NORFOLK, Va. — A lot of people use the bus to get to work or maybe you take the light rail.
Another option is vanpooling, where groups of people share a van or larger passenger vehicle to get from Point A to Point B.
Now there’s more money available for people who want to start a vanpooling group in the Seven Cities.
Robert Belleza is a civilian worker at Ft. Eustis. He had been at Ft. Monroe until it closed. Belleza knows the struggles of dealing with Hampton Roads traffic.
“The daily grind having to deal with the tunnel was not an attractive option. When we were right there, Fort Monroe wasn’t so bad, because you were right there,” Belleza said. “Going further inland to Fort Eustis, now you’re talking about another 15 to 20 minutes. Then when you’re leaving, having to deal with that, particularly in the afternoon, that traffic coming back.”
It’s why he began carpooling or vanpooling.
“A lot of folks were looking because the commute was going to be extended for those of us that live in Virginia Beach,” he said.
Belleza is one of 30 vanpools registered through Hampton Roads Transit. Additionally, his pool is subsidized through TRAFFIX, a Transportation Demand Management program operated by Hampton Roads Transit.
“When you’re commuting everyday, it goes by quick,” Belleza said.
There are several areas across Hampton Roads that are designated meeting spots for van pool program parking.
In order to receive any type of funding, vanpool groups must be registered through TRAFFIX. The organizations then partners with Enterprise Ride Share to lease a vehicle that commuters share to get to their jobs.
Seven to 15 people can be in a van pooling group. The van pool splits the operating costs. It’s why TRAFFIX is now offering a $500 stipend for members in qualified, registered groups.
Up until now, since 2015, the stipend had been $300 to $325 depending on the size of the vehicle, according to Amy Jordan, the director of communications and business development for Hampton Roads Transit.
To participate, people need to go through Enterprise, but Jordan said there are opportunities for private vanpools, as well.
“Our Guaranteed Ride Program will guarantee them a ride home if they need it, if they are not able to get home with their van pool,” Jordan said.
Amy Jordan with Hampton Roads Transit
Jordan said the push to get more people to sign up for vanpool programs is to reduce congestion in addition to greenhouse gas emissions.
“I know so many of us are sitting in traffic these days, especially if we have to cross the water. There’s a lot of construction but it really will help to reduce congestion and get people where they need to go and it can be a cost savings,” Jordan said. “When you provide that with these programs. You’re reducing the wear and tear on your personal vehicle. You’re reducing your gas consumption because you’re sharing that with other riders.”
Robert Belleza said there are several personal benefits, as well.
“Having a group to commute with to alleviate the stress of driving it every day to help with expenses, because it subsidizes it makes a big difference in reducing stress, wear and tear on your car,” he said. “All the expenses that come with it, I probably have gone would have gone through, at least one car, possibly two cars since 2011. And that’s it counting the time that we’re not coming into the office during COVID.”
In Robert’s group, sometimes he’s the driver. Other times, he’s the passenger.
“We’re all approved,” he said. “We leased the vehicle through Enterprise and then you have to get approved by them to be a driver, so that they can check your record, and credit history and intellect to make sure you’re a suitable driver.”
He said he’s even made some new friends through this vanpooling venture.
“I like to say they’re my ‘vamily’ my van family,” Belleza said. “So we’ve been to outings together, we’ve actually been to a wedding, gone to games.”
to learn more about TRAFFIX commuter options in Hampton Roads.