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Meridian 'goes green' with vanpools, saves employees green in their wallets

ARLINGTON With gas prices more than $4 a gallon, it's more expensive than ever to drive to work, but employers like Meridian Yachts in Arlington are aiming to ease the burden on both the environment and their employees' wallets.
Meridian has recently started using three vans, each of which can accommodate 15 passengers, to conduct ""vanpools"" through Skagit Transit.
Audrey Eustice, human resources generalist for Meridian in Arlington, estimated that the average employee who participates in the vanpool saves approximately $300 per month.
""We have employees who live as far away as Burlington, Darrington and Mount Vernon,"" Eustice said. ""The fare for the van is about $40 a month, but they'd be spending about $300 a month just on fuel, and that's before you even factor in insurance and maintenance costs to drive themselves to work.""
Stephen Dusold, plant general manager for Meridian in Arlington, believes the service allows them to retain employees who might not be able to afford their commutes otherwise, while Eustice noted that the vanpools give them 45 open parking spaces.
""The three vans have dedicated spaces in front of the building,"" Eustice said. ""You only need to ride three days a week, and if you have an emergency or a doctor's appointment, you're guaranteed a ride by van or cab. It doesn't cost us anything.""
The vanpool fares cover the costs of the vans' fuel, maintenance and insurance, and the vans can use freeway HOV lanes.
Community Transit has 340 vanpool groups whose commutes either begin or end in Snohomish County. According to Dawn Kirsch, vanpool supervisor for Community Transit, those vanpools take approximately 2,250 single-occupant vehicles off the road.
Those interested in finding potential vanpool partners and groups needing additional partners can log onto www.rideshareonline.com.

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