One of the unfortunate side effects of the recent RIF at the Circle A Ranch was that I became the operator of our vanpool (as one of the folks RIFed was the longtime operator; we also lost Nicole as a regular rider). This brought our vanpool down to 6 regulars and one regular casual (3 days a month) in an 8 passenger van. [As background, the 8-passenger van is a Ford E-150 Van, configured as 2, 2, 2, 2, with a relatively stiff truck suspension, that gets around 12-15 mpg]. This was doable.
In June, we had a confluence of bad things: two of our regular riders were off most of the month due to medical conditions, and one of the other regulars announced his retirement. We had days when we were going in with only two people. This was more of an economic problem, and so we started thinking about downsizing. There are two 7-passenger vans available: a 7-passenger Dodge Grand Caravan, and a 7-passenger Toyota Sienna. These get around 20 mpg, and cost the same to lease as the 8-passenger. Being minivans, they have a more car-like ride, in exchange for being slightly smaller with a tighter back seat. I think they are configured as 2, 2, 3.
Given the low ridership, we decided to downsize the van, whilst simultaneously looking for more riders. Guess what happened? We’re scheduled to downsize on Monday, while at the same time we have a summer intern starting as a regular rider for July and August, with two more potential riders in the wings.
So now the question is: do we still downsize? We could be at 8 regular riders in a 7 passenger van, which might work for the summer given the number of absences. It all depends on the tradeoffs between the size and seat comfort of the 8 passenger van versus the better ride and fuel mileage of the 7-passenger van. We’ll have to see what happens.