Vanpool Pioneer Puts Road Ways Behind Her

Vanpool Pioneer Puts Road Ways Behind Her

Barbara Mason has been around the block more than a couple of times. Upon retiring from forest product giant Weyerhaeuser this year, Mason set an unofficial record for longevity as a vanpool rider.

She’d been at it more than 21 years, racking up 218,000 miles.

“It's been a good way to get to work each day, and I've enjoyed it,” Mason said. She retired in March as the company’s commute trip reduction assistant.

In 1980, Weyerhaeuser became one of the first companies to provide a private employee vanpool program, providing an alternative to driving to work during the national gas crisis of the Carter Administration.

According to Commuter Challenge's Pacesetter, a newsletter on alternative commute options, vanpooling initially attracted people interested in taking a direct route that offered more independence than the transit system. Twenty-one years ago, Weyerhaeuser employees paid to buddy up in vans in the sole public agency vanpool program of the time (the fledgling Commuter Pool partnership between the City of Seattle and Metro, Seattle's bus system) and it did not serve south King County, where Mason lived.

As more commuters took up vanpooling, Weyerhaeuser turned its program over to Metro, with the agency purchasing Weyerhaeuser's fleet. The company gave its vanpoolers $21 subsidies toward Metro vanpools to encourage ridesharing.

Mason reportedly took her commitment a step further when she and employee transportation coordinator Katy Taylor and 12 other co-workers helped institutionalize a company-wide rideshare program called “Weyerhaeuer Freeways" that took full advantage of Washington state's carpool lane law.

Reducing commuter and business driving is a cost-saving alternative to building ever-increasing highway and public transit capacity. Reduced driving also lessens air and water pollution, energy consumption and highway maintenance costs.

Solutions include increased use of public transit, commuter pool vehicles (vanpools & carpools), alternative fuels vehicles, bicycle projects, employer financial incentives, transportation management association dues and telework (telecommuting).



Commuter Information Center

Employee Transportation Coordinator Handbook

GreenBiz Essentials: Climate Change

Telework/Telecommuting Web sites

Transportation Options in Oregon

Washington State Commute Trip Reduction