Even if you are familiar with the vanpool program, there may be something you don’t know. Are you aware that with over 1,300 vanpools in daily operation that King County Metro is the largest public vanpool program in the nation? We worked with the Rideshare Operations team at King County Metro to organize some highlights of the vanpool program.
What is a vanpool?
A vanpool is a group of five to 15 people who share a similar commute in a van provided by King County Metro. In addition to the vehicle, Metro also provides a gas card, insurance, maintenance, 24-hour road side assistance and even a guaranteed ride home in case of an emergency, illness or unanticipated overtime. As long as the trip starts or ends in King County, commuters are qualified. At least one group even commutes from east of the Cascades.
How much does it cost to be in a vanpool?
The monthly cost of the van is determined based on the size of the van, number of work days in a week and round-trip miles the van travels each day and is then split up between the riders. The average van has seven riders and travels 50 round-trip miles each day. The average vanpool commuter pays below the cost of a monthly transit pass. I’ve provided an example below, but feel free to check out the KC Metro Fare Schedule.
If your employer provides a transit subsidy, it is very likely that they also provide a vanpool subsidy. After applying for an employer provided subsidy, many commuters don’t pay a dime for their commute. If your employer doesn’t currently provide a subsidy, but is considering adding the benefit in the future, have them check out Choose Your Way Bellevue’s Commute Advantage program.
Example of a vanpool cost breakdown:
If you commute from Mill Creek to Eastgate, round trip your commute is 48 miles. A van traveling up to 50 miles per day has a monthly cost of $751. With five passengers each commuter’s monthly responsibility will be $150.20. In this scenario having seven passengers would bring the monthly cost down to $107.29, with ten passengers each members monthly obligation is $82.40. Compare those rates with monthly two-zone KC Metro or Sound Transit bus passes which run $117 or $126 respectively, and you now see the value vanpooling offers to commuters.
Who pays for the gas, maintenance and tolls?
Each van is provided a fuel card and all maintenance is included in the monthly cost. Also, vans are exempt from tolls on the SR-520 bridge and in the express toll lanes on I-405 and SR-167.
I don’t know five people, how do I find a van?
A great tool to find carpool partners is On The Move Bellevue. On The Move Bellevue is a free service provided through a partnership of TransManage, King County Metro and City of Bellevue. On The Move Bellevue has a database of more than 127,000 commuters in Washington. The program generates a list of prospective carpool and vanpool matches based on your search criteria. Once you generate the list, you have the opportunity to privately message the people on your list. We’ve found this program to be very useful, not only for creating new carpools and vanpools, but also to help existing carpools and vanpools recruit new members. It’s easy to setup a trip, but to make it even more simple we have created an infographic outlining the steps.
Another great tool is the King County Metro Riders Wanted Bulletins. Each month King County Metro publishes a list of van groups actively seeking riders. Listed on the March Riders Wanted Bulletin are 21 vans traveling to Bellevue. Be sure to check back each month, as there are over 260 vans traveling to or from Bellevue. In fact there are currently 163 vans traveling to Bellevue and 105 vans originating in Bellevue.
What if I have to work late, or have to leave early due to an emergency, will my van wait?
Van schedules are determined based on each group’s preferences, though it is likely that a van will leave when scheduled. However, when you join a King County Metro Vanpool, you qualify for King County Metro’s guaranteed ride home program called Courtesy Cab. In the event of an emergency such as a family illness, unscheduled overtime, or you fall ill at work, simply take a taxi and KC Metro will reimburse you for you taxi fare.
What if I want to ride my bike as part of my vanpool commute?
King County Metro has bike racks available for all vanpool vehicles, at no extra charge.
Can I stop for groceries on my way home?
All vanpools are given 40 free personal use miles for the group to use each month, so use the van to pick up groceries or even get Aunt Matilda from the airport. If 40 miles are not enough, drivers can purchase additional miles at $.60 per mile which includes the gas card and insurance.
How do I signup?
Feel free to call or email King County Metro Rideshare team. They are available to help you with your vanpool questions and get you started with the application process. firstname.lastname@example.org | 206.625.4500 | 1.800.427.8249
-Jason Hampton, Choose Your Way Bellevue, and Tom Devlin, King County Metro Rideshare Operations