The rideshare space has evolved tremendously over the last couple of years, fueled by new market entrants and an abundance of media coverage around technology-driven carpooling as a concept. But another segment of the commuter space which has been discreetly growing the most in adoption, not just within the rideshare space but amongst all transit categories overall, has been vanpooling. So, what is 'vanpooling'? Let's take a closer look.
What is Vanpooling?
Vanpooling, as the name suggests is the idea of sharing a van or a similar vehicle, slightly bigger than a car but smaller than a bus, with others going in the same direction. Group sizes typically vary between 5 to 15 people, with most common vanpool groups consisting of employees headed to their work location.
Vanpool's Resilience to COVID-19
We observed that one of your biggest concerns in the last two years of this never-ending pandemic is finding innovative methods to future-proof your operations. Vanpooling has proven to be the strongest contender for the resiliency title, as validated by the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT). ACT analyzed the National Transit Database (NTD)'s data trends for 2020, the year when it all began (it does seem like a long time ago now, right?!)
A few noteworthy highlights from ACT's analysis are:
1. Highest Customer Retention – Agencies running vanpool programs during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 managed to retain 90% of their vanpool customers compared to 62% and 48.7% of their customers for traditional transit options like the bus or heavy rail.
2. Highest Sustained Traffic – This was a clear indication of passengers' changing preferences for a decade since 2011, as vanpools provided the highest sustained Passenger Miles Travelled (PMT) – 95.7%, compared to any other transit mode.
3. Save a Dollar, Save the Planet – Vanpools were beneficial not just for people but also for the planet, wherein they helped reduce 406,136 tons of CO2 from contaminating our air further.
Is Vanpooling expensive?
On the contrary! Vanpooling is one of the most affordable options and has the lowest operating cost per hour in the entire transit space. Agency-operating costs for vanpooling are a mere $36.18/hour compared to $245.63/hour for operating a commuter bus for the same duration. You can also offset your costs with formula funding for running vanpool programs.
Is this a good time for my agency to get into this space?
If you haven't already ventured into vanpooling, a mix of macro-economic and industry-specific events have made this the perfect time to consider entering this space.
1. Constantly Rising Gas Prices – This is a major factor which perpetually chips away at our savings and gets amplified by triggers like the recent Ukrainian crisis. Data from the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and American Public Transit Association (APTA) shows that rising gas prices are proportional to a larger number of people taking public transit.
2. Spike in Inflation – Even without accounting for the Ukrainian crisis, as of March 2022, consumer inflation in the US soared to a 40-year high, propelled by surging costs for gas, food & housing, and drove people towards more affordable & flexible transportation options.
3. Benefits and Incentives – With a renewed focus on sustainability and reducing greenhouse emissions, Vanpools are eligible for a wide variety of benefits and financial incentives. Depending on local & state regulations, your vanpool customers could be eligible for perks like the use of up to $280 in tax-free or employer-subsidized transit benefits to pay for their monthly commute, toll-free travel, HOV lane usage, and many more.
4. 'Dispersed' Future of Transit – With the rise of on-demand services in the last couple of years, consumers' expectations have shifted from working their schedules around transit service times to transportation options available when they need them. The market is ripe to tap into customers looking for guaranteed, affordable alternatives to ride hailing options provided by the likes of Uber and Lyft.
Who would my agency's Vanpool customers be?
A major chunk of your customers would be companies, who are constantly looking for good commuter programs to offer their employees fast & safe ways to get to work, while parallelly reducing their tax bills and the humongous parking costs they have paid for in the past.
Companies' search for safe, reliable, and hygienic transportation for their employees intensifies especially when they are located in areas far away from existing transit networks or when the safety, health and hygiene of their employees are critical factors in ensuring business continuity. Typical examples of these would be pharmaceutical plants or manufacturing facilities located far away from city limits.
Does my agency need to buy the vans?
Not necessarily! Vanpool program implementations are flexible and account for your agency's needs and size. Your agency could own the entire fleet by repurposing existing vehicles or procuring new ones for this purpose. Another option is to outsource the operational part of the program to third-party contractors, while you retain the supervisory and reporting aspects like vehicle tracking and submitting S-10 and NTD reports to receive government grants and subsidies for facilitating vanpool programs.
How do I implement a Vanpool program for my agency?
As the agency, you would be primarily acting as the facilitator for vanpool programs. Very broadly, here's a getting started guide:
1. Start off by advertising your vanpooling facility on your agency website & apps for crowdsourcing the vehicles, helping your customers discover others going in the same direction. TripSpark's ridesharing software and app - RidePro, whitelabelled in your agency's name, makes getting started easier and allows you to showcase your own brand.
2. Next, you could forge partnerships with companies to promote this facility within their company. You could even create restricted vanpools for sponsoring companies or Transportation Management Associations (TMAs).
3. Lastly, depending on how you're implementing the program, the backend would involve managing the pooling mechanism (route, roster, waitlist, application), vehicle maintenance, plus billing & fare collection to facilitate the whole operation.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Don't worry! With the help of the right Rideshare Management Software like RidePro, you could get a vanpool program up and running in no time! RidePro can help you not just build a vanpool program from scratch but also scale it dynamically as your operations grow multifold.
From what the current scenario looks like, a successful vanpool program will not only enable you to stay in-tune with your customers' needs but will also be a significant tool for agencies like yours in bullet-proofing your operations against disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
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