JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The Mass Transit Benefit Program, a community vanpool service, started with one van and six people at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in June 2010.
With word-of-mouth treatment and time, the program added 31 vehicles and continues to grow with an active waiting list.
There are currently 226 people enrolled in the program sponsored by VIA Metropolitan Transit and funded by the Department of Transportation.
"I don't see it stopping," Michael Cox, 902nd Logistics Readiness Squadron vanpool program manager, said.
Open to all active-duty and Department of Defense employees, as well as contractors on a cost-share basis, the program allows participants to commute to work in groups of four to 15 people. In most cases, the riders' only expense is to cover the cost of gas, which can save money on fuel and car repairs from using their own vehicles, Cox added.
For those like Kathleen Weiss, Air Education and Training Command test management psychologist and vanpool captain, fuel savings is a major draw.
"I live in Helotes, so it's a 70-mile round trip to and from work, which would cost me $250 a month," she said. "Now, I only spend about $18-20 per month."
DoD employees who live within a 100-mile radius from Randolph are eligible to participate, with vanpool locations in Blanco, La Vernia, New Braunfels and Somerset to name a few.
Participants ride in late model mini-vans or full-size vans provided by Enterprise Rent-A-Car depending on the size of their group.
To start a vanpool, a minimum of four riders are needed, with a designated vanpool captain and at least two drivers.
Interested applicants are encouraged to seek coworkers who share similar working hours.
However, the VIA vanpool service is flexible and convenient, Cox said.
The vans pick up at centralized locations, depending on the group, as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 8 a.m.
For those concerned about committing to a daily commute, participants are only required to vanpool 50 percent of the working days every month.
Once enrolled, vanpoolers are eligible to sign up for the Certified Auto Ride in an Emergency program, which ensures them limited reimbursable cab rides from their place of employment to their car or home in emergency situations, by visiting http://www.aacog.com/CARE.
An additional benefit to the vanpool service is that, considering the environment, everyone benefits.
"The more people who sign up for the program, the less cars that come in to Randolph," Rhonda Taylor, AETC contract negotiator and vanpool captain, said.
Van maintenance, repair and roadside assistance are covered with insurance paid by VIA.
"Whether you want to drive or be a passenger, you can use the vanpooling time to talk with others or sleep," Weiss said. "As long as you communicate your schedule with your group, the program is very accommodating."
To sign up, call 652-3477 or visit the Randolph Vanpool website on the Air Force portal. Send all questions and completed forms to UDG_Randolph_Vanpool@us.af.mil.