Why I Ride: Save Money and Time with Island Transit’s Vanpool Program

Chuck has been a member of the vanpool family for the past 20 years, taking the same route to his office in Ballard where he works in the commercial fishing industry. His group consisted of members from different industries, including software developers, university faculty, and a non-profit in downtown Seattle. The group originally formed with help from Island Transit’s vanpool coordinators and the Ridematch program. It was a little like computer dating and for them it worked.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Chuck took a two-week self-quarantine at home, a fishing boat, after which he continued working but mostly from home. The vanpool broke up during the pandemic. “I would still be a part of the vanpool but everyone made other arrangements.” Some worked from home while others cut back hours. Chuck is considering his options but for anyone commuting on or off the island, he would definitely recommend a vanpool.

When asked what people did on their long commute Chuck smiled as he recalled the discussions and friendly banter between them. Two were especially quick witted and made for entertaining conversations for the whole group. What makes this vanpool extraordinary is how well they got along.

When asked about the benefits, he said, “You save a ton of money. That’s huge!” The farther you go with your vanpool, the more you save. You also save time with priority loading on the ferry and use of HOV lanes on I-5. Many employers offer reserved parking. Some employers subsidize your vanpool costs so it’s almost free. The remaining fees are split between the members of the group so it’s a fraction of the cost of commuting alone. And there’s no wear and tear on your vehicle. Once when their van stalled on I-5, Island Transit picked them up and gave them a ride to the ferry. Their vanpool was towed back to the island and they were given another van for their group.

Initially, Chuck went from being a rider to a vanpool driver. Later he became the bookkeeper and then manager. “It’s such a time and money saver. I did whatever it took to keep the vanpool going.” He encouraged all the vanpool members to take the driver’s training offered by Island Transit so they could all take turns being the driver. That way if someone was sick or on vacation they always had someone to drive the van. Over the years some opted in and others opted out. “We always had between five and seven people.”

Island Transit vanpools can be used to get to work or school with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 people. Different sized vans are available. As long as your commute takes place at least in part in Island County, Island Transit’s vanpool program could work for you. Email: Vanpool@IslandTransit.org or call 360-678-7771 for details.

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