Fort Leonard Wood military and civilian employees are eligible for a benefit that can help save costs associated with commuting to and from the installation.

The Mass Transit Benefit Program is a federal program that was authorized in April 2000 that required federal agencies to provide an incentive program for employees to use public transportation in their commute to and from work.

Fort Leonard Wood has a vanpool program, and according to Lidia Baker, the program point of contact for Fort Leonard Wood, the program has grown since its first vanpool was started in 2013.

"At first, the information was just not getting out," she said. "Now we have 84 people in 12 teams on Fort Leonard Wood. And we are always looking for more"

One rider in Baker's group, Carol Rickerson, has been riding for a little over a year. Her commute would be 50 miles round-trip without the vanpool, which she sees as a smart investment.

"(The program) cuts down on my overall expenses," she said. "It just makes sense, financially, to take advantage of the program. And it's nice to know you are helping the environment."

One passenger was overheard saying that by not driving themselves, they are free to do other things during the commute. She mentioned it is a chance to relax, make phone calls, or even sleep.

"Someone else is doing all the driving," she said.

Eligible patrons of the MTBP are active duty military, reserve or National Guard who are currently serving on active duty, federal civilian employees, and non-appropriated fund personnel. Currently, contractors are not eligible for the incentive unless their employer picks up the cost associated with participation, Baker said.

The majority of commuters are coming from Rolla, Dixon, Licking, or Lebanon, with the farthest driving from Springfield to Lebanon to catch a ride.

The way Baker sees it, is the government is giving her a benefit, so why not put it to use?

"My personal benefit is that my SUV gets to stay parked. It saves miles, wear and tear, and even saves on my insurance," said Baker.

Individuals looking to use this program can contact Baker at 573.563.5138 or by email at lidia.e.baker.civ@mail.mil.

"Everyone should use this benefit," Baker said. "There will be less traffic coming in and out of the gates."