With great sadness, we share news of the passing of Lew Pratsch, a strong advocate of carpools and vanpools for 50 years, and a Ridesharing Institute Board member, on December 1, 2022.
Lew's first major social impact, 50 years ago, was the creation and publication of the pioneering "Carpool and Vanpool Matching Guide" published by USDOT/FHWA in multiple editions. (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=ien.35556021236757&view=1up&seq=3). It gained national recognition and widespread usage during the severe oil shortage of 1973-74, as one of the few rapid and effective responses to that huge transportation crisis that saw blocks-long queues of cars waiting their turn at all gas stations. It was used by state and local governments, plus many corporations. In that same period, Lew published an article in Civil Engineering magazine: “Carpools: The Underutilized Resource.” It also made national impact when Senator Hubert Humphrey had it published in the Congressional Record.
In the mid-1970's, Lew moved from FHWA to the Department of Energy, where he managed several energy-conservation programs for most of his career. He became a strong advocate for vanpools, via many publications and presentations to state and local governments, corporations, and trade groups. At DOE, Lew expanded his role to also become a strong proponent for energy conservation in homes and buildings, for which he was active nationally up thru 2010, with many conference presentations and publications. Lew’s career milestones are visible at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lew-pratsch-359a7293/
In the 1970's and early 1980's, Lew played a key role in growing the National Assn. of Vanpool Operators (NAVPO), one of two parent organizations of the current Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT). Lew practiced what he preached. He purchased a van and created his own "owner-operator" vanpool, driving it from suburban Virginia to his job at DOE in Washington DC. This proved quite successful, so -- in addition to his "day job" at DOE -- Lew created a small company, Transportation Total, Inc., which procured vans to create and operate several dozen new vanpool groups. After those vanpools were well-established, Lew transferred the organization to a national vanpool operator.
Over the past ten years, Lew was active on the Board of the Ridesharing Institute. As climate change gained public attention as a long-term crisis, he continued to advocate for vanpools as a GHG-reduction measure. He argued that, because vanpools serve long commuting trips (40-80 miles/day), they are a powerful and cost-effective tool to reduce petroleum consumption, VMT, and GHG emissions.