First Time Vanpooling Guide

The ultimate guide on how to commute via vanpool

Washington State has more vanpools than any other place in the country and Ride Together Pierce wants to help you connect to one that works for your schedule. Not only can a vanpool save you time, money and stress, but it also helps you contribute to lower carbon emissions and healthier air quality.

Now read on for a step-by-step guide to participating in a vanpool so you can sit back and relax on your future rides to work!


Here are some ways to find a vanpool match that fits your needs:First time vanpooling guide - FIND A VANPOOL

Our favorite vanpool commuting tips:

  • Check out the vanpool rewards offered by Pierce Transit and enjoy incentives for participating in a vanpool. 
  • Maximize your vanpool time and use it as an opportunity to enjoy the scenery, take a nap, read, or catch up on some work.
  • Calculate your savings for using a vanpool — saving money feels good!

STEP 2: JOIN THE VANPOOLFirst time vanpooling guide - JOIN THE VANPOOL

Once you’ve matched with a vanpool group, you’ll take care of the administrative parts of participating:

  • Get in touch with the vanpool coordinator(s) to introduce yourself, exchange phone numbers and discuss the details of your vanpool.
  • Ask any questions you have including routes, pickup times, pickup location, costs and what to do in case of emergency.
  • Complete the required paperwork to join the group.
  • Pay your fare.

Here are some questions you may want to ask your vanpool coordinator to get ready to join the group:

  • Who should I contact if I won’t be joining the ride on one of my scheduled days?
  • Are there any rules I should be aware of, such as music volume or eating and drinking in the van? 
  • What is the maximum time that the vanpool will wait for all passengers in case someone is running late?
  • How much space is there for personal items like backpacks?
  • Can the transit agency add a bike rack to the van?


Each transit agency has its own fare structure and mode of payment. Transparent information is available for each transit agency here: Pierce Transit's Vanpool Fare page, Intercity Transit's Vanpool Fare page, King County Metro's Vanpool Fare page, Community Transit’s Vanpool Fare page, and Kitsap Transit's Vanpool Fare page.

First time vanpooling guide - HOW PAYMENT WORKS

You may also be able to take advantage of employer subsidies or reimbursements for your vanpool fare. Talk to your employer, HR department or Employee Transportation Coordinator to see if you can benefit from a discounted vanpool ride.

Youth ride free!

Riders 18 years of age or younger are not charged a vanpool fare. Youth passengers must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. When you sign up for a vanpool, specify that a youth passenger will be joining too so the space can be reserved and the proper paperwork can be completed.


Once you have your start date set, your paperwork complete and your payment made, it’s time to get ready to ride! Have a great vanpool experience by doing the following:

First time vanpooling guide - BEFORE THE RIDE

  • Bring everything you need for your day. Personal items, like your phone, wallet, and keys, and anything you need for your workday.
  • If you’re completing your commute through additional transportation modes, such as a bus or a train, be sure you have your ORCA card or carry the fare needed.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene and avoid wearing strong-scented lotions or cologne to be thoughtful of other passengers' experiences and sensitivities.
  • Arrive on time at the designated pickup location. Respecting the time agreements helps get everyone to the destination on time and stress-free.


On the vanpool trip, follow your vanpool rules so everyone has a comfortable ride. Here are a few basic etiquette points to consider:

First time vanpooling guide - ON THE RIDE

  • Pick up any trash and take it with you to leave the van clean.
  • Keep personal conversations quiet and respectful. Some people may prefer a quieter commute.
  • Try to limit long cell phone conversations or loud volume on your phone while watching videos. Use headphones or earbuds if possible.
  • Respect everyone’s personal space.
  • Wear your seatbelt to keep you safe.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Here are some of our favorite vanpool activities:

  • Enjoy the beautiful scenery from your window
  • Pass the time socializing with your vanpool buddies
  • Listen to a podcast using your headphones
  • Catch up on emails on your phone
  • Read a book or the daily news
  • Study for school or a work presentation
  • Close your eyes and get some extra rest!


For every trip you log into the RTP Trip Calendar, you can see how much money you’re saving and be entered to win prizes!

First time vanpooling guide - LOG YOUR TRIPS  WIN


If you vanpool to work and your employer partners with Ride Together Pierce, you may be eligible for a free Uber, Lyft or taxi ride home in case of an emergency. Visit Ride Together Pierce’s Emergency Ride Home page for more information or contact your Employee Transportation Coordinator.

Pierce Transit vanpoolers who aren’t eligible through their employer may be able to get an emergency ride home through the Pierce Transit Vanpool Assured Ride Home Program. Check out the PDF for more details about how to utilize the program.