More than a dozen Installation Management Command employees ride to and from work for free in a VIA Van Pool, through the US Army Mass Transit Benefit Program.

"All I can say is this is the best thing since sliced bread - nope it's better than sliced bread! Love it!" said passenger Debbie Martin, an IMCOM Family and MWR programs employee. "It's less wear and tear on us, less wear and tear on our wallets, and less wear and tear on the environment."

Kelly Sandifer, who works in IMCOM resource management, saw a VIA vanpool van on Fort Sam Houston and became intrigued. He decided to start a van pool service for IMCOM employees. Through his search for vanpool-interested employees, he met Tammy Copus, who works in IMCOM Family and MWR Programs. Copus assisted Sandifer in getting the program started, and now serves as the alternate point of contact.

Sandifer had good reason to start a vanpool; previously he drove over 62 miles a day (each-way) in his own vehicle between home and work.

"I was able to sell my extra car, and when you add up fuel, oil changes, tires, and insurance, it's a huge savings; over $500 per month for me," said Sandifer.

It's not just about money; the approval of van pools is another positive step the command is taking to reduce our impact on the environment. The program has already taken nearly three dozen cars off the road, reducing traffic, congestion, parking issues, and most importantly, pollution and harmful emissions.

Each vanpool group can have 4 to 15 employees. Members of the vanpool can volunteer to serve as a driver if they wish. Once a group is officially enrolled, the van pool coordinator receives a fleet gas card, which is funded through the MTBP, and a 7-, 12- or 15-passenger van, which is provided by Enterprise Rent-a-Car and paid for by the MTBP.

Participants have to commit to riding in the vanpool at least 50% of each month.

"As our Leaders have said, we are in a new Fiscal Reality. The impact is far reaching and has not only affected the DoD but our personal lives as well," said van pool passenger Jeffrey Fitton, an IMCOM training directorate employee, when describing the benefits of the program.

"By taking part in the VIA Van Pool program, I can prevent unnecessary wear and tear on my car and I can save $400 a month by not having to pay for fuel," said Fitton. "Why would anyone not want to save money?"

Sandifer said that there are two main reasons.

"Some folks just don't want to 'lose their liberty' in being able to come and go as they please. Others feel they won't get the support of their leadership when they have to leave work at a specified time every day", Sandifer said. Other than that this thing is really taking off."

Service to the vehicle and insurance is also provided by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. For most situations, there is no cost to the employee for participating in the program.

Some participants use the commute to catch up on e-mails, sleep or simply chat with fellow riders.

"One of our riders sits in the back of the van most days and works on her laptop," said Copus. "The other riders try to be as quiet as possible when necessary, but all other times there is normally a lot of socializing and laughter."

Copus also described an afternoon commute when two employees needed to participate in a conference call. The fellow passengers respected their need for a quiet atmosphere until the call was over. They even adjusted their usual ride time by five minutes to ensure the two individuals would be on time for their call.

"It's like getting an extra step increase," said David Abbott, a telecommunications specialist at IMCOM, when asked to describe the van pool.

There are currently three active van pools to the new IMCOM campus on Ft. Sam Houston and there is great potential for more. The current areas being serviced are Boerne, New Braunfels and the Stone Oak. More vanpools will start at the end of September in the areas of Schertz, New Braunfels and Highway 281 North (Evans Road & Bulverde).

If an unforeseen scheduling conflict occurs and a van pool rider has to leave their place of business, the Certified Auto Ride in an Emergency program is offered for a fee of five dollars per year. According to the Care Program, "for an annual fee, you can receive four free cab rides to use during the year…whenever an emergency arises."

If a vanpool rider enrolled in the Care program needs to get home early for unforeseen circumstances or can't wait for the normal commute time because of an illness, a sick child or family member, the normal ride left early or unexpected overtime, they're eligible for a free taxi ride, and the waiting time is less than 20 minutes.

IMCOM employees can sign up to participate in the VIA van pool by accessing the signup sheet in the shared drive or by contacting Kelly Sandifer or Tammy Copus.

Other Fort Sam employees can contact the Army Mass Transportation Benefit Program at ASAFM-MTBP@conus.army.mil to learn how to start a van pool in their organization.

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If an employee chooses to ride public transportation to work by means of the San Antonio VIA bus system they are also eligible to receive benefits through the MTBP, which covers the cost of a monthly bus pass.

The MTBP originated 21 April 2000, via Executive Order 13150, "Federal Workforce Transportation." The executive order requires Federal agencies to provide employee incentives to use public transportation in their commute to and from work.

All Army employees (military and civilian) are eligible to use the MTBP mass transportation fare subsidy when using public transportation or van or car pools for their work commute. The MTBP goal is to reduce the air pollution and traffic congestion while expanding commuting alternatives.

Page last updated Fri September 16th, 2011 at 00:00