The national conversation about public transportation usually centers around buses and trains; an overlooked but more economical option is the vanpool. Commuters are usually reluctant to give up their personal cars even if it costs more than mass transit, because they have the flexibility of schedule and don’t have to wait when they want to go; they can also travel direct to the desired destination. Studies show that an urban area must have around 25,000 people per square mile before even 8 percent will choose public transportation as a means of commute. Vanpools attract more riders because they have more flexibility and are more personal.
Vanpools are more successful in reducing the number of cars on the road because ridership is drawn directly from motorists; other mass transit such as light rail draws its customers from existing bus routes. Some studies are suggesting that as many as 72,000 single occupant cars could be taken off the roads every day by the use of vanpools, which not only reduces congestion but drastically reduces vehicular emissions. Estimates show that around 75.8 billion pounds of CO2 a year would be taken out of the atmosphere from the use of just one vanpools in one city. It costs local government far less to create and run one of these networks than to build new rail routes or expand a bus service; users pay around 70 percent of the cost themselves, whereas rail and bus transportation only collects 20 percent from riders.
The effect this commute option has on its participants is an additional benefit. Driving in a car alone is not only isolating, but increases stress because of the necessity of maintaining control and being alert at all times. A UCLA study indicates that people riding in vanpools show a marked reduction in stress. Riders can relax, get a little nap, and enjoy the company of other riders whom they get to know well over time.