2012-03-22 / News

State offers vanpooling for local commuters

BY GARY GOULD
810-452-2650 • ggould@mihomepaper.com

DAVISON TWP. — With gas prices hovering close to $4 a gallon, some people are looking for cheaper ways to get to work — especially when they have to commute more than 20 miles daily.

A group of local residents are participating in a vanpool, riding from Meijer, 8089 Lapeer Rd., in Davison Township to downtown Lansing, Monday through Friday.

Michivan provides vans for five or more individuals wishing to vanpool to their work at reasonable prices, according to Debbie Brown, an employee of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority who uses the van from Meijer.

“There are seven of us from the area who benefit from this service,” she said. “I am expecting there are many more who may not even know about this service that is subsidized with State of Michigan dollars.”

In order to receive a van from Michivan there needs to be a minimum of five people committed to sharing one van — a driver and four riders. The driver must submit a driver’s license and personal auto insurance information to Michivan to verify they are indeed an insured licensed driver without serious citations — such as drunk or reckless driving.

Brown said the driver/lease holder of the van does not pay a monthly “seat fee” however, they are responsible for driving, refueling, and regular maintenance.

A coupon book is provided so the driver just has to go to authorized service providers and provide them with a coupon. Michivan handles the payments.

Van’s are fairly new and are swapped out at 125,000 miles.

Brown said the cost to partic- ipate in the Michivan program ranges from $72-$252 per month depending on the size of the van and distance traveled. This payment can be made electronically each month to Michivan.

As more riders join the van, the price decreases, she said. Ideally a driver wants to have a 15 passenger van to keep the riders fees down as much as possible.

The total projected cost of gas per month is divided up equally among the driver and riders. If the cost is $490 per month and there are seven riders, each pays $70 payable to the driver at the beginning of each month, said Brown.

“Prorating is not generally done because it would be a financial nightmare due to sick days, vacation days and adjusted work schedules,” she said.

The van leaves at 6 a.m. in order to arrive in Lansing at 7 a.m. It leaves Lansing at 4 p.m. and arrives back at Meijer at 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Brown said she was trying to find a carpool that traveled from the Flint area to downtown Lansing and stumbled upon the website www.michivan.com.

“I then contacted the driver of the van that best suited my schedule and he provided me with the background on how the program worked,” she said. “Where we meet, what time we leave and return. It was pretty scary at first not to have my own personal vehicle with me, but then after a week of using the service, my fears were put to rest.”

She has been using the service for 11 months — nine months as a rider and two months as a driver.

The cost for one vehicle to travel from Davison to Lansing each month averages about $400 — not accounting for recent hikes in gas prices. Brown said riders normally pay $145 (seat fee) plus $65 (gas fee) per month. A savings of about $200 per month and they save wear and tear on their own personal vehicle.

Brown said one question many potential users of the service have is what to do if they need to come home early.

She said there are many public transportation agencies throughout Michigan (CATA, MTA) that provide a service called “Emergency Ride Home.” Should a rider need to come home immediately during the day or work overtime, a car rental company (Hertz, Avis) will provide a car for the rider’s use at no charge for 24 hours. A supervisor must sign a voucher verifying the situation warrants a rental car.

For Brown, the service has been beneficial and is something she said she’d like to see grow in Michigan.

“I intend to continue using the Michivan for many years to come,” she said.

Details: Visit www.michivan.com/2012% 20Pricing%20Schedule.pdf.

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