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Vanpool program could save commuters money
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Does the long commute to work empty your wallet too often? Do you wish you could have a conversation with someone other than the radio to make the trip less boring?  If so, you’re in luck. The Coastal Regional Commission has partnered with
a vanpool service to help area
commuters who want to save money and build camaraderie in the process.
With funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation, the CRC launched its Coastal Georgia Regional Vanpool Program using the services of VPSI, Inc.  Incentives are available for trips that begin or end in the 10-county coastal Georgia region, from Screven County in the north to Camden in the south, as far west as Long County and as far east as Chatham.
Through VPSI, the CRC works with area commuters who may travel at least 15 miles one way, or spend at least 30 minutes on the road, to build vanpool groups and set up packages that suit riders’ needs.
“The idea was conceived about three or four years ago, but it’s just come to fruition in the last few months,” program coordinator Jon Watkins said.
Watkins said he’s ready to talk to interested parties to help drum up support for the program and to help businesses identify which of their employees can benefit from participating in a vanpool.
The CRC also helps place riders in the best vehicle for their needs, helps determine the best commuter route and provides orientation for the drivers, who are part of the vanpool group and volunteer to take the wheel.
Cathleen McIntyre, a VPSI area manager based in Richmond, Virginia, said the program is also supplemented by federal funding that helps address operating costs and provides the commission with the ability to assist low-income riders with participating in the program.
“There is a cost associated with it, but everyone is eligible,” McIntyre said.
User agreements for vanpool services are set on a monthly basis, and each rider can expect to pay between $80 and $100 per month for the service, which includes comprehensive insurance. Qualified low-income riders may pay between $60 and $80 per month.
Prices can expect to fluctuate with such variables as the cost of gas, but overall the value is significant, McIntyre said; when comparing the monthly rate to the cost of fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance associated a single driver’s long commute, the benefits are noticeable. “The cost savings versus driving alone is pretty big,” she said.
She added that the service could be particularly beneficial to federal employees because the government provides up to $230 per month in tax-free benefits to cover the cost of public transportation, which includes vanpool services. “One of our key markets is Fort Stewart,” McIntyre said. “I think it’s important for these folks to know what benefits are available and to use them.”
McIntyre said her company has groups that have been commuting together for 25 years. “People join for the savings, but they stay for the friendships,” she said.
For more information on the Coastal Georgia Regional Vanpool Program or to sign up, contact Watkins at 912-262-2833. For information about VPSI, contact McIntyre at 804-740-3010.

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