If you’ve been in a vanpool, you know it takes some coordination to situate arrival of the van, who’s driving, who has paid, what time the van will leave and so forth. Constant communication is key. Two vanpoolers saw an opportunity to communicate better with fellow vanpoolers and make it easier for vanpoolers to organize all of their trip information into an app. Read their story and how the app is helping vanpools today.
Image from Vanpooler.com
From King County Metro rideshare services: This month’s #FeaturedCommuterGroup is a little different. There are no tales of daring rescues or dramatic first aid stories. But if you have a commuter van with full ridership that you try to coordinate on a regular basis, this story could be the best one yet! While we are understandably proud of the service we provide, we do know it can be challenging to coordinate riders and keep everyone on the same page. Well, as the commercial says, now “there’s an app for that!”
Jignesh is part of a large, long-running vanpool group with more than 20 members assigned to a 15 passenger van. When the group was smaller, they used WhatsApp for messaging functionality but as the group grew in size, it became harder to keep track of who was riding, who was driving, who was out for the day, and who was simply running late. He recalls a time when a driver miscounted the number of riders for the day. Because they thought they had everyone on board and left, “The poor fellow had to drive by himself in a non-carpool lane and was late for his morning meeting.”
Enter Eric and Chen. With four years of vanpooling between them (and similar experiences with WhatsApp), they were facing the same challenges with keeping track of ridership. However, they decided to tackle the problem. “Our group used to use WhatsApp to coordinate our daily vanpool ridership. But it is ad-hoc and there is no easy way to see who is coming and who is not unless one reads all the messages. So we thought, why not create an app to solve these problems?” After working on it for three months, the Vanpooler app was born.
So, what can the app do? Essentially, rather than relying on one person to keep track of every rider in the van, it allows every group member to indicate their daily ridership through a 1-click process with quick, preset messages such as ‘On my way’ or ‘5 minutes late’. Seat reservations are done automatically to prevent overbooking and there is no need to type while driving. Additionally, group members may be called and departure time reminders can be set through the app.
The Vanpooler app is available for Apple and Android. Though it has been out for less than a month, there are already about 10 vanpool groups using it on a daily basis. Feedback has been very positive with Eric and Chen responding as quickly as they are able to enhancement requests. For example, they just added the ability to reserve a seat the night prior to the trip and push notification for chat messages is also now available. They also plan to add enhancements to support bookkeepers and to allow commuters to search for and join vanpool groups in the near future. “We created Vanpooler to solve our own daily commuting issue but seeing it also benefiting other vanpool users made us feel really proud,” said Eric and Chen.
With the many commuter choices available, we are always thankful for our customers and here in Rideshare Operations, we are very excited to be able to share a tool that may help make a vanpool commute even better. Our customers help make us the biggest and best commuter van program around and the Vanpooler app is just one more fantastic reason why!