Sierra B.

Sierra and BradWhere do you work and what is your role in the company?

I work as an Environmental Biologist 1 in the Office of the County Engineer, Transportation Improvement Section.

How do you usually get to work? How long have you been using this commute option?   

Before the pandemic upended my routine, I rode in a vanpool daily with five other Pierce County Employees. Since our group is still teleworking for most of our time, I share the van with one coworker just once per week. He uses the van more frequently, and commutes an average of 3 days per week.

How far is your commute? How long does it take you each way?

My commute is about 25 miles one way, and usually takes 30 – 40 minutes.

What made you decide to commute this way?

I was initially inspired to join a vanpool for several reasons. I wanted to save wear and tear on my personal vehicle, and found it exhausting to drive alone every day. I hated feeling like was contributing to traffic and pollution as the driver of a single occupancy vehicle and enjoyed the camaraderie of riding with my coworkers.

What do you enjoy about your commute? 

I enjoy swapping stories about outdoor adventures and chatting with my coworkers. The commute always feels shorter with company.

Do you have any interesting stories from your commute?

Our group was vanpooling during the train derailment in December 2017, when an Amtrak train fell onto the highway between Olympia and Tacoma. For the three days that southbound I5 was closed we were thrown into a state of limbo deciding which route to take, and our commutes took up to 3 hours one way. I was grateful for conversations with my fellow vanpoolers to help pass the time.

Do you think you save money by commuting this way? 

I definitely save money by vanpooling. The Pierce County vanpool subsidy covers most of the cost of vanpooling and makes it very reasonable.

How does your company help accommodate your commute option? 

Pierce County offers free ORCA passes and a vanpool subsidy to participate in vanpooling. There are several bike racks as well for employees to use. 

What would you say to your fellow employees to inspire them to try using a commute option other than driving alone in their car?

The calculations needed to decide whether to join a vanpool are different now than they ever have before. The pandemic has upended many things, and everyone must now assess their personal level of risk when it comes to riding with members outside of their household. The transportation mask mandate requires that masks are worn while riding in vanpools, and many vanpools take the initiative to wipe down frequently touched surfaces.

I would recommend that prospective riders be transparent about their concerns for safety. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is one of the best ways to help protect yourself and other riders and is a great way to minimize the risk for everyone.