Columbus touts vanpool program to aid transportation

The Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety approved an interlocal agreement on Tuesday between the city and the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority. City officials say the agreement allows the two agencies to cooperate in providing transportation to local employees.

In early 2017, a committee made up of Mayor Jim Lienhoop, several city department heads, employers, staffing agencies, social service providers, the Chamber of Commerce, Columbus Economic Development, and other stakeholders was formed to discuss employee transportation solutions. Those discussions identified the need for a bus route to the Woodside Industrial Park.

Columbus officials say that the committee determined a vanpool program to be the preferred solution, as it was found to be more flexible and less expensive than a bus route. A vanpool consists of a number of people commuting from similar points to similar destinations each workday. The program, expected to begin in the next few months, will be managed by CIRTA, which now operates vanpools in nine central Indiana counties.

“Carpooling is hardly a new idea, but when a city, its employers and their employees apply the concept in a new way, it is a model of civic innovation,” said Cindy Frey, President of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. “I applaud the city and our local employers for creating a vanpool program that provides reliable, low-cost transportation for employees. This is smart government.”

Columbus officials say the cost of renting and operating the vans will be shared by the city, employers, sponsors and riders. They add that vanpools will be required to have an origin in Columbus and a destination in Columbus or Bartholomew County, or an origin in any county and a destination in Columbus.