Think of vanpools as very large carpools. A vanpool is a group of 6 to 15 people who regularly travel together to work 30 miles or more (roundtrip) in a comfortable van at least 13 days out of the month. The van may be privately owned or leased. Typically, riders pay a monthly fare and maintenance fee, while drivers ride at a discounted rate in exchange for driving and maintaining the van. Employers sometimes offer subsidies covering some or all vanpool costs.
How do I start or join a vanpool?
- Assemble a group of at least 6 interested people who live and work in the same areas with similar work hours
- Decide who will be the primary and alternate drivers, and establish ground rules for the group
- Lease a van and set fares and policies for riders
- If you’re going to serve as the driver, fulfill any legal requirements for driving a vanpool vehicle
- Set your start date and start moving!
Benefits of Vanpooling
- Economical. Shared expenses between vanpool riders. In a typical vanpool, 6 to 15 commuters ride together.
- Eco-friendly. Fewer cars on the road equates to less pollution.
- Comfort. Relax, read, sleep, or work while riding in roomy vans.
- Tax Savings. Federal tax laws allow you to pay vanpool fares from pre-tax dollars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do I meet my vanpool to get to work?
Each vanpool sets its own route and schedule based on the needs of its members. Depending on the residence of each passenger, vanpools may have several pick-up points or one pick-up location. Your group also decides convenient drop-off points near your worksite. In many cases, vanpoolers meet their rides at Park & Ride lots — safe locations where they can leave their vehicles during the workday.
Who drives the van?
The driver is a commuter who volunteers to drive the vanpool daily, often in exchange for a discounted commute. Vanpool drivers must possess a valid driver’s license and may need to meet additional requirements as determined by vanpool vendors.
Where do I get the van?
Most vans are owned or leased by individual commuters, while some are operated by employers. If you do not own a van, Enterprise Rideshare and CalVans have leasing plans available for vanpoolers. These leasing companies can also assist you with forming a vanpool.
Do I have to make a long-term commitment to a vanpool?
In most cases, the driver(s) and riders make a month-to-month commitment. You may leave the vanpool by giving the driver/coordinator the requested amount of notice at any time (usually 30 days).
Vanpooling offers big tax benefits both to employers who save on payroll related taxes and to employees who save on federal income taxes. Contributions that support vanpooling to work are treated by the IRS as qualified transportation fringe benefits — Section 132(f) or “Commuter Tax Benefits”. Here are some resources on this topic that are updated annually to reflect changes in the tax code:
- Commuter Tax Benefits (National Center for Transit Research)
- IRS Final Rule on Section 132(f) Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits
- AMBAG – Offers a vanpool subsidy program in our region including Santa Cruz County. Eligible new vanpools may receive up to $350/month for up to one year.
- Enterprise Rideshare – Leasing and vanpool formation assistance
- CalVans – Leasing and vanpool formation assistance
- Lancer Insurance – Offers insurance for vanpools that are privately owned and operated (not leased)