Central Oregon is growing and so is our workforce. With big manufacturing and tech facilities coming to our smaller towns like Prineville and Redmond, more workers commute longer distances each day. Even now many employees of the construction companies building these facilities are commuting from Bend or Redmond to Prineville. Or, as housing costs continue to rise in Bend, it might be more common for people to live in smaller communities and work in Bend.

That’s why vanpooling is a great opportunity for employees and employers! A vanpool typically consists of anywhere between five and 15 people commuting together to and from home and work, often with the participants sharing the responsibility of driving. It can be a very economical way to commute.

How does vanpooling work? Fortunately, all the logistics and vehicle concerns are handled by Enterprise. Through their Commute with Enterprise vanpool services, it’s a breeze to set up and create a consistent vanpool. Enterprise works directly with companies to provide customized and flexible vanpool programs that work specifically with your needs.

First, Commute with Enterprise will with work with an employer for an initial meeting to determine the general needs and desires. They will then create an anonymous scatter map that provides data on where employees live and what shifts they work. That gives them the data to group workers into appropriate vanpools, schedules and determine what type of vehicle is best.

Since each company can have a customized vanpool program, the costs can vary for employers and employees. Some companies choose to provide the vanpool as an employee benefit, covering all the costs of the vanpool. Employees save time and money and this can be an appealing employee benefit that draws and retains workers—something to consider in this tight labor market.

Even if the employees pay for the vanpool, there is still significant cost savings, especially when you consider not just the cost of fuel, but the wear and tear and maintenance burden that you would add to your personal car if you were driving alone each day.

Here’s some perspective on cost, using a vanpool from Bend to Prineville and back each day, with 15 people riding in the van. It’s about 65 miles round trip. Over the course of a month, there are about 20 workdays, so the total mileage is 1,300 miles. At $2.75 per gallon of gas and 20 miles per gallon, that’s 88 gallons of fuel, which is $240 a month. The average cost of the van is about $1250 a month (including insurance and maintenance.) Then the total cost per month is roughly $1500—for a van of 15 commuters, that is only $100 a month!

You can see quickly how a vanpool can save money for your employees, reduce wear and tear on their cars, and provide a reliable way to get to and from work. “Vanpooling is a reliable, low-cost way to rideshare to and from work, and can be an excellent employee benefit. And don’t forget there is an added benefit of freeing up a few parking spaces,” says Kim Curley, Community Outreach Director for Commute Options.

Are you interested in learning more about vanpooling at your company? Contact Kim Curley at Commute Option at kim@commuteoptions.org.

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647. Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend.