Friday, January 13, 2012

Van GO - Filling the Niches of Transportation Demand

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

As a community service, the Van GO program is like a reward to local non-profits that serve Snohomish County residents – the chance at a cost-free vehicle. As a transportation service, Van GO helps to fulfill community travel needs that could not be replicated by regular transit service.

At a time when regular transit service is being cut, Van GO may mean even more. That’s how the program was born in 2000, when the state cut MVET funding to transit agencies and Community Transit cut its bus service by 30 percent, including all weekend service. The agency sought board permission to grant a portion of its surplus vehicles rather than sell them all at auction. Vehicles bought with only local funding are awarded; those purchased with state or federal money are auctioned.

A surplus vanpool van generally nets about $2,300 at auction. For a transit agency, that money might translate into one bus on one route for one day. To a non-profit organization, the chance of getting such a vehicle without charge is worth much more. In exchange, organizations must promise to use the vehicle for specific community needs and must estimate the number of rides they will provide in a competitive application. Those organizations that show they can meet a great need are selected to receive the vans.

This year, 10 local non-profits received eight-passenger vans with about 150,000 miles on them.

They are: Cocoon House East (Monroe), Everett Gospel Mission, Kid’s Place Early Learning Center (pictured above - Darrington), Lake Stevens Senior Center, Northwest Baptist Church (Marysville), Holly House (Edmonds), Snohomish Community Food Bank, Work Opportunities (Lynnwood), Village Community Services (Arlington) and Youth Dynamics (Arlington).

Once a vehicle is granted to a group, they are responsible for it, including all maintenance and insurance. Grantees provide reports to Community Transit about the usage and rides provided for the first year, although the vans generally remain in service for many years. The 106 vehicles granted over the program’s 12 years have provided tens of thousands of rides that our buses typically wouldn’t serve.

This year’s program reminds us of the origins of Van GO. We’re preparing for a major service cut in February. These vehicles help to make up for some of the service reductions. It’s just another way we’re working to meet Snohomish County’s transportation needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment