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HesperiaStar.com
  • Cajon Pass commuter: Don't go it alone — carpool or vanpool

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  • Here’s a scary statistic for Cajon Pass commuters. According to San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford, more than 1 million vehicles a week travel the Interstate 15/215 interchange.
    Even scarier is what Rutherford said next: By 2040, 2.6 million vehicles a week will use that same interchange each week.
    So the widening project underway will definitely come in handy, both now and later.
    But if you’re a Cajon Pass commuter, and you’re going to be one for several more years, those numbers must give you reason to pause. Is there a way for you and others to soften the commute and take cars off  the Cajon Pass at the same time?
    Actually, there is. It’s called ride-sharing, carpooling or vanpooling.
    When I was commuting to West Covina, I had a few opportunities to carpool with co-workers. There was a decent little contingent of San Gabriel Valley Tribune employees living in the High Desert, most in Adelanto.
    It was a great experience. We’d meet at one of the park-and-ride lots and one of us would do the driving. Gasoline was saved, as was wear and tear on our cars. And you got to know your co-worker a little better during the ride to and from work.
    My crazy work hours made it tough, unfortunately. I never knew when breaking news or some other situation would arise that would keep me at work longer than I expected. In other words, I didn’t have a set 9-to-5 schedule that I, or those I would have liked to carpool with, could count on.
    For those of you who do work set schedules, though, I highly recommend carpooling or vanpooling.
    Carpooling is the easiest option, because you really only need one other person to do it. But you can save more and drive less if you can find a couple more. Most cars will fit four comfortably, and if you can line up three other people that means you’re only going to be driving your car up and down the hill one week out of every four.
    Vanpooling is a little more complex, but there are lots of people who do it. The Metropolitan Water District in La Verne had a number of employees who lived up here at one time and many of them were in a van pool for years. I’ve seen van pools for other companies and even universities (UCLA comes to mind) on the road.
    Vanpools can be put together for as few as seven people or as many as 15, from what I read. In most cases companies provide the vans, but individuals also can put vanpools together. Enterprise rent-a-car is in the van leasing business and information is available on the company’s website at www.enterpriserideshare.com.
    If you go to the Victor Valley Transit Authority’s website, www.vvta.org, you’ll find a vanpool page that has program guidelines, information on leasing agencies and pricing, information on the application process and ridematching options.
    One of the attractive things about van pooling is there are tax credits and subsidies available.
    The Victor Valley Transit Authority has secured a federal grant that enables VVTA to provide up to $400 a month to qualified van pools in the Victor Valley. IRS Code 132(f) allows employers to provide a pre-tax benefit of up to $130 a month from employee paychecks toward the cost of vanpooling. That lowers the employee’s taxable income and reduces the employer’s share of FICA payroll taxes.
    The life of a Cajon Pass commuter can be plenty lonely, not to mention stressful. Check out ride-sharing options to see if you can save money and share the commute with someone else who feels your pain.
    Weekend warning
    Remember, the Cajon Crawl starts this weekend! If you go down the hill, expect your drive home to be much slower as Caltrans ramps up its repaving project north of Highway 138.
    It might be better to head up to Vegas than down into L.A. this weekend.
    Steve Hunt can be reached at 760-951-6270 or at SHunt@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevehunteditor.
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