Matthew Mason and Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Pelayo are looking for other Department of the Army civilians and Fort Hood Soldiers who might want a lift to work.

The two men are looking to expand Fort Hood’s Army Mass Transit Benefit Program, also known as the Van Pool.

The program was instituted in the Army in July 2000, but it only started last year at Fort Hood. Those Soldiers, mobilized Reservists, and DA civilians who commute at least 15 miles each way to work are eligible to participate in the program.

Fort Hood currently has about 53 participants and utilizes seven contracted vans and sport utility vehicles traveling from Gatesville, Temple, Killeen and the Austin area, Mason said.

But, he is hoping more climb aboard.

“The current vans are almost full, so we are looking to expand with a couple more vans,” Mason said.

He would like to add one van from Temple and one more from the Round Rock/Georgetown area.

Once in the program, the riders are in charge of their vehicle.

“Each van has its own democracy,” he said.

A volunteer van coordinator serves as the driver and is responsible for the vehicle, but all riders have a say in the time they leave each day and the gathering point for the morning commute.

“You have one person willing to step up and be responsible for the van,” Pelayo said.

Mason and Pelayo are the coordinators for their vehicles. Pelayo

has even put his own vehicle in storage.

Participation in the program saves riders money and wear and tear on their vehicles, as well as cuts down on pollution by taking some vehicles off the road, Pelayo said.

“The cost of the van, fuel, insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance are subsidized by funds provided by the Department of the Army,” Mason said. “Any cost over the subsidy is paid by the riders.”

The subsidy is a $125-a-month voucher provided by the Army to each rider.

Mason rides from Georgetown in a nine-passenger van each morning. Pelayo drives his van, laden with fellow Soldiers, from Killeen.

Monthly, Mason’s commute costs less than $75 because of the subsidy.

It was saving money that drew Pelayo to the program at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

“Gas is so expensive there,” he said.

Pelayo and a group of Soldiers joined together to utilize the Army program in 2008. In addition to saving money, they also avoided some traffic by using the high-occupancy commuter lane on the highways.

When he arrived at Fort Hood in November 2010, he discovered the post was not participating in the program. Pelayo helped establish the program here last year. Mason jumped in as well.

Now, Pelayo and Mason want others to join them.

Each vehicle needs a minimum of four riders. Mason can help facilitate putting riders together.

“It’s more difficult to secure the funding than it is to get the vans,” Mason said.

For more information about the program or to join the van pool, call Mason at 287-5468.