There is a new transportation solution available for commuters across Deschutes County. Longtime Central Oregon transportation options providers Commute Options, Cascades East Transit and Commute with Enterprise have launched a regional vanpooling program. Two vans hit the road in June, one from Bend to Crescent, and the other from Redmond to Black Butte Ranch.
Newly formed vanpools qualify for a $500 subsidy per route, which is paid by Commute Options. Five or more workers who share a similar commute and schedule can create a vanpool. Each rider pays a set fee per month, which covers all costs including gas, insurance and repairs. Some employers opt to pay the remaining fee, creating a free ride for their workers.
The program launches as the City of Bend finds transportation and congestion ranking among top community concerns, the cost of housing in Central Oregon skyrocketing and large employers facing challenges filling open jobs. Shared transportation options, like vanpooling, can help people get to and from the worksite, making it an excellent employee retention and recruitment tool.
While many office employees are still working from home, many are heading back to the worksite, and millions of essential workers across the United States continue to commute to work. From manufacturing and construction to food production and healthcare, these employees have kept critical operations and services running throughout the pandemic. With COVID-19 vaccinations on the rise, commuters are starting to loosen their social circles, which means vanpooling is the right fit for many crews.
Vanpooling is an excellent transportation option for commuters who aren’t able to utilize Cascades East Transit’s (CET) public transportation system, notes Derek Hofbauer, CET’s outreach and engagement administrator. “We are excited to collaborate with Commute Options on the regional vanpooling pilot program to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips in our region and help commuters save time and money.”
In addition, all new Commute Options vanpools will receive a Complete Clean Starter Kit to disinfect vehicles and help keep passengers safe, even while COVID-19 risks subside. Commuters interested in joining the program can visit commuteoptions.org/vanpool to learn more.
Businesses and commuters interested in participating in receiving subsidies through the vanpool pilot project can contact Commute Options for more details.