Commuters offered incentive to use vans

LOUISVILLE – You might be able to get as much as $60 in your pocket next month if you’re willing to switch to a vanpool on your U.S. Highway 36 commute.

The Louisville nonprofit group 36 Commuting Solutions will pay eligible vanpoolers up to 50 percent of their vanpool cost for the first month, 30 percent for the second month, and 20 percent for the third month, said Audrey DeBarros, 36 Commuting Solutions’ executive director.

Vanpool subsidy funds come from a federal grant to help curb congestion during the U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project between Boulder and Denver.

Vanpools are groups of people who have similar commutes and are willing to travel together in a van. The U.S. 36 vanpool service is being coordinated through the private company vRide, the Denver transportation company arm of VPSI Inc. based in Troy, Michigan. It’s part of the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ “Way to Go” commuter program.

Vanpool commuters taking a van to work on the U.S. 36 corridor would pay an estimated $85 to $125 per month, depending on how many people were in each van and how far they traveled each day, among other things, said Nick Sands, marketing manager at vRide. The company currently has about five vanpools on U.S. 36, he said.

Vanpool commuters decide on where to meet, which routes to take, and who among them should drive, Sands said. Current vanpools most commonly meet at existing Regional Transportation District Park-n-Ride locations or at the parking lots of grocery stores in the metro area, he said.

Nearly 600 people using 100 vans already are involved in vanpools coordinated by vRide in the metro area, Sands said. VRide has an operations and billing contract with the Denver Regional Council of Governments and also makes money from rider fees. Sands referred contract and revenue questions to DRCOG, where a spokesman did not give the contract amount other than to say it’s less than $10,000.

“We set up the program to save them money and to make it sustainable,” Sands said.

VRide covers van maintenance, insurance and a guaranteed ride home in a cab if there’s an emergency situation where anyone involved in a vanpool needs to go home at a different time than the rest of the riders, Sands said. Rider fees vary, mostly based on miles covered and how many other people are riding in each van, he said.

The people who make up 36 Commuting Solutions include 65 private-sector members and nine public-sector members who are located in and around Westminster, Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette, Louisville, Superior and Longmont. Nine members who are not affiliated with private companies or public entities also are involved in the group.

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