METRO organizing van pools to help some commuters

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Katherine Whaley takes a look at van pools at big companies in Houston (KTRK)

Is the drive to work driving you crazy? Several big companies in Houston are offering an alternative to getting behind the wheel: van pools.

METRO is organizing van pools to save drivers time.

Marla Giamalva gave up driving the three-hour round trip commute between her home in Clear Lake and BP's Westlake campus in the Energy Corridor.

"it has made such a difference in my life," she says.

Instead, Marla rides METRO's BP Star Vanpool. Riders share the cost of gas, but get to use the HOV, saving time and money.

"My husband and I equated it to about 700 dollars per month for us."

She and eight other BP employees in her neighborhood get picked up and dropped off - door to door.

"They don't have to worry about their own personal gas, they also don't have to have the wear and tear on their car, probably most important, they don't have the daily stress," Chuck Cervas, BP Program Manager, explained.

METRO operates 23 different vanpools for BP employees. The program is designed to help take cars off the road, and speed up the drive to work. BP also has reserved parking spaces for electric cars and charging stations where drivers can plug in.

Lorna Carpenter says, the convenience of priority parking, saves her time getting into the office.

"It's not a bad deal that I get to park closer and always know where my parking spot is."

More and more large corporations -like BP -- recognize that making the commute easier makes employees happier. METRO currently works with about 100 local employers in eight counties to organize Star vanpool routes.

" we have nine people in our vehicle, so that means we have eight less vehicles on the road."

If you want to become part of a vanpool, METRO has a form you can fill out.

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