Retired vehicles given life after VanPool with nonprofits

Councilmember Kathy Lambert with Mamma’s Hands Executive Director Amy Hardebeck

Councilmember Kathy Lambert with Mamma’s Hands Executive Director Amy Hardebeck

The dark blue King County Commuter VanPool Program vans are a familiar sight in our region. For some, the vehicles are a necessity for getting to and from work each day. But what happens once the vans have passed their useful economic life with the program?

Since 1996, VanPool has been working with Metro’s Accessible Services and King County Councilmembers to pair nonprofits, in need of vehicles to meet their transportation needs, with retired vanpool vehicles. If a nonprofit agency meets the criteria of having adequate insurance and the ability to cover the cost of maintenance, along with staff to operate and service the vans, VanPool provides the vans and Accessible Services works with the nonprofit agency and County Council staff members to finalize the process, said Syd Pawlowski, Supervisor of Rideshare Operations.

The vans average 85,000 to 95,000 miles and are eight to ten years old. They have been maintained throughout their life on a rigorous service schedule and have been well cared for by customers and employees.

For King County, the retired van grant program is an opportunity to contribute to the community by supporting services to those in need of special transportation, such as low-income people, senior citizens, youths, and individuals with disabilities. In recent times, the program has expanded beyond senior citizens and individuals with disabilities to a wide range of individuals to better serve the community.

“[These vans] help people get around to their outings,” said Harold Davis, a transit planner with Accessible Services. “Schools use them for after school programs for youth and seniors are shuttled to medical appointments.”

The shuttles allow low-income people to go to outings and participate in activities they wouldn’t be able to attend without the assistance of transportation, Harold said.

Diane Davis, VanPool Maintenance Scheduler, is responsible for preparing vans for delivery to the agencies. Diane ensures that all vans are mechanically sound and reliable, logos are removed and maintenance service is current.  She notes that, “It is very rare that an agency has any significant problems after the van has been delivered; however, if they do, we work with them to get the problem resolved.”

The process varies in time each year depending on a number of factors, according to Davis. Once the vehicles have been selected and prepared for delivery, Councilmembers have a month to contact nonprofits. He then reviews the grant applications, determining if they meet the criteria. He said the longest part of the process is delivering the vans to nonprofits as they are spread throughout King County.

Since it’s initiation by legislation introduced by Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, King County has delivered over 500 vans to area nonprofit agencies.  Each Councilmember has three vans to award in their district annually. This year King County provided vans to 26 different nonprofits.

2015 Van Grant Agencies

  1. City of Shoreline
  2. YWCA of Seattle, King, Snohomish County
  3. El Centro de la Raza
  4. Operation Nightwatch
  5. Graham Hill Elementary School
  6. Mama’s Hands
  7. Life Enrichment Options (LEO)
  8. Issaquah Senior Center
  9. Sweet Pea Enterprises
  10. Small Faces Child Development Center
  11. Cascade Leadership Challenge
  12. City of Renton
  13. Community Network Council
  14. Southwest Youth & Family Services
  15. Friends of Adventures
  16. Young Women Empowerment (Y-WE)
  17. Youth Eastside Services
  18. Boys & Girls Clubs of King County – Federal
  19. Camp Berachah Ministries
  20. The Auburn Food Bank
  21. Pacific Asian Empowerment Program
  22. Lifelong
  23. Downtown Emergency Service Center
  24. Vine Maple Place
  25. Black Diamond Community Center
  26. City of Enumclaw Parks & Recreation