ACHD Marks Four Decades of Service
40 Years Strong: ACHD celebrates vanpool program, oldest of its kind in the nation

Saving money on gas — it’s what started the Ada County Highway District’s vanpool program in the late 1970s and it’s what continues to fuel the nation’s oldest vanpool of its type — one of ACHD’s standout successes throughout its 40-year history.

Under its first-given name, Valley Commuteride, the program began as a carpool matching service in when the nation experienced a significant gas shortage, prompting commuters to look for cost-saving options. People turned to Valley Commuteride to pair them with others to share the ride, and from there, theCommuteride van moving through traffic program quickly grew. In 1977, the vanpool program began with two rented vans from Sun Valley Transportation.
 
“We used them temporarily in the summer when the vans were not in use at the resort,” said Pat Nelson, who originally served as the carpool secretary and later the rideshare coordinator from 1983 until she retired in 2002.
 
The program soon secured grant money to buy four, 15-person vans. Unlike other existing vanpool programs, which generally transported a group of people to a single destination – usually a large employer, Commuteride was unique in that it took passengers to an area where multiple destinations could be served. Some of the long-standing routes include downtown Boise and Mountain Home Air Force Base. Carpool programs throughout the state looking to develop vanpool programs began contacting ACHD’s Commuteride to learn more.

While some elements like the 345-POOL phone number have remained a constant, many other components of the program have taken new form through the years. The success of Commuteride is evident today with 900 people sharing the commute to and from work on 94 vans. The program serves commuters from as far as Malheur, Oregon to Elmore County. Last year alone, an estimated 13.8 million miles were saved by the program, which reduces air pollution and traffic congestion on area roads.
Van loading
One of the most recent program innovations brought smaller sized vanpools to the streets. Six mini-van routes now serve commuters living in more rural areas where an interest in vanpooling has long existed, but filling a standard sized van with riders was not realistic.
 
“Being able to offer a smaller platform gives us a further reach and supports our goal of providing more people another option to driving alone,” said Commuteride Supervisor, Kirk Montgomery.

Funding of the Commuteride program is one element that has experienced little change. Vans are purchased with a combination of 80 percent federal money and 20 percent ACHD funds. The remainder of the program, including van maintenance and fuel, pays for itself through rider fares.

A humble beginning with rented ski vans led to the oldest rideshare program of its kind — what once served a handful of Treasure Valley employers now reaches nearly 150 employers with each rider helping to reduce negative impacts on the environment, minimize trips on our roadways, and save money on fuel and vehicle maintenance.
 
More about the vanpool program
A vanpool is similar to a large carpool, typically with 11 to 14 commuters in a large van who share similar commute trips and work schedules. ACHD Commuteride provides passenger vans to groups interested in starting a vanpool and works to coordinate the route set up and fare payment process.