JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Rather than sitting in traffic for hours, daily commuters to Fort Eustis from Virginia Beach can, for a zero out-of-pocket cost, ride share using the JBLE van pool.
“You don’t get bored sitting in traffic, and there’s a great camaraderie - you can read, work, get on your phone or sleep,” said Robert “Bobby Dax” Belleza, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine financial management analyst.
Not only has Belleza utilized this ride share option for over 10 years, but he has been managing the JBLE Van Pool as well.
“The amount of money saved not paying for gas or wear and tear on your vehicle is well worth it,” Belleza said. “I would estimate, by just considering wear and tear, and the cost of gas, I’ve saved tens of thousands.”
The van pool is an officially sanctioned and funded by the Army Mass Transportation Benefits Program aimed at offering eligible employees and military service members a way to reduce pollution and traffic congestion, and expand transportation alternatives.
The program is open to U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army service members, Department of Defense civilian employees and civilian contractors. The Mass Transportation Benefits program is part of a Treasury Department initiative established in the National Capitol Region in 2000, expanded for regions outside of Washington, D.C
John Atkinson, TRADOC operations research analyst, has utilized the van pool for several years.
“I’m spending nothing on gas, and the way things are going now with gas prices going up, that’s even a bigger benefit,” he said.
If interested in starting a car or van pool from and to other locations, or in using other aspects of the program within the region, several other commuting possibilities are available. Qualifying modes of transportation include commuter bus, train, subway/light rail, ferries, and van pools. For JBLE, this includes Hampton Roads Transit buses.
Cost for a ride is dependent on the lease for each vehicle. The mileage one way, gas, maintenance and insurance are all factors in determining the lease on the vehicle. Participants pay the vendor monthly.
"As an example, one of our vans has a monthly lease of $1,200," said Dawn Marshall, AMTBP coordinator for Fort Eustis. "If you have eight or nine people in the van, each person would pay between $130 and $150 monthly."
In the case of the Fort Eustis van pool as of 2022, federal employees are granted up to $280 monthly to cover the lease of the vehicle and gas cost, so none of these costs come out of pocket.
“The challenge now is teleworking,” Belleza said. “With so many people teleworking, there has been a drop in interest.” According to Belleza, those utilizing the van pool option can still receive pro-rated allowances by participating even if they only participate in the ride-share program 5-6 times a month.
For hybrid teleworkers, one must use the service 50% of the time to receive the full benefit.
“Ideally, if you can come in 50% of the time you can get your full benefit of up to $280. Anything less than 10 times a month, it’s pro-rated,” Belleza explained. “The government is paying me to go to work!”
If interested in joining the Virginia Beach to Fort Eustis van pool contact Belleza at 757-501-6781 or email@example.com. Those interested in the AMTBP at Fort Eustis can contact Dawn Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.