Panel mulls van pool service for workers, employers


Angela Welsh


By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

HERTFORD — A private van pool service operated by rental vehicle giant Enterprise Rent-A-Car could provide a transportation option for area workers who now have trouble getting rides to work and local employers who have difficulty attracting workers from longer distances.

Angela Welsh, planning director for the Albemarle Rural Planning Organization, said the Workforce Transportation Committee of the ARPO met last month with an official from Enterprise to discuss the company’s van pool service.

Welsh said Enterprise has a “ride share” division and currently operates 350 van pools in the state. One in fact shuttles workers who live in Virginia to Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County and back to Virginia.

Welsh said the Workforce Transportation Committee is interested in Enterprise’s van pool option because many area workers currently have to commute to work, sometimes long distances. 

“Some people are going to the beach to work,” said Welsh, adding that she herself used to do that.

“I drove to Nags Head for years to work,” she said. “I ended up buying a Prius because at that time gas was $4 a gallon.”

Welsh said the cost to use Enterprise’s van pool is based on the type of vehicle that is needed and the distance to and from an employee’s place of work.

“It’s not going to be work for everybody,” she said. “If you are working in fast food and working for minimum wage, you could be spending half your check on transportation unless it was subsidized by the business. But for others, who need specific skills and pay better, the situation could work.”

Using a hypothetical, Welsh said using Enterprise’s van pool could cost between $1,000 and $1,200 per worker per month. However, that cost could drop to $100 or $200 a month if 10 people were using the van.

The Enterprise service can provide door-to-door transportation for workers going to a specific employers, Welsh said. It can also pick up and drop off workers at a specific location, like a parking lot, where they could meet. 

She said Enterprise conducts all the required mapping for the transportation route, finding “clusters” of employees based on their addresses. The driver agreement is also between Enterprise and the driver, not the driver and the company he works for. That places liability on Enterprise for any accidents.

Welsh said the Inter-County Public Transportation Authority, the regional transportation agency connected to Albemarle Regional Health Services, wanted to set up a similar van service but its insurance company wouldn’t allow it. ICPTA serves Pasquotank, Perquimans, Camden, Chowan and Currituck counties. Its services are intended to transport the general public to nutrition sites, medical appointments and other sites for services or “activities related to daily living.” The cost for a one-way ride on an ICPTA van is $4.

Welsh said members of the Workforce Transportation Committee believe the Enterprise ride share program is promising. She also noted that Regulator Marine in Edenton is looking into the Enterprise option for its workers.

“We intend to continue discussions with them and hopefully be able to use their ride share program throughout our 10 counties,” Welsh said.

The ARPO falls under the umbrella of the Hertford-based Albemarle Commission which provides services in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

The Enterprise official involved in the discussions with the ARPO panel could not be reached for comment.