Emory Report

 June 23, 1997

 Volume 49, No. 34

Think carpool, only cheaper-
vanpools latest commuter option

Community Services has launched a pilot vanpool program. A vanpool consists of 10 to 15 people who ride together to and from work in a leased van.

Metro VanPool, the company that administers Cobb County's vanpool program and contracts with area employers such as Georgia Pacific, has been chosen to run Emory's pilot effort. Metro VanPool is a subsidiary of VPSI, a company headquartered in Michigan that operates vanpools in 26 cities nationwide and 13 Georgia counties.

Emory employees will work directly with Metro VanPool, which will assist with vanpool organizing and logistics. Community Services will provide rider matches to link potential commuters who live in the same area. "The majority of our employees live in a pie-shaped wedge northeast of Emory," explained Cheryle Crumley, manager of alternative transportation. She hopes to gain a slice of that pie by targeting employees who live in the Gwinnett County zip codes of 30244 and 30278 for the pilot program.

Perks in store for vanpool riders include free campus parking and individual subsidies of $38.25 per qualified employee each month. That dollar amount is the same as the MARTA subsidy, said Crumley. "As far as the University is concerned, we don't care if you ride MARTA or vanpool-the cost is the same." Vanpool subsidies will be in the form of "commuter bucks" that Community Services will purchase through Metro VanPool and distribute to participating employees monthly.

Vanpooling is not free, but neither is solo commuting. The cost of a vanpool commute is based on the number of miles the vanpool travels each month. Community services estimates the cost of a solo commute of about 500 miles per month to be $43 including the cost of gas and parking (Zone 2 with deck access). Alternatively, with the individual subsidy factored in, vanpooling costs about $38 a month for 10 people and $16 per month for 14. Vanpoolers may save even more with personal insurance discounts for not driving to work and less wear and tear on their cars.

While still a relatively new idea here, vanpools have really caught on in cities such as Washington and Boston. Participants have a great deal of autonomy in structuring their vanpools, said Ryan Robison, Metro VanPool project manager. Usually, it works something like this: with Robison's help, riders meet to choose a driver or drivers (there can be up to five-one each day) and to discuss logistics such as pick-up locations, recordkeeping duties and collecting fees. Even small details, such as what radio station riders will listen to, are ironed out. "Democracy rules, logic will dictate," said Crumley.

The primary driver usually rides for free. "Drivers can take the van home to use personally with certain limitations on mileage," said Robison. Riders are responsible for preventive and routine maintenance to the van, according to Robison, but the company pays, usually in the form of vouchers that can be used at national car repair chains. The company also pays for auto insurance.

As with the carpooling program, vanpoolers are guaranteed a ride home in case of emergency. Riders can use the most expedient means necessary and will be reimbursed, said Robison, even if that means renting a car or hiring a cab. "It's not a problem," he stressed. If riders feel that vanpooling will not work for them in the long run, they can easily opt out. "One of the nice things is that no one's locked into a long-term lease," Robison said. "It's relatively risk-free." Leases are renewed month to month.

"We think we have all the bases covered," said Crumley. For more information about the pilot vanpool program, call Community Services at 727-PARK.

Emory picks up the PACE for alternative transportation

Emory's commuting programs won the first annual Partnering Atlanta's Commuting Employees (PACE) award given by Commute Connections, a branch of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The PACE is awarded to "companies that have implemented outstanding employee commute options programs and met their program goals," according program literature. Emory was honored in the category of large employers (1,000 or more employees). Program organizers cited the University's efforts to reduce congestion on Clifton Corridor by offering subsidized MARTA passes and free or reduced parking to employees who carpool.

Cheryle Crumbley, manager of alternative transporation and a large part of that effort, was given the "Motorvator of the Year" award, which recognizes an individual in the metro Atlanta business community who has worked creatively to develop, implement and encourage an effective commuting options program.

-Stacey Jones

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