In March 2015, eleven Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employees discovered how one determined mom found a way for her and her co-workers to get to work faster and cheaper (not to mention, with less stress) by using resources available to commuters in Northern Virginia. The following is Jennifer Sarchet’s account of how she got a vanpool rolling.
I was commuting 50-miles each way from Manassas, Virginia to Silver Spring, Maryland and knew there had to be a better way. Like many parents, I needed a more reliable home arrival time than the daily, unexpected times that were occurring when I was traveling alone in the DC-region.
I learned about vanpooling though the FDA’s Employee Transportation Coordinator, Mr. David Manchas – he was instrumental in educating me on what vanpooling had to offer. Mr. Manchas provides information on vanpools during every monthly FDA New Employee orientation, as well as in daily FDA e-mail notices. In many ways, Mr. Manchas is the first “face” of vanpooling for those at the FDA. His help with the Transhare application, Go Card process, and FDA parking permits was instrumental in getting our vanpool started. His superb knowledge, organizational skills, and speedy responses to questions gave me a good feeling from the start, and enabled me to feel comfortable moving forward. I was particularly pleased to learn that the FDA offers special vanpool permit parking directly in front of the building!
Next steps in our vanpool journey included working with employees at Enterprise Rideshare. Ms. Michelle Landrum-Althoff provided detailed answers to our many questions. I also received support through the Dulles Area Transportation Association’s (DATA) Van Do Attitude grant, which provided riders with incentives and subsidies during a six-month trial period. This was a huge benefit for our new vanpool because it allowed us to test vanpooling with little out-of-pocket costs. In fact, the Van Do Attitude grant sealed the deal for me, and gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with coordinating the vanpool. Without the Van Do Attitude grant, our Manassas-based vanpool would likely not be functional today!
By the time the six-month Van Do grant had finished, our van was not only benefiting my family, but 11 other families as well – travelling from Manassas, Virginia to Silver Spring, Maryland all week long. In addition to increased time with family, vanpooling has benefited our entire group in many other ways. We have cut costs in personal vehicle maintenance and gas, saved time using the HOV and express lanes and enjoyed a less stressful commute to work. We’ve also made a positive impact on the environment and general road congestion, since 10 more cars have been removed from the Maryland/Virginia/DC
On the Road
I feel that our vanpool was a success story for four main reasons. First, we had a vanpool champion who was dedicated to keeping on top of issues affecting our vanpool. Second, the Enterprise Rideshare team, including Ms. Justine Karst, Ms. Cindy Bowers and Ms. Amanda St. Clair, offered continuous assistance. They provided professional, pleasant and timely help with billing, gas card and maintenance questions. Another reason this vanpool is a success story is due to the true testament of the members of the vanpool. The group shares all responsibilities, from driving, to maintenance to filling the gas tank – we are a true team and share a feeling of community that even fostered new friendships outside of work.
Finally, none of this would be possible if it were not for the Van Do Attitude grant offered through DATA and funded through the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. The Van Do Attitude grant provided the extra push, in a non-obligatory way, with great incentives such as rental subsides, gas cards, toll allowances and free Wi-Fi. The entire vanpool extends our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Manchas, Enterprise and to DATA for helping make our vanpool a complete success!
With sincere thanks from Vanpool 16VP-007254.
Even though the Van Do Attitude grant has ended, DATA can still supply you with help – including subsidies from county governments – if you’re interested in starting a vanpool. Call Sarah McGowan at 703.817.1307 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.