Vanpool FAQ's

  • How does a vanpool work?

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    A vanpool is a group of 5 to 15 people sharing the ride to work in a van. Pierce Transit's fleet of 300+ vanpools includes 12- and 15-passenger vehicles and a limited number of minivans. These vans are assigned to approved groups and are driven by volunteers who share the commute trip. Every vanpool group has a primary driver, backup driver, and bookkeeper. Pierce Transit owns, maintains, manages, insures and licenses the fleet.

  • How do I become a driver?

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    Start by completing the driver application packet and returning it to Pierce Transit. We will review your application, run a motor vehicle record, and provide online training.

  • I drove a PT vanpool before. Am I automatically re-approved?

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    No. Please complete and submit a new driver application packet. If you were a Pierce Transit vanpool driver within the last year, we may waive the defensive driving course, depending on how long you drove, your driving record, and your status when you last drove for us.

  • What if I drove a vanpool for a different transit agency?

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    Depends. If you drove for another transit agency within the last year, and that agency uses the Coaching the Van Driver defensive driving course, we may accept that training and experience as sufficient, depending on your driving record and your status with that agency. Complete a driver application packet and we will review it.

  • How much does vanpooling cost?

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    Fares are based on the number of people in your group and the roundtrip mileage. Many employers pay all or part of the vanpool fare – see the employee transportation coordinator at your workplace to find out.

  • If I join the vanpool, what is my commitment?

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    Vanpooling is a month-to-month commitment. If you decide to leave the vanpool, please notify your bookkeeper at least 5 days before the end of the month.

  • Do I get picked up at my home?

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    Not usually. The group determines its route and schedule, and most groups choose convenient park and ride lots or other meeting points to keep mileage and commute times to a minimum. Pierce Transit approves a group's initial route and schedule, as well as any changes to it. In any case, the origin or destination of each vanpool's route must be in Pierce County.

  • What happens when I'm sick or on vacation?

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    Your monthly fare reserves your seat, which you may use as often or as little as you wish during that month. Refunds are not permitted.

  • Who pays for gas?

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    Pierce Transit. Each vehicle has a Voyager card for fueling the van. Approved vanpool drivers fuel the van using an assigned Voyager personal identification number.

  • How are monthly fares determined?

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    Monthly fares are based on the van's average daily roundtrip miles and the number of monthly riders in the vanpool. Fares cover most of the group's operating and administrative costs, including fuel, maintenance, and insurance.

  • What if the vanpool group gains or loses a rider?

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    Monthly fares are determined partially by the number of monthly riders. Usually, individual fares decrease as your group adds riders, and increase as you lose riders.

  • How do we find more riders?

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    Our recruitment team can work directly with you and your company to help recruit riders. We also offer computerized ridematching services through RideshareOnline.com to provide you with names of potential vanpoolers. Just call 253.581.8000 or 1.888.814.1300 to request a Ridematch, or log on to RideshareOnline.com to find your own matches. You may also be able to recruit new riders through your company newsletter, by posting signs around your worksite, or by using your worksite's Intranet services – just be sure to gain your employer's approval first. Pierce Transit can supply you with Riders Wanted flyers.

  • What are the bookkeeper's main responsibilities?

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    The vanpool bookkeeper is vital to the success of the vanpool. This volunteer quotes and collects fares, and records ridership and mileage. The bookkeeper also ensures that completed vanpool reports and fares arrive at Pierce Transit by the tenth of each month. A vanpooler who rides regularly is a good candidate to keep the books for the group. Familiarity with Microsoft Excel is also recommended.

    A potential bookkeeper submits an application and receives training before assuming volunteer bookkeeper responsibilities. The bookkeeper must be an active participant in the vanpool.

  • Is smoking allowed in the vanpool vehicle?

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    No. By State law, Pierce Transit does not allow smoking in or within 25 feet of its vehicles or facilities. By signing our participant agreement, riders also agree to refrain from using tobacco and vaporizer products while in or within 25 feet of any Agency vehicle or structure. In addition, riders may not possess or be under the influence of alcohol or federally prohibited substances, including marijuana, while on the van.

  • What about insurance coverage?

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    Pierce Transit is insured through the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool (WSTIP), providing coverage for the van and all authorized occupants. In addition, we purchase uninsured motorist coverage. Vanpool drivers should discuss their personal medical insurance needs with their insurance agent to ensure adequate personal insurance should they be injured in an at-fault accident. As a public agency, we do not carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. If the vanpool is involved in an accident and our volunteer driver is not at fault, all claims will be directed to the other driver's insurance. Pierce Transit cannot assist you with personal claims in these instances. We will not assume any liability or provide any coverage in these instances. Think of it as similar to renting a car or driving your own car.

  • Are there special criteria for driver selection?

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    Absolutely! Your safety comes first. All drivers must be at least 25 years old with five years of recent driving history, have a valid Washington State driver license, a safe driving record, and proof of insurability. All potential drivers must also take our online defensive driving course. Applicants will only be insured once all requirements are met.

  • What are the primary driver's basic responsibilities?

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    The primary driver is responsible for picking up and delivering passengers, and arranging for van maintenance, van cleaning, and fueling. The primary driver also coordinates with other approved drivers to help ensure (as much as possible) that the vehicle operates each work day of the month.

  • Sounds like a lot of work. How does the primary driver benefit?

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    Pierce Transit does not charge the primary driver a fare, provided there are at least five paying riders. All approved drivers are entitled to personal use of the van (with some restrictions) at Pierce Transit's current mileage rate.

