Building Barriers Against a Pandemic

Vanpool is just like carpooling, but with a few more people who share the ride to work in a van provided by Spokane Transit. Vanpool Coordinator Emily Courchaine excels at connecting these commuters to their work sites, either by finding existing Vanpools for people to join or by helping them set up new ones. 

Unfortunately, since the coronavirus outbreak began, maintaining those connections has proven challenging. Businesses have closed, people have been furloughed, and many employees are opting to work from home. As a result, Vanpool’s ridership has declined, but Courchaine is optimistic that the trend is temporary and will turn around once people start returning to work.

“In the meantime, we are here to support our Vanpool clients in any way we can,” Courchaine said.

To date, that support has included an array of program enhancements, starting with new onboard safety measures which were implemented early on to help safeguard Vanpool members against COVID-19.

“People are required to wear face coverings while on the vans,” Courchaine said. “We also thoroughly disinfect the vehicles as they are brought in for service and supply each Vanpool group with disinfectant wipes for onboard use between service calls.”

Vanpoolers concerned about social distancing requirements can request a larger van in order to give their members more room to spread out. They can also opt to split their group into two Vanpools. This is another great option, especially since, during COVID-19, the number of people required for both new and existing Vanpools has been temporarily reduced.

The STA Board of Directors is definitely showing their support for Vanpool. At the July board meeting, members approved a groundbreaking initiative spearheaded by Vanpool Manager Greg Garrett that greatly simplifies the program’s fare structure. Moving forward, each Vanpooler will pay a flat fare based solely on the length of their commute.

“STA is the first agency in Washington to offer this type of fare system,” Courchaine said. “Now everyone’s fare will be affordable and consistent and I’m really excited to tell people that.”

Since August 1, if a Vanpool operates within Spokane County, each member pays $60 a month. If it commutes to Kootenai or Stevens County the fare is $80 and commuting to any other county is $100.

“Knowing exactly how much the fare will be every month, will help people budget accordingly,” Courchaine said. “I expect the straight-forward and affordable pricing will be a great incentive for anyone thinking about giving Vanpool a try.”

Another important consideration is that Vanpool is a great way for people to reduce their carbon footprint.

“When you have even 10-12 people driving long distances to work every day, it produces a lot of emissions,” Courchaine said. “Sharing the ride reduces that impact immensely.”

With her sights set on the future of Vanpool, post COVID-19, Courchaine is working to spread the word about all the many benefits Vanpool has to offers commuters.

“One person recently told me he had been Vanpooling for nearly 20 years. He was very proud of that,” Courchaine said. “My goal is to hear that same story from many more people in the years to come.”

Calculate your carbon footprint here.

See how much you could save by joining an STA Vanpool here.

Want to learn more? Call 509-326-POOL or email STAVanpool@spokanetransit.com.

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