PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Most people know that van pooling can help cut down on the cost of travel, but did how many people realize they could actually receive incentives for buddying up on their commute'
Federal employees here can earn $120 per month for taking advantage of the federal van-pool program. Where else will an employer pay a person to drive to work'
Along with the $120 incentive the federal government provides, riders also can earn up to $175 from the state of New Jersey.
The New Jersey program is run by the company Trans Options, which is a collaboration of business and government entities working together to provide options for commuters to get to and from work.
"A typical van pool consists of anywhere between five and 15 riders commuting 30 or more miles," said Kathleen Drury of the transportation office here.
Vehicles are leased through two authorized transportation companies that maintain contracts with Trans Options. Riders split the cost of gas but are not responsible for any maintenance fees for the vehicle.
With more than 4,500 employees, Picatinny Arsenal is one of the largest employers in Morris County.
However a large number of these employees commute more than 20 minutes to the installation.
One of those riders is Dave Rogers, the Navy transition manager here.
"I currently live 61 miles away from Picatinny. I drove by myself for over a year and found it very stressful and tiring, not to mention expensive. Now that I'm a member of a van pool, I only drive the van a few times a week, and I find that I have much more energy at work and am not as tired when I get home in the evening," Rogers said.
According to a document prepared by Trans Options, commuting in a seven-passenger van saves more than $6,000 annually or 68 percent over the cost of driving alone.
"I would say that the reduced wear and tear on my vehicle comes in second to the immense savings that result from being a van-pool member," Rogers said. "The combination of the federal transit checks, the stipend from the state and the shared fuel expense drives the commuting cost down tremendously."
The state program even provides riders with an emergency ride home in the event they must leave work early or stay late and cannot wait for the other riders in their van. This option is available up to two times in one year per rider.
"The mass transit program is a benefit not an entitlement," explained David Murawski, director of the Internal Review office here.
Murawski warned travelers who enter the program that there are risks associated with fraud and abuse. He said he has seen cases of people trying to either sell their benefits or making false claims.
"In the end it's simply not worth it," he said.
If for some odd reason saving money is not enough to interest a person, then maybe helping to protect the earth is.
Not only is taking advantage of the van-pool program cost effective, but it also helps the environment. In today's movement to "go green" every effort to cut down on toxic emissions in the ozone helps.
According to Trans Options, more than one million fewer pounds of pollutants are put into the air each year when drivers take advantage of the van-pool program.
Visit the Web site
to find van-pooling options in your area.