The Florida Department of Transportation has identified three (3) areas of the State of Florida as “Areas of Critical Concern.” These three areas include twenty-eight (28) of Florida’s thirty-two (32) rural counties:
1. Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Liberty Counties (and a small area within Walton County)
2. Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee Counties (and small areas within Collier and Palm Beach Counties)
3. Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Putnam, Suwannee, Taylor and Union Counties
These three “Areas of Critical Concern” have similar economic conditions:
• Low per capita income
• Low per capita taxable values
• High unemployment
• High underemployment
• Low weekly earned wages compared to the state averages
• Low housing values compared to the state average
• High percentages of the population receiving public assistance
• High poverty levels compared to the state average
• A lack of year-round stable employment opportunities
Jobs might be available in adjoining counties or in these three areas where traditional public transportation is not available or is considered inadequate to meet the needs of the population. VPSI services can address some of these needs in a safe and efficient manner. These areas encompass a large geographic area of the State of Florida. Accordingly, Non-Urbanized Area Formula Funding (U.S.C. Section 5311) has been obtained by FDOT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to financially support commuter vanpools that are formed and placed into service under this program.
A public/private partnership between FDOT & VPSI, Inc. has been formed to assist these areas of concern.
VPSI, Inc., a private provider of public transportation services, has entered into a joint participation agreement with FDOT to provide turn-key commuter vanpool services within the counties of critical concern. VPSI will serve as the Florida Department of Transportation’s partner in this endeavor. VPSI’s organization is highly experienced in working with public and private stakeholders. More than half of VPSI 5,000 vanpool nationwide participate in programs developed in partnership with local transit agencies and metropolitan planning organizations. These agencies contract with VPSI to supply the vanpool service and use federal funds to reduce the price paid by commuters.
Working in partnership with the FDOT Commuter Assistance Organizations and State of Florida Economic Development Organizations, VPSI will provide and make available well-appointed commuter vans that seat 7 to 15 persons, comprehensive auto liability insurance coverage, and a bumper-to-bumper preventive maintenance and repair package. Services are provided on a month-to-month contract basis and require no long-term commitment. The end result will be a comprehensive vanpool program that serves the needs of the constituents of rural Florida who are in need of affordable transportation services to get to and from work. Innovative use of the (FTA) Federal Transit Administration financing policies, specifically the implementation of the FTA Capital Cost of Contracting Policy, enables public agencies and VPSI to make vanpooling available to more communities at attractive rates which encourage commuters to leave their cars at home and vanpool to work.
How will this arrangement work?
• VPSI will supply as many as thirty-eight (38) vanpools over the course of the next twenty-one (21) months. This investment assumes the market will respond favorably to monthly vanpool service rate at a 60% discount. Definition of a Commuter Vanpool A commuter vanpool is understood to operate as follows:
• A group of individuals voluntarily participating in a ridesharing arrangement in a van with a seating capacity of not less than 7 (including the driver) and not greater than 15 (including the driver).
• Driver/Coordinators and Alternate/Backup drivers are themselves commuters who are volunteers receiving no compensation for their efforts and are reimbursed by riders for the vehicle and operating expenses.
• Vanpool drivers use the van to pickup, transport and deliver the other vanpool passengers to and from their residences (or a common staging area) and their places of employment.
• The vehicle makes one trip to work and one trip home.
• The use of the van will not be construed as “being engaged in transportation as a business.”
• The vehicle may be used for personal use as defined in the driver agreement, but may not be used to carry passengers for hire outside the scope of the regular home-to-work commute.
• VPSI Three-Party Agreements for vanpooling shall be used in circumstances where the parties to the agreement are VPSI, the driver, and the employer of the driver. The employer must own or operate the workplace to which the van is destined. For additional information about the State of Florida Rural Vanpool Program, call 1-800-Van-Ride to speak with a VPSI representative.