Julie and Staci, Island Transit’s program coordinators, are big fans of Mark Horton. He’s been a consistent vanpool participant for 30 years. That’s almost as long as the Island Transit vanpool program has existed.
Mark has driven just about every kind of van Island Transit owns. He started with his favorite, the 15-passenger van, but has also used the 12-passenger and seven-passenger vans as well. He’s been the primary vanpool driver, bookkeeper, recruiter and manager, and he’s always had a full van.
Mark works on the second shift at Boeing. The size of the vanpool fluctuates with the economy and Boeing’s ups and downs. Now, due to the pandemic, there are social distancing and mask requirements. Vanpool capacity is limited and minimum requirements are lower, but his van is still full to the allowable capacity.
When I asked what drove Mark to try a vanpool, he looked at me as if it was obvious.
“I was driving 3,000 miles a month.”
He and his vanpool mates commute from Oak Harbor to work at Boeing in Everett. Many employers, like Boeing, subsidize employees who take a vanpool to work. They also get a discount on the ferry and he splits the other expenses with his van mates. If he has any problems with the van, he swaps it for another at Island Transit. It saves a lot of money on gas, insurance and car repairs on his personal vehicle.
And it saves time. Family time is important to Mark. He likes being able to drive down to the ferry and get on first without waiting. Vanpools can also use HOV lanes and don’t have to pay tolls on the mainland – more time- and money-savers.
He’s worked for Boeing for 32 years. Sometimes he puts in 9- or 10-hour days. When they finish their shift it’s late and ferries are running on an hourly schedule. So it works out best to drive north and cross Deception Pass Bridge to make their way home to Oak Harbor.
One very windy night in January, they ended up sleeping in their van at Pass Lake. Winds were gusting up to 64 mph. They found that they were stuck behind some trees that had fallen across the road and a semi-truck that had blown over and was leaning against the railing on Deception Pass Bridge. The bridge was cleared around 7am.
Other than that, his vanpool travels have been uneventful, just the way he likes them. To learn more about the vanpool program, email: email@example.com