Cut Commuting Costs with a Vanpool

Faculty, staff can save money and make travel more relaxing

Duke employees Beverly Foushee and Lisa Powell join this vanpool group to ride into Durham from Roxboro. Photo courtesy of Beverly Foushee.
Duke employees Beverly Foushee and Lisa Powell join this vanpool group to ride into Durham from Roxboro. Photo courtesy of Beverly Foushee.

It’s a straight shot for Lisa Powell to travel from her home to work at Duke’s Children’s Health Center, needing only a few turns along the way.

The only problem is the one-way drive is 53 miles from South Boston, Va. to Durham. Lucky for her, she only drives about 20 of them.

For nearly 16 years, Powell has taken advantage of a unique alternative transportation option, driving from Virginia to meet other Duke employees in Roxboro before hopping in a 13-person vanpool and traveling to campus, where she’s dropped off at her office on Erwin Road. 

“My side of the commute is pretty laid back and there’s not a lot of traffic,” said Powell, an accountant at the Children’s Health Center. “But then I ride in my vanpool and get a break from dealing with traffic so I can read, sleep or listen to books on tape.”

She said being part of the group saves her at least $5 a day in gas, before cutting out the cost of a parking permit because vans park for free on campus, plus any wear and tear to her car.

Currently, five vanpools serve stops at the University and Health System, helping 28 employees cut down on travel costs and adding free time to their day since they aren’t behind the wheel. Of those groups, vanpools from Oxford, Knightdale, Raleigh and Roxboro all currently have openings for new members, and faculty and staff can always visit the GoTriangle and Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) websites for updated vacancies. 

New vanpools can be setup at any time. 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 RidePost and SharetheRideNC can help you find commuting partners.
  • Begin or end one leg of the trip in Wake, Durham or Orange counties for Triangle Transit vanpools, or begin in the Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point) area for PART groups.
  • Select a primary driver and backup driver. Determine pickup and drop off locations and times. Passengers share a monthly cost to pay for the vanpool. For 12-person vanpools, the primary driver doesn't pay a monthly fee.
  • Complete an application form available from GoTriangle or PART.

To incentivize new vanpools, Duke will pay a $300 deposit (if required) if 50 percent of passengers are Duke employees and offer a $10 per month, per person discount. Faculty and staff can also earn rewards through GoTriangle’s GoPerks program.

“Joining a vanpool is a great way to cut down on travel costs, but these additional incentives can really make it worth your while,” said Alison Carpenter, manager of Duke’s transportation demand management program.

Beverly Foushee, who drives the van Lisa Powell rides in, has been vanpooling to Duke for 26 years, saving thousands of dollars in the process. Right now, she estimates she’s cut about $150 a month between saving on gas and maintenance for her car which she likes to use toward family activities.

“This can be a big money saver,” said Foushee, a staff assistant for Division of Medical Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics. “Plus, you get dropped off at your office and we don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot in lots that are full. All that’s provided for us is pretty wonderful.”