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Saving maintenance, miles, money -- Fairchild Vanpool paying off in many ways

Gerald Johnson, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron, stands with his Spokane Transit Van in front of the base headquarters March 9. Over the past 11 years, his vanpool has saved more than 1 million miles on personal vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott King)

Gerald Johnson, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron, stands with his Spokane Transit Van in front of the base headquarters March 9. Over the past 11 years, his vanpool has saved more than 1 million miles on personal vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott King)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Do the math: From Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to Fairchild Air Force Base roundtrip it's about 100 miles; times that by five days per-week and that's 500 miles; times that by 52 weeks per-year and that's nearly 26,000 miles; times that by 11 years and that's roughly 280,000 miles saved on his personal vehicle alone. Then take into account his 11 other riders, and as a group, they have saved well over 1 million miles on their personal vehicles by utilizing the Spokane Transit Authority's Vanpool program.

For the Department of Defense, the [overall] ride-sharing program originated in Washington DC to reduce the number of single occupant vehicles going to the Pentagon each day. It then expanded Air Force-wide. Fairchild utilizes more than 25 of the STA's vans with 190 riders. The cost is virtually zero for riders because of financial arrangements between the Air Force, the Department of Transportation and STA.

Gerald Johnson, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron Asset Management Flight chief, started the first vanpool at Fairchild in 2001, taking advantage of the Air Force Transit Incentive Program and STA's Vanpool program.

"The program is great for Fairchild riders," Johnson said. "My vanpool starts in Coeur d'Alene each day. On the way to Fairchild we pick up riders in Post Falls and Liberty Lake. To date, as a group, I estimate we have saved more than 1.65 million vehicle miles on our personal cars, and probably saved around $5,400 a year in gas costs - not a bad deal especially with rising gas prices."

In January alone, Fairchild vanpools eliminated 99,462 drive-alone miles, 2,736 pounds of carbon monoxide from being emitted into the environment and riders saved $28,350 by not driving, according to Josh Potter, 92nd CES Employee Transportation coordinator and Air Program manager.

"The truth is using an alternate commute mode such as vanpooling to work has numerous benefits that go beyond just the daily drive," Potter said. "The community benefits with fewer cars on the road and less congestion. The environment benefits with less automobile exhaust and greenhouse gases. Also by encouraging employees to participate in the vanpool program, it shows the community that Fairchild is a good steward of the environment by improving Spokane's air quality, reducing impacts on traffic infrastructure and enhancing mobility and economic vitality."

There are other benefits to the program. Riders save on insurance because they are not driving as much. They also save on auto maintenance and repairs and not having to drive to work in the winter is a huge incentive for people who use the program.

Each van generally has a designated primary driver and several backup drivers. Each driver receives training provided by STA and must maintain a clean driving record. For anyone wanting participate in a vanpool or start their own, contact Josh Potter at 247-2313.

"Most of the commute alternative users at Fairchild realize that vanpooling is a big money saver," Potter said. "Also leaving their car at home is not only good for their wallet, it's good for the environment - a win-win situation."