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Savings for the “Mass’”

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - -- With the current uncertain fiscal climate, most Americans are looking for ways to stretch their dollar. Vandenberg has an option that turns public transportation into an investment.

The Mass Transportation Benefit Program replaced the broken Ride Share program, which allows active duty military members, Department of Defense civilians and non-appropriated fund employees to offset commuting costs, help the environment and the alternate transportation companies in and around Santa Barbara County.

The Ride Share Program was not as user friendly as the MTBP is now.

Where vouchers were used with the Ride Share Program and finance was involved, the MTB simplified the process.

"It's just a matter of filling out an application, waiting for a debit card, then calling a contact at the Santa Maria transit for bus passes or renting a vehicle and carpooling, "said Tech Sgt. Joshua Lenz, 30th Launch Readiness Squadron MTBP primary."With the Ride Share program we used vouchers, got the finance office involved and it became a mess. With the MTBP, it's as easy as getting a debit card and calling a contact to get started"

Once enrolled, someone participating in the MTBP has the potential to save thousands of dollars a year.

The MTBP is a Department of Defense program that tries to save commuters money as well as to save the environment by reimbursing commuters up to 125 dollars a month for taking public transportation or starting a van pool, said Lenz.

According to DoD regulation, Public Transportation and Van Pools are the only options available under the qualified means of transportation for the MTBP in the Santa Barbara County and are a great opportunity to save money.

Traci Betty, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector said, "I really like the program it's easy to apply, the time to get debit and bus passes are very quick, local bus systems are nice and great transportation to get to and from work."

More people have signed up for the public transportation than for Van Pooling since January 2013.

"Currently no one has signed up for Van Pools" Lenz continued "It's up to the individual to rent a van from a [rental company] and shuttle [up to] 15 individuals to and from work and will be reimbursed up to 125 dollars."

Along with the benefits, there are drawbacks to both the Van Pool and public transportation.

"Local bus systems do not have access on the base it is inconvenient being dropped off at the main gate and then having to get alternate rides from coworkers to come and pick me up" said Betty.

Also, Van Pools have specific rules too.

"The Van Pools only [stipulation]" Lenz says, "is that you need to get 7 to 15 people into [the idea of] carpooling and have fairly constant schedules between all of you."
Although organizing your schedule around pick up times the benefits certainly speak for themselves.

"Since being on the program I've definitely cut a good 100 to 150 dollars for monthly bill every month on gas, it's definitely saving me money," said Betty. The MTBP is a money saving and environmentally conscience program.

"It's worth it, the inconvenience of [waking up] an hour early is worth saving 100-150 dollars a month" Betty continued "overall the government helps us get free transportation and saves the environment....this is a great program."