The Fort Hood Van Pool is part of the Army Mass Transportation Benefit Program, which began in the Nation Capital region of the country, and it has been filtering out into other areas of the country since its inception in 2000.

In other areas of the country where the MTBP is larger, there are trains and buses in effect – Fort Hood’s qualified form of the MTBP is the Van Pool, which is available to all federal employees commuting onto the installation.

The goal of the MTBP is to reduce these employees’ contribution to traffic congestion and air pollution, and expand their commuting options.

Matthew Mason, point-of-contact for Fort Hood’s Army MTBP, rides the van to and from work and said the benefits of the program are undeniable – and have only been improving.

As of Jan. 2, the program pays up to $240 per month for each participant, while last year and the previous years the program has only paid $125 per person.

Mason said the program began here at Fort Hood in 2012, when Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Pelayo brought the idea up to Mason.

“Pelayo was a part of the MTBP while stationed in Hawaii,” Mason said. “When he arrived at Fort Hood, he brought the idea up to me. He started van No. 1, and I started the second van.”

Mason, who commutes with six other riders from Georgetown each day, attested to the savings and benefits that comes with riding the van.

“The $240 is paid by the program’s office in (Washington) D.C. – not from units on Fort Hood – so it isn’t costing the installation, or me or the other riders, any money,” Mason said. “The amount I save in fuel per month is enough of a benefit; not to mention maintenance on my car. Some people even ride the van simply because they don’t like to drive.”

Another rider in Mason’s van is Sandra Townsend, ombudsman, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.

Townsend, who originally signed up for the Van Pool because gas was almost $4 per gallon, said the Van Pool is great because it’s a stress-free commute.

“We don’t have to deal with the traffic during the ride,” she said, “so we can sit back, reflect on the day, listen to music, take a nap or read a book – it works perfectly, like a well-greased wheel.”

The Fort Hood Van Pool program currently has five vans running – one from Copperas Cove, two from Georgetown and two from Killeen. The vans stop at West Fort Hood and on the main post to pick up Soldiers who live in the barracks and want to ride the van.

“There is no minimum commuting distance to ride the vans,” Mason said, “but a minimum of five people is needed to start a van.”

Mason said riding the vans is easy once it gets started, but the hardest part is getting a van started because of coordination of work schedules.

“It’s important to have this program at Fort Hood,” he said. “It decreases our burden on the surrounding community as far as traffic congestion and vehicle pollution, and also provides an ultimate means of transportation for personnel working at Fort Hood.”

Townsend echoed Mason’s statements, and added that riding the vans also reduces the need for parking and the line at the gates before and after work.

In order to participate in the Fort Hood Van Pool, riders must ride the van 50 percent of their work days per month.

For information about applications, starting a van or general questions, contact Matthew Mason at 287-5468 or matthew.w.mason.civ@mail.mil. Applications should be turned in by the 24th of each month.