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5 Vanpools and Buspools OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY Vanpools generally consist of 5 to 15 people, including a volunteer driver-member, that elect to commute together in a van. Vanpooling is distinguished from carpooling not only by size, but also by the greater degree of management and institutional involvement required. Meanwhile, buspool programs offer a neighborhood based demand responsive service similar to vanpooling, but with professional or at least appropriately licensed bus drivers, and using buses, mini-buses or large vans. The information presented here in Chapter 5 on vanpools and buspools covers both traveler response and implications for program success. Within this "Overview and Summary" section: "Objectives of Vanpool and Buspool Programs" outlines the general focus and purposes of vanpooling and buspooling. "Types of Vanpool and Buspool Programs" defines vanpool and buspool programs and iden- tifies the different approaches to organizing vanpools. "Analytical Considerations" outlines the state of knowledge about vanpooling and buspool- ing, and the implications for quantitative analysis. "Traveler Response Summary" highlights the travel demand findings for vanpooling and bus- pooling. The reader should first absorb the context provided by the first three sections of this "Overview and Summary" before attempting use of either the "Traveler Response Summary" or the remainder of the chapter. Following the four-part "Overview and Summary," greater depth and detail are provided: "Response to Vanpool and Buspool Programs" provides various examples. "Underlying Traveler Response Factors" examines the effects of travel times, pricing, and a number of related tangibles and intangibles on the decision to vanpool in particular. "Related Information and Impacts" quantifies vanpooling and buspooling as best can be done, looks at vanpooling trends, examines rider survey information, identifies indicators of market potential, and explores cost implications, among other subjects. "Case Studies" covers four illustrative vanpooling applications, one including buspooling. This chapter has some overlap with several others. Chapter 2, "HOV Facilities," Chapter 3, "Park and Ride/Pool," and Chapter 11, "Transit Information and Promotion," have relevance. Chapter 6, "Demand Responsive/ADA," covers dial-a-ride, a complementary form of transit service for low density areas that can address non-work travel in particular. Chapter 12, "Transit Pricing and 5-1

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Fares," and Chapter 19, "Employer and Institutional TDM Strategies," contain examples of van- pooling as a component of travel demand management (TDM) programs.1 Objectives of Vanpool and Buspool Programs The primary focus of vanpool and buspool programs has typically been provision of an attractive door-to-door or neighborhood-based paratransit alternative to the private automobile for home- to-work travel. Vanpool or buspool service may be designed to provide formalized, higher capac- ity ridesharing where conventional transit service does not exist and is unlikely to be cost-effective. Alternatively, vanpooling or buspooling may be designed to supplement existing fixed route tran- sit services, or made part of a paratransit package to replace those that are particularly unattrac- tive or costly to operate. The general objectives are to satisfy work commute travel requirements more efficiently than can be done with either low-occupancy auto usage on the one hand, or thinly spread conventional bus services on the other, and to do so without severely restricting personal mobility or incurring unduly high operating subsidies. Specific intended benefits to employers and the general public include reduction of automobile congestion around major employment centers, reduction of parking require- ments at employment sites, conservation of energy, and reduction of air pollution. Experience sug- gests that vanpooling may also be considered a strategy in reserve for fuel shortage emergencies. Intended user benefits for the journey-to-work trip include low costs, acceptable travel time, abil- ity to read and relax, and convenience. Increased use of vanpooling as a transit agency operating mode is resulting in expansion of pro- gram objectives beyond their original focus. A circa-2001 transit provider vanpooling survey sug- gests increasing use of the vanpool paradigm to meet needs for transporting disadvantaged commuters, often to sheltered workshops, and serving welfare-to-work transportation require- ments (Higgins and Rabinowitz, 2002). Types of Vanpool and Buspool Programs Vanpool and buspool programs focus on serving specific home to work travel markets. They are demand responsive in the sense that the route of the vanpool or buspool is custom-tailored to the individual riders, and may change in response to rider turnover. They are typically not demand responsive in a real-time mode as presently constituted, although that would not appear to be out of the question with advancing Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies. The vast majority of vanpool and buspool programs could be considered subscription services, wherein each commuter essentially rents a seat on the van or bus on a monthly or sometimes weekly basis, with no refund for times when the service is not used. This approach allows the service provider, be it an employer, an individual, or a transit operator or other third-party agency, to be assured of a steady income. In some cases provisions are made for vacations, part-time riding, or even trip-based fares. Part-time or trip-based arrangements are rare although possibly growing in prevalence. 1 Results of vanpool fare elasticity research (Wambalaba, Concas, and Chavarria, 2004), U.S. Federal Transit Administration National Transit Database (NTD) reports through 2002, and other selected post-1999 sources have been drawn upon to update a number of Chapter 5 findings as of this TCRP Report 95 republication. Nevertheless, Chapter 5 users should consult Chapter 19 for information updates presented in the specific context of overall employer and institutional TDM strategies. 5-2

