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San Diego County gas prices fueling interest in vanpool program

San Diego County gas prices fueling interest in vanpool program
Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 21:20:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - With gas prices sky-high, some San Diegans are looking for relief by sharing the costs of their commute.

Every weekday morning, Eddie Ocho Torena leaves his car at his Chula Vista home and gets into an SUV to make his 27-mile commute to the VA Medical Center in La Jolla.

“By driving the SUV, I save a lot of money,” said Ocho Torena.

The SUV is part of SANDAG's vanpool program. Ocho Torena rents the SUV for about $1,200 a month and splits the cost with five other colleagues.

SANDAG pays a $400 monthly subsidy. The VA Medical Center covers the rest of the rental and pays for all their gas costs. Add it up, and his monthly commute costs equal $0, a dramatic savings.

“Just in gas, I would basically be spending at least $850 a month,” said Ocho Torena.

Co-worker and fellow vanpooler Michelle Changkachith drives a few miles to their daily meet-up spot. She spends less than $30 a month on her commute.

“It's a big help because I'm a single mom …. save money for my mortgage, my groceries,” said Changkachith.

SANDAG says there are about 350 vanpools on the road, down from 600 pre-pandemic but those gas prices are fueling a surge in interest.

“I would say that our phone has really been ringing off the hook over the past month,” said Commuter Services Manager Jay Fraught.

Fraught says most of the vanpools do involve employers paying part of the costs, but for the rest, the program can still be cost-effective.

The monthly rental includes maintenance costs and insurance. SANDAG can match you up with a vanpool and offers a range of discounts, including one for military.

“The average person will pay maybe $100 to $150 for their commute when they’re in a vanpool,” said Fraught.

SANDAG is offering a new incentive: they will cover $1,000 toward the first month's rental.

“With the crazy gas prices that are going on right now, it’s a blessing that we do have this program,” said Ocho Torena.

If an emergency comes up, vanpoolers are offered three free rides a year, including rideshares or car rentals.

If you're interested in SANDAG's vanpool program, go online, or call 511 and enter 5 at the prompt.