FORT POLK, La. — In a world filled with wildfires, droughts, melting ice caps, flooding and more, taking part in Fort Polk's Mass Transportation Benefit Program is just one small way you can choose to possibly diminish your carbon footprint.
The program was established in 2000 for eligible employees and military service members to reduce pollution and traffic congestion, preserve the environment and expand transportation alternatives.
To be eligible for the program an applicant must be employed by the Department of Defense — civilian, military or non-appropriated funds.
Commuters taking part in the MTBP are able to receive as much as $270 per month toward their van pool fee.
Robert Ellis, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office plans specialist, is the program coordinator. Ellis said the MTBP utilizes the Enterprise Commute program, which greatly enables the commuting process.
“They go out of their way to help us with our commuting needs,” he said. “The way Enterprise determines the cost of riding in the van is based on a formula of how many people are riding and the distance traveled. They also factor in gas costs, which can vary, rental costs and taxes,” he said.
Ellis said you have to have six people to start a van pool — that’s for a mini van.
“The fewer people you have in the van, the better possibility there might be some out-of-pocket expense involved for the riders, but it’s still a good deal,” he said.
Ellis said, there are about 51 full-time participants in the program and eight vans. Commuters will either ride in a mini van or a 15 passenger van.
“One van shuttles riders to and from DeRidder and the other seven vans in the program transport Fort Polk employees that live in Alexandria,” he said.
Ellis lives in Alexandria and uses the program himself because it saves him time, money, wear and tear on his vehicle and more.
“I know I would be filling my gas tank as least three times per week, so the program saves me that money as well as any expense I would have when it comes to things like new tires and tune-ups,” he said.
Ellis said the program is a great way of building comaraderie with your fellow workers.
“There is a family-like atmosphere once you get to know the other riders in your van,” he said. “There’s also the fact that since riders don’t have to drive, they can relax, catch up on emails, read, sleep or do whatever they want,” he said.
Ellis said although they don’t have to drive, if commuters still want to take the wheel they can drive the vans with Enterprise approval.
“The qualified drivers take turns,” he said. “One person might drive in the morning and another at night. That way there’s always someone fresh driving.”
Ellis said the point of the program is to provide Fort Polk with healthier, happier employees, as well as reduced parking and congestion on post and at the gates, not to mention the fact that fewer cars on the road means better air quality and a reduction in carbon emissions.
For those worried about safety, Ellis said as part of COVID-19 safety measures, all riders must wear a mask while inside the vehicle.
Ellis said the MTBP is a great opportunity and any commuter who lives farther than 20 miles away from Fort Polk, more should consider taking part in the program.
For more information about the program send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org