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Vanpool Programs Vanpools have traditionally served commuters whose residences are geographically grouped and whose common destination can be served with 7 to 15 passenger vans (VPSI, 1999). Increased use of mini-vans and legislation such as Washington State's Commute Trip Reduction Act of the early 1990s, which established a vanpool ridership minimum of 5 persons, has broadened this range to 5 to 15 passengers (Enoch, 2003). Usually, the van is driven by a member of the pool who under- takes this and related responsibilities in exchange for a free ride. Passengers generally pay a monthly charge for the service. There are three primary vanpooling organizational strategies: Employer-Sponsored Vanpool Programs. Employer-sponsored vanpool programs entail an employer purchasing or leasing vans for employee use, often subsidizing the cost of at least pro- gram administration, if not more. The driver usually receives free passage and limited personal use of the van, often for a mileage fee. Scheduling is within the employer's purview, and rider charges are normally set on the basis of vehicle and operating cost. Third-Party Vanpool Programs. "Public interest" third-party programs are run by organizations such as non-profit corporations, public transit agencies (now the most common), or other public enti- ties. The third-party organization enters into an agreement with the driver similar to employer pro- gram agreements. Rider charges normally cover vehicle cost, maintenance, fuel, and insurance and may cover program administration costs. Privately held third-party operators now exist as well, act- ing as vanpool service organizations, and bridging the gap between more traditional vanpool oper- ators and leasing companies. Rider charges in this case cover all costs and profit unless subsidized externally. Individual employers often subsidize the third-party program fares of their employees, and transit agencies may subsidize operations including those they contract out to private providers. Owner-Operator Vanpools. Owner-operator vanpools are often viewed as "big carpools," where the individual owner or lessee takes all financial risks and has complete control except for require- ments imposed by some regulatory commissions. Information on such vanpools is extremely lim- ited; almost no separately categorized traveler response information is provided for them here. Buspool Programs Buspool programs offer a demand responsive neighborhood-based service similar to vanpooling, but utilizing buses, mini-buses or large vans driven by bus drivers. They typically connect with a single, large employment center. Riders are offered either one express bus trip that matches work schedules, or a series of peak-period trips. The two primary organizational modes are: Operation by the local transit provider as an adjunct to traditional public bus service. Management by commuters who have joined together as individuals, or in close cooperation with a private corporation formed for the purpose, or by an employer. Management by commuters or employers has grown less common as buspooling itself has become a strategy with a smaller niche in the transportation market, particularly relative to vanpooling. Buspool buses and/or operation, including drivers, are often contracted for or chartered from pri- vate bus companies, even when managed by the local transit provider. Analytical Considerations Concrete information on the universe of vanpooling and buspooling is hard to come by. The infor- mal, individual owner operated component has never lent itself to census taking. Indeed, for rea- 5-3

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sons of insurance, liability, taxation, and franchise regulations, informal arrangements have often been "kept quiet" (Comsis and ITE, 1993). There are detailed tallies for certain components. Oper- ations and usage statistics for vanpools operated by or for transit agencies have in recent years been tabulated in the National Transit Database (NTD). This provides a partial picture, which in itself is subject to some degree of underreporting. The lack of identification of buspools separate from regular service buses in national databases and the non-inclusion of either vanpools or buspools as listed modes in many broad-based travel surveys further impede quantification. For these reasons, in preference to providing no information at all, it has been necessary here to include certain compilations that are scarcely better than anecdotal, while acknowledging that the full scope of vanpooling and buspooling is somewhat uncertain. Fortunately, there have over time been careful examinations of individual programs and components, such that at least a limited array of travel demand characteristics and responses can be examined from a program perspec- tive. These examinations in turn provide useful guidance for program designs and expectations. Vanpooling and buspooling do not, in any case, lend themselves well to the quantitative analyses common to many transportation strategies; demand modeling of these and other paratransit modes has never met with much success. This makes such empirical evidence as there is all the more important as a basis for establishing direction and scale. As with other topics, a number of these investigations date back to the 1970s in particular. The older data must be used with special caution, including energy savings and pollutant emissions reduction estimates based on obsolete vehicle characteristics. Many of the original vanpool pro- grams were formed in the unique 1970s environment of energy shortages