  • What happens if the primary driver is sick or on vacation?

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    Every vanpool must have at least one approved backup driver who can drive the van when the primary driver isn't available. If, for some reason, no drivers are available, the vanpool group should follow its predetermined carpool plan. No fare refunds are provided.

  • What happens if the van needs service or breaks down?

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    To help avoid breakdowns, we make every effort to schedule vans for regular servicing. We provide the group with a spare van for any routine servicing. The primary driver brings the van in for servicing within two business days of notification by Pierce Transit. If the primary driver is unavailable to make the swap, one of the backup drivers must perform that duty. In the rare event that your van breaks down and is inoperable, the vanpool group should follow its predetermined carpool plan and call Pierce Transit as soon as possible. And we'll get a spare vanpool van to you as quickly as possible.

Online Vanpool Payments

  • Who is a good candidate for online payment?

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    Any vanpooler who pays a fare. A rider who has no employer subsidy and writes a check each month is a top candidate for online fare payment.

  • Does this mean I pay Pierce Transit directly, rather than provide payment to bookkeeper?

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    Yes

  • Does this new payment method change when the payment is due?

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    No. Your bookkeeper will continue to quote the fare around the 25th of the month. Fares are still due before the first of each month. Expect to make your online payments between the 25th and the last day of the month.

  • Does everyone in the group need to make online payments, or can just a few of the riders participate?

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    Everyone is welcome to pay online, but no one is required to. Note: Some employers plan to change their form of subsidy from vouchers to debit card. When/if that happens, online payment may be required for those vanpoolers. We will continue to accept all other forms of payments: check, money order, voucher and cash.

  • Is it safe to pay my fare online?

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    Pierce Transit’s online payment transaction is in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of requirements designed to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

  • Can I pay my fares in advance? For example, two or three months at a time?

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    No. Fares may increase or decrease based on riders leaving or joining. Please pay only one month at a time.

  • Will Pierce Transit charge an additional fee to pay online?

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    No

  • How will my bookkeeper know that I paid online?

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    Let your bookkeeper know that you paid by providing him or her with an emailed or printed copy of your Transaction Accepted confirmation.

  • What cards are accepted for online payment?

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    Any debit or credit card with a VISA or MasterCard logo. Debit cards are run as credit transactions.

  • What do I need to know before I make my payment, in addition to the fare amount?

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    You need your Group Identification Number (GIN). The GIN is the four-digit number assigned to your group. Your bookkeeper or Pierce Transit vanpool coordinator can provide it to you.

  • Why can’t I just use the van number?

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    Your van number will change if your group is assigned a different vehicle. The GIN stays with the group as long as it is operation. As long as you stay with your current group, your GIN will not change.

  • My employer subsidizes part of my vanpool fare through ORCA Passport. Can I pay the remainder online?

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    Yes, your vanpool bookkeeper will let you know the balance due.

  • My WageWorks Direct Pay election amount does not cover my full fare. What are my options?

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    You can increase your Direct Pay election through WageWorks, or pay the balance online, or as you do now.

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Trip Planner Help

Trip Planner Tips - Entering Locations

To create a trip plan you need to enter both a starting location (origin) and an ending location (destination). For information about stops, schedules, or service at a specific location, you only need to enter one location.

The Trip Planner recognizes most street intersections and addresses as well as many landmarks in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties. If what you entered is not immediately recognized, the Trip Planner will offer you a list of options. You can choose one of the options, but if your intended location is not there, select the "Revise Original Entries" link to return to the entry page and change the entries you have already made.

Addresses

  • You don't need to type in the city along with the address. The Trip Planner shows the possible city names as options if needed. City names are based on zip codes.
  • You don't need to type in St., Street, Ave., or Avenue, or similar street types. The Trip Planner shows the possible alternatives as options if needed. (Example: type 110 Jones instead of 110 Jones Boulevard.)
  • You don't need to type in the directional designations for streets, but if a direction name is part of a street name, you should include it. (Example: type 1000 Main instead of 1000 S Main. But type 1000 West Viewmont for 1000 West Viewmont Way W.)
  • Some streets and addresses are unknown to the Trip Planner. You may need to enter another nearby location, such as an intersection or a landmark.
  • You should not enter the suite number or apartment number.  Just the house number and street name (Example: type in 401 Broadway instead of 401 Broadway Avenue Suite 800).

Intersections

  • The "&" symbol is the only character used between two street names to show an intersection. (Examples: 1st & B, James & Madison)
  • You don't need to type in the city. The Trip Planner shows the possible city names as options if needed. City names are based on zip codes.
  • You don't need to type in St., Street, Ave., or Avenue, or similar street types. The Trip Planner shows the possible alternatives as options if needed. (Example: type Conifer & Jones instead of Conifer Circle & Jones Boulevard.)
  • You don't need to type in the directional designations for streets, but if a direction name is part of a street name, you should include it. (Example: type 3rd & Main instead of 3rd S & S Main. But type 34th & West Viewmont for 34th W & West Viewmont Way W.)
  • Some streets are unknown to the Trip Planner. You may need to enter another nearby intersection or a landmark.

Landmarks

Government Sites: Pierce County Health Dept, Pierce Co Sheriffs Office, Tacoma City Hall

Major Commercial Sites: Tacoma Mall, Sheraton Hotel

Transportation Facilities: Sea-Tac Airport, Greyhound Bus Depot

Schools & Colleges: Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma Community College

Sports & Leisure: Cheney Stadium, Pt Defiance Zoo

Medical Facilities: Group Health, Tacoma General Hospital


 

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