Business Center

Commuter Highlight: Vanpooling to Work with Kathleen Everett

By: Sydney Lund, Transportation Demand Management Intern

March 24, 2020

Here at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), we are working to enhance the quality of life and the environment of the citizens of Colorado by creating an integrated transportation system that focuses on safely moving people and goods by offering convenient linkages among modal choices. Many CDOT employees are serving as role models for their commitment to commuting to work by walking, biking, taking transit, carpooling, or vanpooling.

This week’s commuter highlight is Kathleen Everett!

Kathleen Everett is a Program Assistant for CDOT’s Region 1 West Engineering Program and works at CDOT’s Golden Corporate Circle office. She has commuted to work by vanpooling for the past 20 years. Read below for an interview with Kathleen where she talks about what vanpooling is, how her vanpool is run, and tips on how to join a new vanpool.

kathleenKathleen along with the other riders in her vanpool.

How do you commute to work?

I commute to work by vanpooling. In the vanpool, we have five riders that are committed and our van has the capacity for six. I live on the west side of Fort Collins, so, generally speaking, I take the van home every night because I live the farthest away from work. My routine in the morning is to clean off the van if it snowed the night before, warm up the van, and make sure it has a full tank for that day’s route. Then, I pick up the first rider at his house, since he lives close. We then pick up our next rider at the Park and Ride on Highway 402. We pick up two more riders, also from a Park and Ride at Highway 52, and then head into Denver and on into Golden. On our way back, we reverse the route going into Fort Collins.

Why do you choose to commute by vanpooling?

The easy explanation is financial. Vanpooling saves me between $4,000 - $5,000 a year just on gas, maintenance, insurance, and parking, for which I pay just $232/month in the vanpool. In the last vanpool that I was in, we drove into downtown and nobody had parking where they worked. So everyone pitched in $5 - $10 each week to pay for the parking, which also saved on parking costs. But there are other benefits as well.

What are some benefits for commuting in a vanpool?

In addition to the financial savings, you also save on wear and tear on your personal vehicle and your own physical well-being, because you do not have to drive to work every day. I have a pillow, a neck pillow, and a blanket stored in the van for comfort. So at least three days a week I can sleep and relax during the commute. If I wanted, I could also play games on my cell phone. If I have a book I want to read I can do that too. At least three days a week I don't have to worry about dealing with the traffic. I can just zone out and not worry about the cars around me and just let the driver handle it.

In case there is an accident or road closure, vanpooling is great because you have people with cell phones who can actually look up alternative routes on their phone. The passengers can do the investigating and all the driver has to do is drive.

kathleenOne of the VanGo Vans, which serves the Denver Metro Area.

How long have you been vanpooling?

I have been vanpooling for at least the last 20 years. I started vanpooling around the 90’s. I remember being one of the first vanpools that took the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes when they first opened going into downtown. While I worked at another job, I did not have a consistent schedule, so I ended up driving my car to work for a while. But after I left that job, I got back on to the vanpool again, and I have been vanpooling since 2012.

How can people be added to a vanpool?

If people are interested in joining a vanpool, they can check online via VanGo’s website to see the routes that current vanpools are commuting along. The interested party would then reach out to VanGo and give details about their work hours, because that is the first consideration when matching interested riders to established vanpools.

How does your van decide on bringing in new riders?

We have many external things that affect our ridership, such as schedules. If someone has to be at work at eight o'clock, we couldn't accommodate a rider like that, because I have to be at work at 7:30. Therefore, if we accommodated that rider, the rider would have to get to work an hour early and we would have to stay an hour after our scheduled time to wait for them. Whenever we consider a new rider, we always check if they are within our zone, check their work schedule, and see if it would be easy to pick them up and drop them back off.

One of our riders is moving to a new office within the next few months. We test drove the route to her new office and her new office location is not going to add any more time to our pick-up commute. So we are going to be able to accommodate that move for her. Her hours are also pretty flexible as well, although she does end up being at work an average of an hour longer than she needs to be. However, she says she has plenty to do, so she's okay with that.

What happens when the riders go on vacation or have work holidays?

All of the riders in the van do not have the same holidays. For example, one of our riders works in a bank and has all of the banking holidays off. One of the riders who works out of Corporate Circle rarely gets off holidays that all of the other riders gets. So on those days, that rider will drive to work on their own without the van.

How flexible is your van with leaving earlier for winter weather?

On the days that we predicted that we're going to have a high amount of either traffic or if there's going to be a snowstorm, the group will discuss leaving 10 or so minutes earlier. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't, depending on everyone’s schedule. On the van, we have one rider who's pretty religious about working until four o'clock because he can rarely get off, while another rider, the time does not matter because he can log back into his computer once he gets home. So it just depends on who's on the van that day, and how flexible they can or are willing to be.

Since you take the van home with you, if you're not going to be at work the next day, what do you do with the van?

I make sure that the van is ready for somebody for the days that I am off. For example, I took some time off in February around Presidents Day. Since my first pick-up was not going to be on the van either, I dropped off the van at Highway 402 for our next rider. We all have door keys to the van, and there are two ignition keys for the van. When I am out of the office, I will leave the keys in the van and the next driver can open the van with their door key and start on their route.

How does your van coordinate radio, driving responsibilities, and who’s riding in the vanpool?

The driver controls the radio and the air temperature, since that’s the person that needs to stay alert. We have a calendar stored in the van, so we know who’s going to be riding in the vanpool and who won’t be on any given day. It’s everyone’s responsibility to write down if they're going to be out of the vanpool. I have ridden in vans where we have assigned driving days, but in this van, we just make a note in the calendar who drives each day. In my current van, we just drive when we know we haven’t driven in a while.

As a veteran vanpooler, what are some tips you have to folks just starting vanpooling?

Learn to be flexible. Just be aware that you're in a group setting, so keep your language pure and be frugal with perfume and aftershave. Also, keep in mind phone etiquette and avoid conference calls in the van, if possible. If you have a cold, either stay off the van and stay home or drive yourself to work. We keep disinfecting wipes in the van in case someone has a cold, they can wipe down the steering wheel, the gear shift knob, and turning signal, so everything is clean and everyone feels better.

Interested in commuting to work by walking, biking, or taking transit? Check out these biking and transit resources designed to help you commute to work.

Check out our past commuter highlight interviews here.

Do you commute to work by means other than driving alone? If so, we would like to highlight you! Send an email to Sydney Lund to be highlighted as a part of our commuter highlights series.