all federal civilian employees, military service members, non-appropriated fund employees and members of Reserve components serving on active duty, said Bringhurst, who is the installation coordinator. Six vanpools were active before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Neil Bass, DPW natural resources specialist, has been using the vanpool since he began working on Fort Leavenworth in 2015.
“I have saved more than 70,000 miles between my 2015 hiring and COVID-19 shutdown,” Bass said.
Bringhurst has participated in the program since it started in 2011.
“It’s an extra hour in the morning not having to concentrate on driving most days, saves gas, probably lowers your insurance because you’re going to drive less per month, it saves on maintenance, and it also decreases crowding on the post,” Bringhurst said. “There are fewer cars coming in the gate and there are more parking spaces.”
While using the vanpooling program is a convenient, cost-efficient option, there are some regulations and contingencies to be aware of, Bringhurst 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. Guidelines include each rider or participant using the vanpool at least 50 percent of the time each month or 10-11 days depending on the month. There are no exceptions for annual or sick leave, deployment or TDY. Participants who do not ride at least half the time must reimburse the government. To lower the amount of money paid out of pocket, the recommended minimum number of passengers per van is seven.
Vanpool drivers must meet a specific criteria, too, Bringhurst said.
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.
Finally, each vanpool must have one designated coordinator. This person does not have to be an approved driver of the van and is the main point of contact for the Department of Transportation and Enterprise.
For more information about MTBP and how to start a new vanpool, e-mail Bringhurst at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit commutewithenterprise.com and click “join a commute” and fill out the form.