The VanGo vanpool program that coordinates commuter carpools in northern Colorado expects to save money on vehicle replacements after the Federal Transit Administration lifted a buy-American requirement for the program’s fleet.
The North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization, which operates the VanGo program, announced Wednesday the FTA waiver will allow the organization a single purchase of up to 25 seven- to eight-passenger minivans for the program.
The waiver mandates the organization must purchase the vehicles by Dec. 31.
VanGo Program Manager Anne Blair said the purchase allowed by the waiver could lead to an expansion.
The program currently has 81 vanpools that carry more than 450 northern Colorado residents to their jobs, Blair said.
“There is a lot of pent up demand here,” she said of the northern Colorado region, adding that the program is expected to grow 5-10 percent in 2014.
Blair said the program hopes to purchase 25 minivans, which could include Dodge Caravans, Honda Odysseys or Toyota Siennas, before the end of the year.
VanGo’s operations are funded through user fees, but the FTA and the Federal Highway Administration provide funding to the program for replacement vehicles, Blair said. If a program wants to use the agencies’ money, they must adhere to the agencies’ guidelines, which in this case said all replacement vehicles must be American-made, she said.
VanGo requested the waiver from the FTA this past April, after a previous mandate required the program to purchase an American-made vehicle known as the MV-1, a wheelchair-accessible taxicab. Blair said the vehicle had less capacity and a higher cost than other minivans on the market.
After the company that builds the vehicles, Vehicle Production Group LLC, went bankrupt, Blair said no American-made van met the requirements to efficiently move workers while maximizing the use of federal funds.
While the FTA has approved VanGo’s waiver, the program is still waiting on a decision for a similar waiver request from the FHA.
“We’ve been emailing them every day since they came back from those furlough days,” Blair said. “We have federal money sitting in a bank account we can’t spend. We can’t go buy new vehicles and expand our service.”
She said the program hopes to hear about the waiver request sometime in January.