Saving the World One Van at a Time

Our Vanpool's New 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

I am truly thankful to be a part of a vanpool.  Five days a week, we unite together to divide and conquer rush hour traffic along K-7 in Leavenworth County and I-70 in Wyandotte County.  For my fifth day of ‘Thirty Days of Thankfulness‘ series, I will introduce you to the benefits of a better way to commute to work.


When I returned to the Kansas City area in the mid 90s, I knew I wanted to live in Leavenworth County.  The driving force behind our choice of municipalities centered on the quality of the public schools, since our children had many years ahead of them before graduating.  I could have returned to my home town in Easton, Kansas, where class sizes are small, but curriculum is limited as a result.  Or I could challenge them academically, building character and arming them for pursuits after graduation by moving them to Lansing, an accredited and highly rated school district in the Kansas City metro area.

While the commute from Lansing is easier and shorter than from Easton, I knew I would miss the solitude and dark night skies available in the northwestern corner of Leavenworth County.  For the first few years, I didn’t mind the twenty-five mile daily commute to midtown.  Then my biggest concern was getting back home in time to pickup Rachelle from after-school day care.  I could never fathom the conspiracy among day care providers in the Leavenworth/Lansing area.  Lansing is a bedroom community – nearly everyone either works on post at Ft. Leavenworth or somewhere else in Kansas City.  Yet all the day care providers required child pick-up by 5:30 p.m.  If I left work at 5:00 p.m., I could not hope to reach the child care facility by closing time without breaking multiple traffic laws.  I was blessed with an understanding manager who allowed me to adjust my hours to accommodate my situation.

Until Rachelle reached her teens, I dared not carpool.  Besides, back then, gas prices were around $1.30 or $1.50 per gallon, so I didn’t worry much about carpooling.  Also, before my husband became disabled, we carpooled together when we could.


Eventually, I found various carpool buddies to share the ride from Lansing to Kansas City.  I liked the simplicity of ride sharing, which reduced the wear and tear on my vehicle by at least fifty percent.  I enjoyed reduced insurance rates as well, since I could inform my insurance agent that I had reduced my annual mileage by half, which all reduced my risk and decreases my premiums.  When gas prices spiked above three dollars for the first time, I even enjoyed a three-way carpool which further reduced the wear on our vehicles.


In May of 2010, my carpool with my pastor’s wife dissolved because of his re-assignment to a church near Topeka.  I needed to find another carpool partner, so I visited the Rideshare Connection database web site looking for a new match.  I got a hit on a person who actually drove an Advantage Vanpool van nearly full of Hallmark employees.   I immediately contacted her, and she directed me to call the contact at KCATA to get the details on the fare and the other forms I would need to complete and return.

I ran the numbers after speaking to the vanpool coordinator and determined that while the fare seemed expensive, it actually made good economic and environmental sense to participate in the vanpool.  (For great page full of information on vanpooling, visit this web page).  I researched the true cost of owning and driving a vehicle and discussed the results as compared to vanpooling with Terry.  I joined the vanpool in July 2010 and never looked back.

I am relieved each month when I write the check for my vanpool fare.  That amount does not change from month to month.  The only time it is adjusted is when a rider leaves or joins the vanpool.  Then the vanpool coordinator re-figures the fare based on the number of participants (obviously, if you have more riders, your fare is lower).  I find it interesting when I have a casual conversation with a coworker or friend and they start talking about the price of gas and I draw a blank because I don’t know the current cost of a gallon of gasoline.  The volatility of gasoline is no longer a driving force in my budget.  I might fill up one of our cars once a month, and that’s usually when I cash in on my reward points accumulated that month by shopping at Dillons.  The only driving Terry and I do is strictly for pleasure, on a weekend or vacation to Texas to visit our kids.  And, since the Pontiacs languish in our garage nearly every day, my insurance premiums fell even more.

Backup Driver

The vanpool had the primary driver and a backup driver.  Without a backup driver, if the primary driver were sick or on vacation, the van cannot be driven or used to transport the other riders.  After a few months of enjoying the backseat of the van, where I could read books, listen to audiobooks or my own music, I was asked to become a backup backup driver.  This involves more forms, more documentation, a physical (similar to what a commercial driver undergoes and paid for by the KCATA) and annual driver training.  I finally completed this process earlier this year (with the exception of driver trainer which occurs in October each year).  I gradually got back into the habit of driving in rush hour traffic, but still preferred the passive pursuit of riding.

Plunged into Primacy

I received a belated birthday gift in early October from the primary driver.  Due to a shift change and a recent move from Leavenworth to McLouth, she gave her thirty day notice to the KCATA and withdrew from the vanpool.  By the end of that week, a second rider withdrew, probably in anticipation of retiring within the next few months.  By the end of October, the backup driver also gave his notice, as he too was moving out of the Leavenworth area.  Suddenly, I inherited the responsibility for the van and it’s remaining rider, a person unable to drive herself anywhere because she is blind.

The vanpool coordinator provided me with a flyer, which I edited and printed for distribution to various bulletin boards in the Lansing and Leavenworth areas.  I also provided several copies to the remaining rider to post in Basehor, where she lives.  I sent out several emails to contacts in Leavenworth and among my peers who I know either live or work on the van’s route.   I created a Craigslist ad.  For the first time, I used a QR code, placing it next to my contact information on the flyer, so that a person with a smartphone could snap a photo of the QR code from the printed flyer and be taken to an electronic copy of the flyer.

I also inserted other clickable links in the flyer:

Snippet of Contact Info section of Vanpool Flyer
  1. My name is a link to my LinkedIn profile.
  2. This Bitly URL to the right of my name links to the Craigslist ad I created.
  3. This QR code allows smartphones to download the flyer PDF
    which I uploaded to my DropBox public folder.
  4. My e-mail address is clickable and should pop-up an e-mail message for interested people to contact me directly.

Getting the Word Out

If you live in Leavenworth, Lansing or Basehor and you work near either Crown Center or the Country Club Plaza (or you know someone who does), please send them to my flyer or to this blog post.  A full van removes five or six other vehicles off the road during rush hour, not only reducing traffic, but emissions as well.  Riding the van helps prevent further global warming and your blood pressure.  Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Last Ticket to Ride

My vanpool has one open seat available. We leave early (6:30 a.m.) from the Hallmark plant parking lot (Eisenhower Road between US-73/K-7 and Hughes Road in Leavenworth, Kansas) and Hallmark headquarters in midtown KC  and the Country Club Plaza.  We usually make it back to Leavenworth by 5:30 p.m. or shortly thereafter.

The RideShare Connection is a free, easy and convenient service that connects commuters throughout Greater Kansas City, Lawrence and St. Joseph who are interested in carpooling
The RideShare Connection is a free, easy and convenient service that connects commuters throughout Greater Kansas City, Lawrence and St. Joseph who are interested in carpooling

If you’re tired of paying an arm and a leg or the lion’s share of your paycheck to fill up your ‘daily driver’ and want to start saving instead, stop by the Kansas City MARC Rideshare Program to learn more.  Not only will you spend less of you hard earned money on gasoline, you’ll help the environment (fewer vehicles on the road), put less wear-and-tear on your vehicle and save on your auto-insurance (just for starters).

If you have any questions or interest, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks for stopping by!