New vanpool service an inviting option for daily commuters

Monday, July 3, 2017

Short commuting times was one of the advantages to living in McCook during an economic study a few years back, and that’s true. A lot of us live only a few minutes from our place of work.

But a lot of us don’t. Many farm families depend on income from a job in town, and that’s especially true if it comes with family health insurance.

Small-town two-income families may have trouble finding employment for both spouses, which can result in long commutes.

Travel time of an hour each way isn’t unusual for big-city commuters, and while most of us couldn’t imagine commuting from, say, Benkelman to McCook, or McCook to North Platte, a surprising number of people put in that many miles each day.

Odd schedules, kids’ school and sports schedules can be a complication for individuals, but many workers have regular schedules at major employers such as Parker Hannifin, Valmont, Community Hospital or the schools.

That type of employee might be interested in a new statewide program announced by the Nebraska Department of Roads — Now the Nebraska Department of Transportation — last week.

The state has contracted with Enterprise Rideshare to bring a statewide vanpool program to Nebraska.

A vanpool comprises a group of commuters who agree to share their ride to work in a vehicle large enough to accommodate six to 15 people, driven by a volunteer within the commuter group.

Enterprise Rideshare provides vans equipped with Wi-Fi, satellite radio, 24-hour roadside assistance, auto liability insurance and scheduled maintenance to ensure safety.

Vanpoolers also will have access to a guaranteed ride-home program ensuring they can leave work at unscheduled times worry free.

Officials say an average commute of 100 miles a day could save individuals up to $10,000 a year in gas, vehicle maintenance and depreciation.

Some employers may also offer a pre-tax payroll deduction for mass transit allowable under IRS Tax Code 132(f).

In addition, almost all major auto insurance companies offer significant discounts to drivers who designate their vehicle as “recreation only,” which means using their vehicle for everything but driving to work.

Anyone who has spent rush hour driving between Lincoln and Omaha can appreciate the advantage of replacing nearly-empty private cars with larger vehicles and more passengers.

It remains to be seen, however, whether demand will be high enough in rural areas to establish such programs, but the federal funds are awarded so subsidize eligible vanpools in both rural and urban areas.

“The statewide vanpool program will provide a valuable option in rural areas where public transportation is often limited, as well as in urban areas where traffic congestion is a problem and parking is limited,” said Kari Ruse, NDOR Transit Manager.

Traffic studies show that US6-34 between Culbertson and McCook is one of the busiest in Southwest Nebraska, and roads to Indianola and beyond, south and north of McCook are busy as well.

It looks like a vanpool program is an intriguing option for anyone who faces a long daily commute. Let’s hope it can have an impact in our area.

More information is available from Kari Ruse at NDOR, (402) 479-4694/

To form a vanpool employees and employers can also contact Cynthia Kinning, Enterprise Sales Manager, at (402) 659-6027.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: