News Release - City Launches Vanpool Pilot Project

City of Rochester

News Release

(Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016) –  Mayor Lovely A. Warren today announced the launch of the Rochester Vanpool Pilot Project, a new transportation initiative that will help connect Rochester residents to jobs in the region. The City has contracted vRide, Inc., the nation’s largest van pool vendor, to provide a turn-key van pool program in Rochester. The City is partnered with the Regional Transit Service (RTS) and, during this pilot phase, will test the new service with a local job-placement agency, Career Start.

“Van pooling will help increase accessibility to jobs for city residents who lack or have limited transportation,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “Additionally, van pools are good for the environment. That’s why the City of Rochester is proud to partner with RTS and vRide, Inc. on this important addition to our efforts to bring more jobs, safer more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities to our citizens.”

A van pool is a group of up to 12 commuters who voluntarily participate in a rideshare arrangement. The van makes just one trip to a workplace and one trip home during the day. Vans are driven by a volunteer driver, who is also commuting to work. vRide will provide the van, insurance, maintenance, a ride matching platform and designated fuel card for each group. Unlike traditional bus service or a shuttle service, van pooling is unique because each route is tailored to suit the needs of a specific group of riders.

Through this project, the City hopes to address the problem that regional job sprawl has created over the last several decades – a geographic mismatch between workers and jobs. In our region, there exists a handful of employment hubs that are not easily accessible using the existing fixed-route bus service.
Weekend service and non-traditional work hours also create a barrier for those who look to public transportation for their commutes. This pilot will help the community better envision and plan for a larger van pool system, as explored by RTS in the 2015 Rochester Area Vanpool Feasibility Study.

“RTS is pleased to partner with Mayor Warren and the City of Rochester on this Vanpool Pilot Project,” said RTS CEO Bill Carpenter. “Each day we provide more than 50,000 rides to connect people to work, school and medical appointments, but gaps still remain. We’re excited to see how the City’s pilot closes those gaps so that more people in our community can succeed.”

vRide will provide a simple all-inclusive cost per van based on the vehicle type and estimated monthly mileage driven, greatly reducing the upfront capital costs in launching the system. As other municipalities, transit agencies and employers have done across the nation, the City will subsidize the cost of this service to users, with prices capped at $75/month/rider during the pilot. The program is set up to be financially sustainable and requires a small jumpstart of funding.

Job placement agency Career Start, a key partner in the pilot, will further subsidize the cost of van pool leases for its own employees.

“Career Start is proud to be a part of bringing the vRide van pooling initiative to the City of Rochester,” said Career Start President Lindsay McCutchen. “We are confident that this will allow us to broaden the employment opportunities, as well as promote increased attendance and retention, of individuals without transportation to areas of the city and surrounding county that cannot be accessed via public transportation. We are expected to launch our first pilot van with one of our employment partners and be fully functional within the next few weeks.”

As an added benefit, the money Career Start or other employers contribute to van pools can reduce their payroll tax burden through the IRS Transportation Fringe Benefit Program. The City hopes that other employers will follow Career Start’s example.

“The Vanpool Pilot Project and Rochester Bike Share (anticipated to launch in 2017) are part of the City’s commitment to providing alternative transportation options to all Rochester residents,” continued Mayor Warren. “While the City would like to see more employers relocating to Downtown, ensuring that city residents have access to regional jobs is also a key to Rochester’s future.”

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