University vanpools are changing the way faculty, staff, visitors, and students access campus facilities.
Vanpools are gaining traction as an efficient, low-cost university transportation alternative. Operated by both public and private agencies, vanpool programs group a small number of commuters together. Most vanpools are made up of groups of eight to fifteen people, though these numbers can be adjusted either way depending on demand and the number of vehicles in the operator’s fleet.
While most university vanpools are designed to meet the needs of faculty and staff commuting from outlying areas, they can also be configured to serve students and visitors. Fares are affordable, and are set at levels that make using the vanpool more cost-effective than driving. This, in turn, increases participation rates, helping university administrators realize the many community benefits that university vanpools offer.
How do university vanpools work?
To maximize budgets, organizations usually configure vanpools to provide point-to-point transportation between a designated arrival/departure spot on campus and a major public transit hub or popular local destination. It’s most cost-effective to offer service on a set schedule, or only during peak periods.
Choosing a strategic destination point is critical to the success of your vanpool. The best option will depend heavily on the needs of your riders: Are they looking to solve the “first mile, last mile dilemma” by having a convenient option to reach a nearby high-speed transit network? Do out-of-town staff and student commuters travel to a main station in your city’s downtown area?
To find out the precise nature of the transportation issues commuters are looking to solve by riding with your vanpool, it’s a good idea to use survey tools to gather insights. This helps you create a customized solution that speaks directly to their needs and fills in critical transportation gaps.
You’ll increase ridership and the overall utility of your vanpool program if you’re able to provide two-way service to and from campus. However, this can necessitate some additional logistical solutions, as you might need to get permission from municipal authorities to operate a vanpool that travels to campus from a trip origin point elsewhere in the city.
Adding vehicles to your fleet allows you to serve a wider range of high-value destinations throughout the surrounding area. Naturally, this adds to your upfront costs, but it can also pay dividends by making the service more appealing to a broader base of prospective riders. When managed properly, vanpools can even generate a modest profit, which the university can reinvest into other commuter and transportation management programs.
University vanpool ridership and access policies
Most universities charge reduced fares for vanpool access, or offer it free of charge to qualified riders if budgets allow. Thus, it’s important to consider your access policies when your vanpool program is still in its design and configuration phase to prevent misuse.
One approach that a lot of schools use involves creating specific, detailed eligibility criteria. For example, the University of Michigan’s vanpool program limits access to full-time students and permanent, full-time employees who will use the service at least four days per week. The school charges a low monthly rate for a vanpool pass, and riders show their credentials to the driver when they board.
Learn more about the benefits and use-cases of university vanpools as an alternative mode of transportation.
Beyond offering significant cost savings to individual passengers, university vanpools have many other advantages that have a positive effect, both campus-wide and across the broader community as a whole:
- They help reduce on-campus vehicular traffic, thereby increasing pedestrian safety
- They provide a safe, accessible alternative to single-passenger vehicles
- They ease traffic congestion and the pollution associated with it
- They strengthen interpersonal and social ties among passengers and community members
- They help universities manage campus parking demand by cutting down on the number of vehicles remaining on the property
- They work to reduce campus parking costs by easing demand and helping schools avoid the need to add more parking facilities
University vanpools can benefit schools that fit one or more of the following profile criteria:
- A large student body with a significant percentage of students and/or staff commuting to campus, rather than living on-campus or in the immediate vicinity
- Consistently high levels of demand for limited on-campus parking spaces
- Gridlock and associated problems recurring during peak traffic periods
- Location in a large urban area that is underserved by public transportation
Participation in vanpooling programs can also help universities qualify for incentives offered to organizations that take proactive steps to help combat traffic congestion. Best of all, vanpools are easy to create and manage with the powerful digital tools delivered by RideAmigos’ revolutionary transportation demand management platform.
Sign up for our demo to learn more about the many ways vanpools for enterprises, universities, and other large organizations can transform your community. You can also contact us for further information about our next-generation software tools.
Image Credit: UCLA Transportation