If you asked most people whether vanpooling to work is a good idea, they’d probably say it should be encouraged to help the environment and ease congestion.
But provincial regulations make it undesirable for employers to operate them for their workers, argues a GTA transportation expert.
“You can run your first vanpool program, no problem, but if you wanted to run a fleet of them, you have to be the boss of the majority of people in the vehicle,’’ says Brian Shifman, executive director of Smart Commute, North Toronto, Vaughan, a non-profit group committed to reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and advocating for sustainable transportation.
This is a significant barrier because most employers don’t want to accept the costs and liability associated with vanpools, Shifman argues.
Many employers also don’t manage their own fleet of vehicles, so vanpools are an administrative hassle, he says. Companies that do have fleets are usually larger, so employees at small or medium-sized operations lose out, Shifman argues.
For instance, Enbridge in Toronto has six vanpools, all natural-gas powered, and the company already had its own fleet of vehicles. The first four vanpools saves the company about $40,000 it would otherwise spend on leasing adjacent parking lots to make up for a shortage of space.
So how do we encourage vanpooling?
Ontario’s Public Vehicles Act should be amended to let third-party non-profit organizations or transit authorities like GO to manage vanpool fleets, for use by employees from any workplace or group of workplaces, as the law allows in British Columbia, Shifman says.
Existing vanpool programs should be showcased more.
And, he says, provincial and municipal governments could help by providing financial incentives to companies to create them.
How to encourage vanpooling
If you asked most people whether vanpooling to work is a good idea,they’d probably say it should be encouraged to help the environment andease congestion.