Thursday, June 30, 2022|
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Big Island commuters now have more options for traveling under a new county program offering subsidized van rentals.
Through a partnership with car rental service Enterprise, the Hele-On Vanpool program allows groups of passengers to rent a van with which to make their daily commutes.
“If you have to commute, it might be cheaper for groups of passengers to rent a van and vanpool than pay for their own gas all the time,” said county Mass Transit Coordinator John Andoh.
Under the program, prospective riders can coordinate with each other to select a rental vehicle and a pickup and dropoff point for their daily commutes, distributing the costs among themselves.
Riders pay a monthly rate determined by the length of the daily commute, Andoh said. For a rental SUV, daily commutes between zero to 40 miles round-trip will cost riders $1,100 a month, while round trips over 120 miles will cost $1,350 a month, not including taxes.
However, Andoh said, the county subsidizes $500 from each monthly rate, only requiring the riders to pay the remainder.
The program — which currently includes 30 vans — is being paid for by General Excise Tax funds to the tune of about $120,000, Andoh said. As the program expands, he added that the program’s budget could go as high as $300,000.
For their money, riders get not only the van, but liability insurance, scheduled maintenance, 24-hour roadside assistance and a “Guaranteed Ride Home” program that allows riders to easily leave work unscheduled should the need arise.
On the other hand, riders still have to pay for fuel and van washing, Andoh said.
But even with a $250 gas bill, a group of seven passengers can take the longest possible commutes for only $157 per month.
Furthermore, groups of riders will designate one of their number to be the coordinator, responsible for collecting fees and paying them to Enterprise. The coordinator will also keep the vehicle at their property and be allowed a certain amount of monthly miles for personal use, Andoh said.
An individual rider can also check other active rider groups and choose to join them, Andoh said.
Andoh said the flexibility of the program should be attractive for those who have to make long commutes around the island, saying that, for many people, the fixed schedules and stops for buses are insufficient for their needs.
“The best thing about this is people can create their own schedules,” Andoh said. “You know those people who park their cars at the intersection of Saddle Road and (Komohana Street)? That’s who we want to target with this. Most of those people are getting picked up in somebody else’s ride and commuting to work on the other side of the island.”
Riders can start a new vanpool or register for an existing one by calling 1-800-VAN-4-WORK or visiting commutewithenterprise.com.
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