and were affected by them. Some well studied forms such as employer based vanpooling have since been in decline, while other forms such as transit system operations are in ascendancy. Vanpool and buspool usage may be reported in terms of number of persons or employees van- pooling or buspooling, or in terms of person trips, as in the unlinked trip statistics of the NTD for transit provider vanpools. Care must be taken to distinguish between these two types of report- ing. In orders of magnitude, each vanpool or buspool member is equivalent to two daily person trips. However, the precise number of equivalent daily trips is substantially less than two, because on any given day, any buspool or vanpool member may be off work, or away from the home work- site, or using another travel mode (typically driving) because of work or home schedule or travel demands. Indeed, another potential data trap is that either one-way or two-way trips may be reported either in terms of average weekday activity or as computed on the basis of total signed- up participants. Number of vans/vanpools is also reported in different ways, including fleet size, not a measure of active vanpools; vans operated in maximum service; and vans in use on the average weekday, the best measure of active vanpools. For additional guidance on using the examples and generaliza- tions provided in the various chapters of TCRP Report 95, reference should be made to Chapter 1, "Introduction." See the section titled "Use of the Handbook." Traveler Response Summary Vanpools and buspools provide an attractive and generally effective paratransit mode for home to work commuters not well served by conventional transit. Vanpooling doubled each year in the 1974 to 1980 period, reaching on the order of 15,000 vanpools in the United States. With cheaper gasoline and periodic changes in large-employer trip reduction requirements, vanpooling has-- 5-4

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with peaks and valleys--declined since. There were at least 8,500 vanpools total in operation in the United States as of 199899, and perhaps 10,000 more recently, as vanpooling has apparently been benefiting from federal Commuter Choice tax benefits. The 1990s saw a shift in employer focus from an operational to a supportive role, feeding the move toward third-party vanpooling. From a mix of vanpooling organizations once dominated by employer vanpool programs, roughly half of all vanpools are now third-party operated--mostly by or on behalf of transit providers. The rest are split between employer and owner-operator van- pools. One large nationwide third-party vanpool service provider, contracted with by public agen- cies, employers and individual vanpools, has over 3,500 vans. Other such privately held providers had 100 vans or less as of 1999. Buspooling is more of a niche transportation mode, much reduced in scale compared to the 1970s. Vanpool service by transit providers is fast growing. In the mid-1990s, 59 transit systems operated a total of almost 2,700 vanpools. The 2001 vanpool total was over 3,900. There has been a down- ward trend, however, in average passenger loadings. The five largest U.S. transit provider pro- grams in 2002 had from 204 to 686 vanpools each, serving 2,400 to 7,200 average weekday passenger trips, with average vehicle loadings of 5.2 to 7.0 passengers. Most vanpool programs do best where one-way trip lengths exceed 20 miles, where work sched- ules are fixed and regular, where employer size is sufficient to allow matching of 5 to 12 people from the same residential area, where public transit is inadequate, and where some congestion or parking problems exist. Buspools require about three times the density of travel demand, but other- wise the indicators of likely success are comparable. Perhaps 20 to 60 percent of vanpool riders are picked up at home, depending on local circumstances, with the rest accessing the vanpool via a variety of modes from walk to park-and-pool. The typical vanpooler sacrifices 10 to 12 minutes of travel time compared to driving alone, trading time off against other attributes such as reduced travel cost and stress. Once the extra passenger pickup and discharge time approaches and exceeds line-haul travel time, the van or buspool ser- vice is not as attractive and normally fails to draw much of the potential market. Strong employer- operator commitment or public provider/employer partnerships and effective trip reduction legislation can help overcome less than ideal conditions. Vanpooling accounts for some 0.3 percent of all journey to work travel nationally. For every ten vanpool commuters, there is on the order of one commuter in a buspool. The median share of em- ployees vanpooling was 8 percent in 20 late-1980s case study employer programs, and 2 percent in 5 more-recent Seattle transit provider case studies. At a few very large employment sites, bus- pools are known to have attracted 5 to 10 percent of the journey to work trips. Of all U.S. transit provider vanpools, 40 percent operate in the Puget Sound region. Supported by a public policy environment that includes legislation to facilitate vanpooling, growth management regulations, a commute trip reduction program, and ferry privileges, vanpools carry 2 percent of all commute trips in the Puget Sound conurbation. Quantitative information on vanpooler response to incentives is meager. Vanpool mode share increases ranging from 70 percent (5 programs) to a tripling of usage (one large program) have been reported in response to substantial or total fare subsidy. While these particular programs may have been in a highly responsive, formative stage, there is building evidence that vanpoolers may be as much as twice as sensitive to fares as typical local bus transit riders. There is also some evi- dence that vanpooling is adversely affected by loosening of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane occupancy requirements. 5-5