A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Campus Dives into Vanpool Service

April 29, 2014

During Robin Jurevich’s 30-mile commute from Turlock to Merced, she eats, works, reads or even takes a short nap. It’s a relaxing start to her workday and makes the 30- to 35-minute commute along Highway 99 more enjoyable.

Jurevich, who works in Accounting Services, is not a distracted driver or cell phone-using scofflaw behind the wheel. Instead, she’s part of a vanpool that transports her and several other UC Merced employees to their jobs at the Mondo Building downtown.

Pilot vanpool launched in February

The vanpool, which began in February, is an initiative from UC Merced’s Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) in partnership with vRide. The vanpool riders had already been carpooling, but were offered an opportunity to participate in a pilot vanpool program for the campus. VRide furnishes the van and participants pay based on the numberof roundtrip miles made each month, plus fuel costs.

“We’re excited to hear how this service is benefiting campus community members,” TAPS Director Karin Groth said. “Vanpooling is another transit option for campus community members, and it supports UC Merced’s standing commitment to sustainability and being a good steward of the environment."
Part of TAPS’s responsibility is to provide sustainable transportation alternatives that can help limit traffic congestion, improve air quality and reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles traveling to campus. As UC Merced progresses toward the goal of accommodating 10,000 students by 2020, applying strategies to minimize traffic is imperative, Groth said.  

Vanpooling saves users’ money

Another vanpool benefit, say its participants, is that they’re saving money - on gas, car insurance, parking fees and vehicle repairs.

“Even when we were carpooling, I was spending about $100 to $150 a month in gas and now I spend about $40 a month on the vanpool,” said Autumn Salazar, director of Research Accounting Services. “It saves wear and tear on our vehicles, and it’s also convenient not to have to figure out who is driving on what day.”

Todd Kucker, the campus’s internal audit director, who drives from his home in Modesto to the Turlock pick-up point said the vanpool removes a lot of the pressure of commuting.

“So many of us use the time to work or read while the driver does all of the work,” Kucker said.

Jurvich agreed.

“It’s a lot more relaxing,” Jurvich said. “It’s 30 to 35 minutes of my time that I don’t have to focus on driving, the road or traffic.”

In the event one of vanpool participants needs to come to campus for a meeting or has an emergency and needs access to a car, he or she can use one of the UC Merced’s natural-gas powered vehicles stationed downtown near Mondo.

“Having access to it is a godsend,” Salazar said.

TAPS’s Jessica Johnston, coordinator of the pilot vanpool program, said that an emergency ride home program through Commute Connections will be established for subsequent vanpool groups.

Meanwhile, Johnston said the program has gone well since its launch three months ago and TAPS hopes “to get another van on the road later this year.”

For more information about vanpooling, email vanpool@ucmerced.edu or contact Jessica Johnston in TAPS at ext. 8277.