Coconino County’s Citizen Survey confirmed that transportation issues are a top priority for our residents. While the primary focus is on roads and road maintenance, transit is an important piece of the overall transportation picture in our communities. Transit provides a valuable connection to jobs, health care and education.
Coconino County is a member agency of the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA), the entity that operates the Mountain Line, Mountain Link and Mountain Lift systems in Flagstaff. While these programs are primarily in the Flagstaff area, the county worked with NAIPTA to launch a commuter vanpool program two years ago, transporting residents and workers between county destinations.
Vanpools are similar to carpools, but no one is driving their personal vehicle. Through the vanpool program, groups of workers who live in the same area, work similar hours and commute to the same area can lease a vanpool vehicle for their daily commute. This vehicle goes home with the primary driver each night and can even be used for personal errands.
Owning a vehicle is expensive, and vanpools ease that burden for commuters. Through the county’s investment and grant funding, each vanpool has a $400/month subsidy, and the remaining costs are divided among the participants. So, a group of commuters who live in Flagstaff and work in Winslow are each paying about $100-$150 a month, including fuel. This cost is less than half that of driving a personal vehicle, and less than a solo commuter would spend on gas alone.
We already have seven vanpools on the road, and we’re finding that employers and employees are interested in this program for a variety of reasons. Pink Jeep Tours initiated a vanpool to Tusayan in an effort to attract new employees. Access to quality employees is critical in Coconino County and incentives like shared transportation are a valuable tool in employee recruitment. The Flagstaff Area National Monuments’ Green Team helped start a vanpool for its employees at Sunset Crater as a sustainability measure.
Vanpools offer financial benefits and convenience, but they also play a role in keeping personal vehicles off our busy roads and highways. In the first four months of 2016, the vanpool program boasted 900 shared trips, equaling 17,000 miles of shared commuting. This took nearly 38,000 miles off the road and saved nearly 15 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Do you think a vanpool could help your commute or help your business grow? There are still opportunities to start new vanpools and take advantage of the subsidy. Check out mountainlinevanpool.com for more information. Transportation and transit are vital parts of Coconino County’s economy, and we look forward to exploring more opportunities to keep our residents moving. FBN
By Cynthia Seelhammer