Van pool goes places the bus system can’t

By Elika Roohi
Sun Star Reporter

With the current local push for sustainability, there has recently been more of a focus on public transportation.

In this spirit, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Transportation has recently implemented a Van Pool program.

A Van Pool group is a group of seven to 15 commuters in a common area.  Each commuter pays a monthly fare.  This fare covers maintenance, mileage, gas, and other expenses.

“Commuting groups make up their own rules,” said Crissy Ditmore, project manager of the Van Pool program in the Fairbanks area.

This means that the group can decide to rotate drivers, or have a designated driver at all times.  If there is one person that drives a majority of the time, then that person is exempt from the monthly fare.

“The ongoing operation is funded completely by passenger fare,” Ditmore said.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” said Adam Barth, Department of Transportation manager.

The Van Pool is contracted through Van Pool Service Incorporated (VPSI), who had Van Pool programs in cities all over the United States and a few in Europe.

“VPSI has been around for about 30 years,” Ditmore said.

The program is very new to Fairbanks.  The Department of Transportation was awarded the contract in May and details are still being worked out.

“We met with UAF last week,” Ditmore said.

“It’s launched, the vans are here.  As soon as we get people that are interested the vans can roll,” Barth said.

According to Ditmore, most of the people using Van Pool as a means of transportation to a college campus aren’t students.

“The majority of vanpoolers are faculty and staff,” she said.

The Anchorage area has had a Van Pool program for the past five years.  So what has taken Fairbanks so long?

“There are lots of challenges,” Barth said.  “We do the best with the funds we get.”

One major challenge the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Transportation faces is  that the Fairbanks community is  spread out.

“It doesn’t make sense to send a bus all the way out to Chena Hot Springs Road for five people,” Barth said.

Starting a Van Pool program would be able to serve people in remote areas where a city bus would be unable to go.

“That’s why they went to a contract with the Van Pool program,” Ditmore said.

The Department of Transportation hopes the Van Pool program will be able to help address the needs of rural commuters.

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