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Posted on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

AATA's VanRide service offers new option for carpooling to work in Washtenaw County

By Ryan J. Stanton


GetDowntown Director Nancy Shore drives during a demo of the new VanRide carpooling service now offered by AATA. Designed to help reduce the costs and environmental impacts of commuting, the vans are available for groups of five to seven people on a monthly contract. VanRide currently has five vans on the road, and will acquire 18 more in July.

Jeffrey Smith |

The AATA incorrectly provided the wrong phone number for the VanRide service on Monday. The number has been corrected in this story.

Commuting to work just got easier.

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority on Monday afternoon announced the launch of its new VanRide service, designed specifically for people who want to reduce the costs and hassles of commuting to work in Washtenaw County.

The service is available to anyone traveling to a work site in Washtenaw County, including those who reside outside the county lines.

VanRide charges each vanpool a low monthly fee that includes insurance, maintenance and incident coverage.

For commutes that originate in Washtenaw County, the monthly cost is $79 or $99 per rider, depending on the number of riders in the group. The monthly cost per rider for commutes that originate outside the county is $119 or $139.


Zingerman's co-founder Paul Saginaw laughs while looking inside a new VanRide vehicle offered by AATA during a presentation and demo with employees Monday afternoon at the Zingerman's Bakehouse, 3711 Plaza Drive.

Jeffrey Smith |

Users only need to commit to the service for one month at a time. Primary drivers are able to participate for no charge in exchange for assuming reporting and vehicle care duties.

AATA officials gave a presentation on VanRide on Monday for Zingerman's employees at the company's southside location at 3711 Plaza Drive.

"We’re excited to be a part of the launch of this service that benefits employees, businesses and the community," said Jean Henry, special agent for environmental sustainability for Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. "VanRide is a great way for employees to save money and reduce the environmental impact of work commutes."

VanRide is available to groups of five to seven individuals. Friends or co-workers can form their own vanpool or use the AATA's ride-matching services to find others looking to find riders.

When a group signs up, one person will be chosen as the primary driver. Drivers can alternate with other vanpool members as long as they are pre-approved. Participants in the vanpool can change as long as the minimum ridership requirement of five riders is met.

AATA officials said all capital and operating costs for VanRide will be covered by passenger fees and federal and state grants.

"This is another service that people have requested during our Transit Master Plan outreach sessions with the community, and we're happy to bring it to fruition," said AATA CEO Michael Ford. "This really is public transit for the 21st century."

Justin Fenwick, business transportation coordinator for the AATA, said VanRide is for those who do not live or work along routes that are easily accessed by bus service but still want to take advantage of the benefits of public transportation.

He said the service will help combat the common parking hassles and high gas expense associated with work commutes, while giving participants plenty of flexibility "because it's public transportation that you can take home with you."

SEMCOG estimates that people who use ride-sharing services similar to VanRide can save up to $250 per month compared with commuters who drive solo.

And vanpools whose riders each have an average 40-mile roundtrip commute will reduce their group's carbon emissions by 20 tons annually, according to data from the Center for Transportation Analysis and the Environmental Protection Agency.

AATA officials said VanRide is a continuation of the agency's efforts to help businesses meet their employee transportation needs and corporate sustainability goals.

Businesses can offer VanRide as an employee benefit and tailor the program to fit each employee's needs, choosing to cover all or a portion of the fees.

Though other vanpool services already are available in Washtenaw County, AATA officials said having a locally operated vanpool service through AATA allows for flexibility to meet the needs of commuters and employers and increase the number of vanpools.

Moving from a hands-off approach to something more coordinated — in terms of sales, marketing and vanpool group formation — will allow more control over pricing and requirements for starting and maintaining a vanpool, AATA officials said.

More information on VanRide can be found at or by calling 877-971-POOL.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Peter Eckstein

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 3 a.m.

I generally addmire Ryan Stanton's work, but please no more rewritten puff pieces from AATA. I would support AATA facilitating commuters to van pool, but the article only tells me what a great deal this is for those who might use it, not how much I and other taxpayers will be subsidizing this service. The charter amendment authorizing a transportation millage is for a system in Ann Arbor, not to subsidize those outside the city who want the best of both worlds--low township taxes and high city services. How about a followup, Ryan--are taxpayers subsidizing this project? If so, by how much per van month and per year?

Janet Neary

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

My previous post may not have been clear (it's early in the morning). I do support van pools that bring workers from outside Ann Arbor to an AA business, and van pools that take Ann Arbor residents to outside businesses. What I object to is, for example, a van pool that takes residents of a township to work in Dexter or Ypsi Township. Township residents proudly note their low taxes when selling their homes; let them continue to have the resulting lower services.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

No one word on how AATA is funding this, what the true costs are, what the administrative support costs are, and why other programs currently in operation can't cover the need.

Janet Neary

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

As far as I know, at this point we do not have a county-wide millage supporting AATA and haven't got an approval from the entire county (assuming we do get that approval). I think van pooling is a good thing, but I strongly disapprove of providing any more subsidised services to residents or businesses outside of Ann Arbor.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

The AATA first offered ride-sharing services back in the late 70's during the second oil crisis. Ann Arbor was one of the first cities in the country, along with Seattle and San Francisco, to offer carpool matching,and van pool services to the community. Sharing the ride is a simple cost effective way for people to reduce their commuting expenses and help promote a clean environment.

Dog Guy

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

Another way to waste my (federal and state) tax money with local administrative "costs" tacked on! I can foresee a day when I shall have to pay Michael Ford a per-mile fee to drive my own vehicle.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

A little anti green are we?


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 7:08 a.m.

Glad to know you support people who manage to have jobs and are struggling to simply get to work. Since when is carpooling a bad thing for ANYBODY?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : midnight

Dog Guy...If you ask nicely, maybe they will give you back your $.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 contribution to this plan.

Ricardo Queso

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 10:41 p.m.

One more step towards an economic "Athens on the Huron".