FORT LEWIS, Wash. - For many, the rising cost of gas is making the daily commute even more frustrating than usual. But there are choices for Soldiers and civilian employees on Fort Lewis.

Van pools, car pools, bicycling and buses are a few options available to the post work force, according to Kelly Rosacrans, Air Quality Program Technician and Versar, Inc. contractor for Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division.

Two teams of Fort Lewis bicyclists proved this spring that biking to work can save money and help the environment.

Team Ouzo, made up of nine representatives from the Directorate of Logistics, and the D.B. Cooper Search and Rescue Team, made up of eight cyclists from DPW, biked more than 2,700 miles commuting in the month of May. Team Ouzo alone saved approximately $775 by leaving their cars home, keeping almost 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, according to Garey Heumphreus, director of logistics and a Team Ouzo member.

Besides the financial and environmental benefits of cycling to work, at least one Team Ouzo member experienced some health benefits. Dan Cline, manager of the Hazardous Material Control Center, has lost more than 20 pounds since he began biking to work, has lowered his cholesterol and blood pressure while improving his fitness level.

But for those for whom bicycling to work is not an option, there are still van pools, car pools and buses.

One resource to find a van or car pool is, Rosacrans said.

"That will try to match you up with either a van pool or somebody who's looking to car pool," Rosacrans said.

Van pools are available through several counties' transit services, including Thurston, Pierce, King and Snohomish counties. To start a van pool, there must be at least five participants; a primary driver, at least one back-up driver and a book keeper. After a four-hour defensive driving course and background check, the county transit company will issue the driver a van to keep at home and use to transport the van pool.

"From that point on, it's just coordinating your pick-up times and locations, and the route that you're going to take," Rosacrans said. "The fare is based on the number of riders and the round-trip number of miles a day."

The transit company pays for gas, insurance and maintenance on the van and one car wash per month, Rosacrans said.

"As a passenger, you can sit back, read, sleep, daydream," Rosacrans said.

Government employees and Soldiers, active, Reserve or Guard, can get as much as $115 a month toward their van pool or other public transportation costs through the Department of the Army Mass Transit Benefit Program.

A good way to find a car pool is to ask around the work place, according to Terry Austin, installation sustainability coordinator and pollution prevention manager for DPW's Environmental Division. It's as easy as finding out if there are people who live near one another and would like to start a car pool. The results might be surprising.

Rosacrans, who uses a van pool herself, has received more than 60 calls in the last couple of weeks from people inquiring about van pooling.

The bus, which is provided by Pierce Transit, comes onto Fort Lewis at the Madigan Gate, stops at Madigan and at Building 2166, across from Waller Hall on Liggett. The schedules are online at Pierce Transit's Web site.

For more information on the DOA Mass Transit Benefit Program, call Makieda Hart, installation employ-ee transportation coordinator, at 967-7301.

Rachel Young is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.