Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Vanpooling-A Green Form of Mass Transit You've Never Considered

(vRide's vanpooling program has a strong impact per van on reducing transit carbon emissions.)

Scooters, buses, hybrids, trolleys, bikes, ect. ect. I've heard many forms of transportation pedaled as more environmentally friendly and until this past Green Umbrella Sustainability Summit I had never heard of Van Pooling. First's let's talk more about the challenge of a sustainable transit system.

Transit is one of the most challenging transitions required of a sustainability society to date. Just in Cincinnati, we have a "Day Time" population of over 1 million yet within the city limits our population is near a third of that. The reasons is because our metropolitan is built on the ability to drive 10, 30, or even over 50 miles to work and then the same distance back utilizing our over loaded traffic infrastructure. With the 4 to 6 day work weeks and suburban sprawl locating commuters further away from their work destination, transit has become a major piece of the pie of annual carbon emissions in America, and the American family budget. According to the annual cost of driving a midsize car is $9,122/year with depreciation, taxes, maintenance, insurance, interest and other figures considered.

 (A pie chart put together by the EPA.)

28% of the pie above is carbon emissions from our transportation system. Raising miles per gallon standards for vehicles may prove to be a powerful tool, along with the advance in green car technology. But still, as we eventually transition to renewable electricity sources such as Solar and Wind energy, we can't honestly expect to support over 300 million American's transit on electric vehicles with renewable energy.  One part of the sustainable transit equation is reducing the amount vehicles on the road. Remember, reduce, reuse, recycle? Let's say recycling could be compared to using renewable energy to power electric cars but reducing is the best and most sustainable part of that phrase which points to the different types of mass transit.

(Stats from vRide's brochure show potential impact of reducing vehicles on the road.)
This blog post isn't to advocate for any specific type of mass transit, but this post is meant to introduce this effective vehicle reducing form of transit into the conversation of more sustainable types of transit. This specific company vRide, which I was again introduced to at the Green Umbrella Sustainability Summit, eliminated 23 million vehicle commuting trips. Imagine if these kind of ideas actually one day made up 5-10% of our transit?

(On Vride's website they even provide a money, fuel, and tree equivalent for your usage)

This type of travel I think would lend itself particularly to people who work within the same office building in a downtown area, and also live within a reasonable distance of each other but rather not be reliant on a bus schedule. Companies like vRide pay the maintenance, and repairs of the vehicle, while the consumer's group split other costs saving the group money, and reducing Co2 emissions at the same time. They also provide a turnkey solution providing the vehicle, maintenance, insurance, etc, so the group simply shares in the monthly cost, which is far lower than driving alone.
I see these types of services more of a privatized mini-bus system in which you know the people you're riding with, you're still reducing the amount of cars on the road, you're not restricted to a bus schedule, and you're still saving money which sounds is a win-win-win to me. Technically vRide's vanpooling business is considered privatized public transportation by local, state, and the federal government. So Federal Employers can receive up to $245 per month to pay for their use of public transportation, whereas private citizens may be able to pay on a "pre-tax" basis of up to $245 per month. This rule applies to all "Qualified Transportation" which includes buses, trains, ferries, and vanpools but not carpools.

These companies are primarily still using gas vehicles but we all know where the future holds for gas. So as our transit system transitions to hybrids and electric cars which will transfer an amazing energy demand from oil to electric grid, presumably powered by renewable energy, we will be faced with the need to have a diverse and accessible mass transit system. Vanpooling offers an avenue for a more user-controlled, and user friendly form of mass transit that could be attractive to people not so sold on or comfortable with mass public transit like light rail, subway systems, and buses. The average household uses 1,143 gallons of gas per year and it is expected that the number of cars and trucks on already crowded highways will double in the next 30 years. So the importance of an highly efficient mass transit system cannot be overstated especially with an ever growing population and currently costly system that is responsible for 28% of Americas annual Co2 emissions and again, according to AAA $9,122 per year for a midsize car. So here's to a piece of the puzzle you've never heard of, and perhaps a more feasible way for you to help reduce your carbon footprint while saving money.

For more information about specifically vRide, contact Don Jenkins at


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