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Group finds vanpooling a ‘way to go’ the distance

With a commute of about 130 miles roundtrip, several employees at the Tres Rios Wastewater Treatment Plant in Tucson decided that a vanpool would be an effective way to save money and reduce the number of miles they put on their own vehicles. However, for the first three and a half years of vanpooling, the commuters collectively paid for and used two of their own vans.

Recently, they qualified for a vanpool subsidy through Sun Rideshare, a regional commuter assistance program managed by Pima Association of Governments (PAG).

“It works really well for us,” said Michael Salazar, a Tres Rios employee who helped organize the vanpool. “Everything is paid for. We just pay for the fuel and the monthly lease.”

Before they qualified for the vanpool subsidy, the group bought a beat-up old van for $500 and drove it until the transmission went out. They bought a second van which came from back East and was plagued with rust and other issues. That van lasted nearly two years before the front end fell off, but not before the owners spent nearly $1,200 keeping it on the road.

All vehicle maintenance on their newest van is taken care of as part of the vehicle lease with Commute with Enterprise, which contracts with PAG to provide the vanpool service. The maintenance package helps financially since members of the vanpool live as far away as Winkelman and put some serious miles on the van making the trek into Tucson each day.

The group has had between five and seven members, which means they are taking several cars off the road and splitting costs. Not only are they saving money, they are doing their part to cut down on emissions.

Sharing the ride “is way better than putting the wear and tear on our vehicles,” Salazar said.

The vanpool participants find the new van is comfortable, and each member takes weekly turns at the wheel. Best of all, they don’t have to worry about rust, failed transmissions or pieces of the van falling off.

“If you have a (long) commute, this is the way to go,” Salazar said.

For more information on vanpools, carpools and other travel reduction methods, go to SunRideshare.org.