AATA's VanRide service offers new option for carpooling to work in Washtenaw County
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
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.
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
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 www.MyVanRide.org or by calling 877-971-POOL.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.