VA Hospital workers beat the traffic by vanpool

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Well over one hundred people have found a way to beat the traffic headaches in Charleston.

The best part is that their commutes are paid for completely.

The federal government is encouraging its workers to vanpool, getting them off the roads and out of parking spaces.

At a local VA Hospital, word is getting out with workers joining together to get to downtown by vanpool.

"When I first started I had some great trepidation about not giving up control of my car," said Susan Storm, a social worker at the VA hospital.

But now she's a convert, commuting each workday from Summerville

"There's not a whole lot of parking down here," said Darin Elwood, a VA IT professional who works on the hospital computer systems and drives the van.

He parks free of charge close to the hospital while other employees park West of the Ashley and wait to hop a shuttle over to the peninsula.

The vanpoolers say they're saving time, money, and the environment.

"We're not using all those fossil fuels and going into the environment and you know there are six of us using only one vehicle compared to having six more vehicles on the road, so I think it's a big positive," Elwood said.

"For me personally it saves money on gas, and the wear and tear on my vehicle," said Christina Delp, who works for the VA safety department."I get to rest or relax on the way home. I love that."

This vanpool is one of 21 currently at the VA Hospital.

The Department of Transportation funds them with each rider getting a debit card loaded monthly with $245 dollars.

"So each rider uses their debit card that they receive from the DOT to make payments toward that van for monthly usage," said Valencia Brown who works as a transit benefits manager.

Brown says drivers take responsibility.

Their commutes are funded in a different way.

"V-Ride will also supply our drivers with a monthly fuel stipend to fuel the vehicle so there's no out of pocket coverage. Any maintenance issues the van has, V-Ride covers that," Brown said.

Insurance is covered, according to Brown, who helps federal employees at the VA hospital step through the application process.

"They get us to work on time and safely home every single day, so it's great," Delp said.

The downside, they say, is not having a car for emergencies. But they can apply for limited funds for emergency transportation.

The vanpoolers have been together three years, meeting each week day at a parking lot on Old Trolley Road.

"As is for everybody, the traffic in Charleston can be a real challenge," said Storm."So to be able to sit back and enjoy the ride and sleep on the way in, talk on the way out, that's the way to go. But it really does save a lot of money on gas mileage."

You may wonder if the vanpoolers get to keep money if there's anything left at the end of the month.

The answer is no.

There are also funds for people who ride the bus, $100 dollars a month for a 30-day unlimited CARTA pass.

About 53 VA workers are enrolled in that program right now.

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