UI Van Pool remains one of the oldest carpool programs in the country

One of the oldest vehicle-pool services in the country, UI Van Pool has aided UI faculty and staff in commuting to and from campus in a cost-effective way.



Aadit Tambe, News Reporter

While most University of Iowa staff and faculty members continue to drive to and from work every day, the UI Van Pool aims to provide them with a cost-effective way of commuting.

Started in 1978, the Van Pool remains the country’s longest-running carpool program. The pool is meant for groups of people who have similar work schedules and live in proximity. Members who take part in the ride service pay a fee, which varies based on the distance from the university.

One member using the ride service volunteers to drive the car, said April Wells, the communications manager for the Parking & Transportation Department. In return, the drivers’ fees are waived.

Vans typically have two or three backup drivers who take turns driving when the designated driver is absent.

The program is meant for faculty and staff members, Van Pool coordinator Joseph Pray said.

“We don’t advertise [that] students can join the Van Pool, and the majority of them cannot,” Pray said. “There are some students who can join, more specifically graduate students who have paid positions at the university. A lot of it is tied to workers’ compensation.”

If there were injuries on the vans, the vehicles are seen as extensions of the workplace, Wells said. Students who aren’t employed at the university or undergraduates if they’re not covered by the university’s workers’ compensation, they would be ineligible to be members of the pool.

“Designated drivers undergo a training after which they are allowed to drive,” Wells said. “In addition to that, we make sure university policies are available to help those people if there were ever a situation in which help is needed.”

The university provides the vans for the pool, Pray said. Officials expect that the vehicles are parked at the residences of the designated drivers.

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Additionally, these vehicles undergo service after  5,000 miles or six months, whichever occurs earlier, he said.

The university pays for gas, using the money Van Pool members pay as fees, Wells said.

The Van Pool currently has 68 vans and 560 members enrolled in the program, Wells said.

“I have been driving for UI Van Pool since February 1988,” Brian Dake said. “I was a rider before that.”

Dake has been a Van Pool member since 1980, he said. The fee for members is approximately $60 a month.

Nancy Kirkpatrick, an administrator at the UI Hospitals & Clinics, has participated in the program since its inception, she said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

The service gives riders the opportunity to work in the van, catch up on sleep, or just relax during the ride to and from work, she said.

“The benefits are numerous — camaraderie with your other Van Pool members, plus reduced wear and tear on your own vehicle,” Kirkpatrick said. “The university supplies and maintains the vans, so you are able to ride in a safe, well-maintained vehicle.”