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Answered: King County Metro answers all your vanpooling questions

From cost to van maintenance, the local pros at King County Metro answer our most pressing questions about vanpooling in Seattle.

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Cut your commute costs and breeze by traffic when you vanpool.

Photo provided by King County Metro

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We recently asked readers what questions they had about vanpooling, an innovative commuting option for Seattleites. The local experts at King County Metro gave us the answers to questions about cost, maintenance, and more.

Here’s what they had to say:

How much does it actually cost?

Vanpool monthly fares vary depending on several factors: route, mileage, the number of people in your van, and the number of days traveled, to name a few. But generally, the average monthly fare for vanpooling is similar to that of any other monthly transit pass. Metro has three- to seven-day fare schedules available, which cover everything for your commute (read: gas, tolls, maintenance, insurance, the vehicle itself, and more).

Want to crunch some numbers? Metro created this handy-dandy fare calculator to help you find your vanpool fare.

Take a look at some common commutes and fare rates:
Commute Route/Round Trip Mileage
No. of Work Days
No. of Vanpoolers
Monthly fare per vanpooler
Flat monthly fare for van
Bellevue to Bellltown (25 miles round trip)
4
5
$99
$494
Duvall to Downtown Seattle (50 miles round trip)
3
5
$119
$596
Tacoma to South Seattle (65 miles round trip)
4
5
$161
$803
The more the merrier: the more people in the van, the cheaper it is (plus more potential drivers). Some companies also offer a subsidy toward public transportation, so ask your HR Department or transportation team about it.

What happens if the van gets a flat?

Participants have access to 24/7 roadside assistance and may call (206) 625-4500 any time, any day, for on-call support. If need be, Metro will send out a dispatch support, and even reimburse the whole vanpool if the vehicle is undriveable.

What happens if the car needs to be serviced? Will I be without a van?

Metro vanpool has your back. When vanpoolers take their van in for maintenance, they can pick up a loaner at the maintenance facility, so they’re never without their vanpool.

I live in Seattle and commute from outside of the city for work. Can I still vanpool?

Of course. Anyone living or working in King County may join or form a Metro vanpool with at least three or more commuters with a similar route. There are numerous Metro vans commuting from Seattle to other cities, so check out the vanpool widget to find out if one fits your route, or start a brand-new group.

What’s the wait time like? Do I have to wait on people if they’re running late?

Most vanpool rules are up to the group. Vanpools coordinate their own driving, pick up and drop off times and locations, as well as guidelines for how long the van will wait for folks running late. (In most vanpools, if you snooze too long, you may need to find another option to get to work that day.)

Are vans equipped with Wi-Fi?

Vanpools do not offer Wi-Fi by default, but if you’re interested, your group can choose your own Wi-Fi option and split the cost.

How much money will I actually save?

Spoiler alert: a lot. The average amount people save by vanpooling is $3,000-8,000 per year thanks to spending less on:

  • Fueling up (goodbye, ~$4.33 per gallon gas prices)
  • Insurance rates
  • Maintenance on your personal vehicle
  • Tolls
  • Parking (vanpoolers split any parking costs)

That’s the beauty of a single monthly fare. Not only does it cover commute-related expenses (think: van, fuel card, tolls, insurance, maintenance 24/7 roadside assistance), but also up to six rides home if you have a childcare or family emergency, or must work unscheduled overtime. And if your employer covers your vanpool fare, then you have a nearly cost-free commute.

Vanpools can also get special boarding status on ferries.

Where do you meet?

Vanpool groups set their own routes and pick-up points when they first form the van — typically the route is the most direct one possible. Riders either meet at a driver’s home, a park-and-ride, or are picked up along the route to work.

I work 3 days a week, and my friend works two. Can we vanpool together and how do you break up the cost?

Yes — but you will need to find at least one more part-time person (three or more people starts a van) and split the lowest, three-day fare evenly.

What happens if there’s a fender bender?

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. However, if it does, Metro provides your van with 24/7 roadside assistance, and the vehicle is equipped with a safety triangle and collision packet, too.

Bonus: Just in case, volunteer drivers also undergo an orientation that walks them through exactly what they need to do if they have a collision

And, hey. Be safe out there.

Have you heard positive things from vanpoolers?

Vanpoolers sing the praises of their Metro vanpool group. (Some even literally sing vanpool karaoke.) Here’s what they had to say:

  • “It has been a wonderful way to connect with coworkers who I don’t normally work with, and it’s been really fun! I also love the idea that we’re helping reduce pollution by sharing a van.”
  • “I just completed my first year as a van rider and backup driver. I’ve made new friends, networked with coworkers and feel so much more relaxed while commuting. We listen to podcasts, give each other networking tips and share recipes. In this age of global climate awareness, mindfulness, and health consciousness - a program like this is totally hip and on point.”
  • “Thank you folks for having this vanpool service/program. I don’t know why people don’t vanpool. It’s cheaper, less stress, more environmentally friendly, and allows me to get to work on time 99% of the time. I can only remember 1 time we were late because of a flat tire. I’ve been in the program 19 years and we all share the driving responsibility so only drive one day a week!”
  • “I was just glad it was so easy to slip back into vanpooling. Traffic is as bad as it was before the pandemic…”*
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