Save Money, Share a Ride with a Vanpool

Faculty, staff can form group rideshares across the Triangle

Laura Alvis, sitting and in the orange sweater, poses with her vanpool group before leaving for work in Durham. The group vanpools from Mebane to Duke each day. Photo courtesy of Laura Alvis.
Laura Alvis, sitting and in the orange sweater, poses with her vanpool group before leaving for work in Durham. The group vanpools from Mebane to Duke each day. Photo courtesy of Laura Alvis.

A penny saved is a penny earned - and Laura Alvis is saving a lot of pennies.

Since last July, she and seven other Duke employees have commuted together to work in a van from Mebane. Each pays $85 a month to ride in a Triangle Transit van with fuel and insurance covered. Alvis estimates she saves about $150 a month since she's not driving alone to work at Hock Plaza.

"I was paying $60 a week to put gas in my car and had to get an oil change every two months," said Alvis, manager of financial reporting in the Medical Center. "Now I can see my car lasting a lot longer because it sits at home all day instead of racking up miles."

Across Duke, about 40 employees participate in the Triangle Transit vanpool program to get to work each day from across the Triangle. Currently, there are two vanpool groups forming from North Raleigh and the organizers are seeking riders. Employees can also form a new vanpool group at any time.

Duke offers some incentives for getting a vanpool on the road. In addition to paying for the $300 deposit for each group containing at least half Duke employees, Duke allows participants to pay monthly fees through pre-tax payroll deduction. Each van gets its own free parking spot at Duke. Participants also have access to GoTriangle's Emergency Ride Home program and receive two free parking passes from Duke each month to use on a day they need to drive themselves to work.

"Vanpooling is a wonderful way for long-distance commuters who aren't on a direct transit route to use alternative transportation to get to work," said Alison Carpenter, manager of Duke's transportation demand management program. "Not only do vanpoolers save money and prevent wear and tear on their vehicles, they also create lasting friendships with neighbors and colleagues."

To start a new vanpool, riders must:

  • Get at least seven people (a driver and six riders) who live and work nearby and share approximately the same work hours. Duke GreenRide and Triangle Transit can help you find commuting partners.
  • Begin or end one leg of the trip in Wake, Durham or Orange counties.
  • Select a primary driver and backup driver. Determine pickup and drop off locations and times. For 12-person vanpools, the primary driver doesn't pay a monthly fee.
  • Complete an application form.

Having a group to ride with has benefitted Debra Smith, a staff assistant with Employee Occupational Health and Wellness at Duke. She rides in a vanpool from Oxford each week with seven other Duke employees. She drives the van two days and on her "off" days she'll read, chat with others or even take a nap on the way to work.

"It's awesome because you get to sit back and enjoy the ride," said Smith, who said she saves about $30 a month through vanpooling "I love it because I save so much money. I'm never giving it up."