A state-run van pool service will end in May, leaving about 225 commuters to find other ways to get to work.

The Maine Department of Transportation says a lack of federal funding to replace aging vehicles prompted it to end the service, which has been run for the past 10 years by Go Maine, a program that connects commuters to ride-sharing options.

The program will continue to help commuters find van rides, through Michigan-based VPSI Inc., the only van pool business licensed in the state, said Sue Moreau, passenger services manager for the MDOT.

But it will be up to the commuters to contact that company to get routes started. Some riders are saying the hassle – and potentially higher fees – have them considering other options for commuting.

Rob Rocheleau, who has been commuting by van pool since 1987, might just move closer to his job.

“I’m not going to put 30,000 miles a year on my car,” said Rocheleau, who lives in Lewiston and works for the state Department of Audit in Augusta.

From what he’s seen, there seems to be “quite a lot involved” in switching to the private service, he said. “I’m wondering, administratively, how much of a bear it would be.”

Cathleen McIntyre, VPSI’s area manager, said her company plans to work with groups of commuters to figure out the most cost-effective services for them. That might mean consolidating some routes, she said.

Most commuters who use the van pool service are state workers who go to Augusta. A few other routes include Portland to Lewiston, Augusta to Portland, and Van Buren to Limestone.

The state program owns 27 vans, most of them for 12 passengers. Twenty to 25 of the vans are on the road 20 days per month, with some older ones designated as backups, Moreau said.

There are about twice as many vehicles as when Go Maine began running the state’s van pool service in 2002. And there’s demand for more, Moreau said.

All but two of the vans are at capacity, she said, and many of them have waiting lists of three or four people.

But the state cannot afford to replace aging vehicles, let alone expand the fleet, Moreau said. Each van costs $40,000 to $45,000.

The Federal Highway Administration last gave the state program money for vehicle replacement in 2008, and six new vans were purchased, Moreau said.

Considering that the useful life of a constantly commuting van is about five years, more than half of them must be replaced soon, she said.

Joshua Henry, a chemistry professor at Bates College in Lewiston, said he always had the impression that the $120 monthly fee he pays to ride in a van pool from Portland would help fund replacement vehicles.

If asked, he said, he would have paid more to the state. But he’s not so sure that he wants to pay it to VPSI, because the fee would vary depending on how many people ride the van regularly.

McIntyre said the state’s program was “very generous” and, for those who choose to use VPSI, “it’s not unreasonable to expect some slight increases.”

Henry said he’s heard some people say they’re considering the private service. He might opt to start a car pool with others who ride on his van to Lewiston. Henry and his fellow commuters are trying to start a Facebook page to find out what other van pool users are doing.

“A lot of people are really upset,” Henry said. “There’s just kind of an uncertainty now as to what’s going to happen.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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