A Smarter Way to Work

July 12, 2019
Vanpoolers Save Money, Make Friends, & Reduce their Environmental Impact
If you’re one of the daily commuters to and from UCSB along the Central Coast you’ve surely seen some co-workers traveling alongside you on UCSB vanpools. Offered as a form of alternative transportation as far north as Santa Maria and as far south as Thousand Oaks, somewhere around 100 employees save both wear and tear on their vehicle in addition to drive time behind the wheel by taking vanpools every week. But perhaps you aren’t aware, vanpools are driven solely by UCSB employees who receive a full or partial discount on vanpool dues proportionate to the time spent driving the vanpool. And on top of that, a fair amount of the drivers are part of our HDAE team! Here’s a rundown of some of our team that put in double-duty as vanpool drivers.  
Ginnie Thomas (pictured above) has been at UCSB in Residential Operations for more than 17 years and has been participating in the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for just as long, including driving a vanpool the entire time. She says that participating in TAP is good for the environment and saves money. Before the train started as a commuter alternative two years ago, Ginnie had been a vanpool driver between Ventura and UCSB. She remains as a full-time vanpool driver, only now she handles the “commute” from the Goleta Train Depot to UCSB. As a current train commuter, she loves the great views, the lack of traffic, and that you can choose to eat, sleep or ride (note: there’s also the free Wi-Fi.) On the train she is glad to be free from the stop and go traffic and crazy drivers on the 101, as well as the bumpy ride. According to Ginnie, other than the occasional lateness, the train is close to perfection for a commuter. I asked Ginnie if she had any interesting vanpool/train ride stories to share with us and this is what she said: “From the vantage point in the van you can see most of the drivers on the 101 – many texting – but one time in stop and go traffic we observed one woman shaving her legs while driving!”
Next I caught up with Bruce Simioni, who has been at Transportation & Parking Services for 24 years. He has been a vanpool driver on the Solvang commute for more than 10 of those years. According to Bruce, being a vanpool driver can at times be very challenging, but not in the ways you might normally expect, like putting up with traffic or maybe even road rage. While he has high praise and many compliments for the camaraderie of his commute buddies, Bruce is not so enthusiastic about some of the more administrative aspects of being the driver such as keeping track of who is riding on which day or needing to keep tabs on the occasional riders. An unexpected outcome of his perceived leadership role is that he finds he is expected to take sides when the occasional disagreement arises. But such details are made worthwhile by the discounted fare and not having to rely on having a second vehicle to pay for and maintain. Bruce also notes that the vanpool is very quiet in the mornings when they leave at 6:00 am and much more lively on the way home!
Arturo Ortiz from Residential Operations has maintained status as a back-up driver on the vanpool for the past 8 years. He is there to support and fill in for the main driver when he is on vacation or otherwise unable to drive. Arturo really appreciates the camaraderie and friendships he has made on his vanpool. 
Rafael Velasquez has been in Residential Operations for 21 years, 10 of them as a vanpool driver. He appreciates that he is saving money and wear and tear on his vehicle, and the autonomy of being the main driver – he does not have to be picked up or dropped off! He says that he can do without some of the occasional disputes that invariably arise when a small group of people spend a few hours together daily. He prefers to focus on the road and safety of his passengers.  
Kai Lu has been working in Administrative & Residential Information Technology for 12 years and has had the official status as back-up driver on and off for approximately 11 of those years. Kai finds that riding the vanpool tends to be less tiring than the daily drive-yourself commute.  
Frank Xiong (pictured below with a few of his vanpool buddies) has been at UCSB for four years now, riding on the Lompoc #3 for 1½ years and driving for 2½ years. He loves that his drive takes him along a route where he can experience beautiful sunrises and sunsets regularly. As to be expected, he is no fan of traffic, which he admits is not as bad for the commute north, as well as the sometimes bumpy ride on the van. He ruefully recalls the time that he, the driver no less, lost track of time at the end of the day and kept the van waiting! OK, he was ~only~ 10 minutes late, but Frank is very thankful they waited for him and didn’t leave without him (a distinct possibility since sometimes vanpoolers need to catch emergency rides home and may forget to let someone know.) 
Long-term vanpoolers unanimously agree that an alternative method of commute, although not without its drawbacks and challenges, is in its totality a more relaxing and engaging experience than driving by yourself every day. For more information regarding vanpools, trains or bus commutes, watch these two videos: Green Your Ride: From The South and Green Your Ride: North County, visit the TAP website or contact Jamey Wagner at james.wagner@ucsb.edu or x5475. 
By Laura Hoffman