"The majority of the van pools in the metropolitan Washington area are privately owned and operated," says Ed Marks, executive director of the National Association of Van Pool Operators. "And owned-and-operated (o/o) is the fastest-growing van pool category in the United States today."

Four or five years ago the idea of vanpooling for profit, "would have raised eyebrows," admits Marks, "but now the trend is to favor any type of operation that will take cars off the road, reduce traffic and increase safety."

In this connection, the nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy has published Vanpooling for Profit: A Business Opportunity (1982, 52 pp., $2.25). According to the Alliance, "For a typical investor, a van pool venture can conservatively net a 24 percent yearly after-tax profit -- far exceeding the financial return on a typical certificate of deposit or money market fund."

The booklet includes information on applicable state regulations (including a list of state agencies that can provide specific information), insurance and taxes, as well as a step-by-step workbook to determine the feasibility of vanpooling for profit.

The Alliance's profit figures are based on these assumptions:

* $3,750 down on a 15-occupant, $15,000 van.

* The remaining $11,250 financed at 16 percent.

An average of 11 passengers over five years.

* Owner-operator in the 30 percent tax bracket ($25,000-$30,000 if filing a joint return; $18,000 to $23,500 if single).

* At least a 30-mile round-trip commute.

The Alliance also points out: "Vanpooling is a business and there is a risk in every venture."

The Alliance has a free brochure outlining the workbook. Both are available from: Alliance to Save Energy, 1925 K St. NW, Suite 507, Washington, D.C. 20006.