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Sun Rideshare News | Autumn 2018

Doing the math: The real costs of driving to work

How much money could you save if you commuted without your car? You might be tempted to consider only the cost of gas, which the American Automobile Association (AAA) says is currently running at an average of $140.25 per month for American drivers. That’s a decent chunk of change, but what about the savings you could realize on maintenance, repairs and vehicle depreciation? Each year, AAA also calculates what those likely are costing you. It’s probably more than you think.

According to AAA, the value of a medium sedan driven 12,000 miles per year drops about $354 per month; if driven 20,000 miles per year, it drops an additional $42 per month. If you do the math for a minivan driven 10,000 miles a year, its value drops about $530 each month; driven 20,000 miles per year, it drops $53 more per month.

With no monthly bill marked “Car Maintenance,” it’s tempting to forget about it until the next oil change or flat tire. But AAA says the reality is American drivers are spending between 7.25 cents and 8.23 cents per mile on vehicle maintenance each year. Put 10,000 miles this year on your medium sedan, and you can expect it will cost you the equivalent of about $60 a month in maintenance. Double your mileage, and you double the maintenance costs. And that minivan? Driven 10,000 this year, it’ll cost the equivalent of about $68 per month. Again, double that if the annual miles driven rise to 20,000.

From belt replacements at the recommended mileage intervals to alignment work, the more demand you put on your vehicle, the more maintenance costs you’re likely to incur. Skip the maintenance, and you’ll end up with a vehicle that’s less efficient and, therefore, costlier to operate over time or repair down the road.

Want to do the math on what YOUR vehicle and YOUR commute are costing you each month? Try the free commute cost calculator at, powered by the latest statistics from AAA.

Defining the terms: understanding ‘nonattainment designation’

You may have heard in recent months that Pima County is now facing the potential for being designated as a nonattainment area for ozone. Nonattainment is exactly what it sounds like: not attaining something. In this case, that “something” is a clean air health standard determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after reviewing the most recent scientific data. At high levels, ozone is a lung irritant and is particularity harmful to children, older adults and those with preexisting health problems. This is not atmospheric ozone, by the way. It’s the kind formed near the ground when manmade pollutants react in the presence of sunlight. Motor vehicles are the major source of the manmade pollutants that combine to form ozone. (Feel free to nerd out on the science here.)

What does this really mean to you and what could happen as a result?

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality maintains monitors throughout our region to measure six criteria pollutants. In our region’s case, we basically had too many days of high ozone levels over the course of the past three years.*

Currently, our region is still designated as an ozone attainment area. Were it to be designated as a nonattainment area—which remains to be seen—the federal Clean Air Act would require that a State Implementation Plan be developed for the region. The plan would need to include a comprehensive inventory of current emissions, enforceable by a specific deadline, and contingency measures for not meeting that deadline. What’s the key phrase for most readers out there? Enforceable measures.

Government-enforceable measures come at a cost that can be calculated in things like time, dollars, regulatory burdens and impacts on economic development. So, what can you do about it? Can you carpool to work once or twice a week? Take a bus? Combine your errands into one trip? Idle less when in the car pickup line at your child’s school? Ride your bike for short-distance trips? These are all steps toward keeping our air clean.

To learn more about what you can do to reduce your contribution to ground-level ozone and other air pollutants in our region, visit the Clean Air page of Pima Association of Governments, your federally designated lead air quality planning agency. 

*Based on PDEQ’s preliminary data averaging 2016, 2018 and 2018 ozone levels and the current EPA health standard for ozone.

Employer Tip: Inexpensive ways to jump-start carpools

Now is a great time to let your employees know about the benefits of carpooling. Marketing these benefits at the worksite is typically not resource-intensive and can use existing channels of communication.

Need inspiration? Consider the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, which recently decided it will host six carpool awareness events at various county offices to motivate more Pima County employees to carpool. Attendees will learn about the benefits of carpooling—reduced stress, savings on gas and wear-and-tear to their vehicles, and protecting the environment, to name just a few—and can sign up for a carpool match at The events were communicated simply through their internal employee newsletter and included some donated gift cards to incentivize participation.

Promotional events like these are an inexpensive way to educate your employees about their carpooling options. Employers also can benefit from having employees carpool: Imagine, for example, how carpooling could free up parking spaces at your office, which could be used for customers, visitors or re-purposed altogether.

Need fliers or posters to share at your own event? Visit our Free Resources page, or contact Chris Blue, PAG Travel Reduction Program Outreach Coordinator, at

Commuter Spotlight: Peter Trefren

Software engineer Peter Trefren lives about 20 miles from his job, which means transportation is a major factor in his life. Five days a week, he uses a combination of bike and bus to make the commute, and the rewards have been impressive: Trefran estimates that forgoing car commuting is saving him $120 to $150 each month. In addition, his employer, the City of Tucson, sweetens the deal by subsidizing half his monthly Sun Tran Express Pass. “So, for about $30 per month, I can ride anywhere, including the streetcar at lunchtime.”

Trefren points to traffic and road conditions as his major reasons for turning to the joint force of the bus and his bike. But he also says it comes down to people and his health. “You build relationships with fellow bus riders,” he says, “and it’s an easy way to fit a workout into the day.”

Even on his free time, Trefren opts for the bike, riding The Loop several times a week. “There are things you can’t see unless you’re a regular rider, such as coyote pups horsing around on the trail.”

What are the odds he’ll go back to driving? Not great. As Trefren puts it: “I've been an alternative commuter for four years, and it's really difficult to think about going back to being stuck in a car.”

Have you ever tried taking the bus or your bike to work? Visit to learn more.

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Upcoming trainings for Transportation Coordinators

No Transportation Coordinator trainings are scheduled for the autumn months. Please be sure to watch the next Sun Rideshare News issue for winter trainings.

In the meantime, if your well of ideas has run dry, visit the free resources page designed just for you at The resources are periodically updated and can be used to quickly and efficiently get the word out about alternative modes.


Check out the latest TRP Employer Award winners

Sun Rideshare recognizes TRP companies for meeting specific goals, such as increasing alternative mode usage among their employees by two percentage points.

Click here to see recent winners of the TRP Employer Awards.


Ask a Transit Planner

Question: I wish there were an express route near my house. I feel like there are a lot of people in my area who would use it. How do you determine the routes and stops for express buses?

Answer: Express service works best when it can connect a concentration of customers with a common destination. All of the current Sun Express routes connect to either downtown, the University of Arizona or Raytheon, all three of which are large common destination areas.

To minimize travel time, it is not always possible to have a vehicle travel widely to collect passengers. This is why, where possible, planners try to begin Express routes at park-and-ride lots or major crossroads to provide customers with an easily accessible common origin point. Routes are then planned to quickly connect to a destination with minimal stops. Keeping the route as direct as possible with only a few stops helps ensure Express service is truly “express.”

If you are a member of a community interested in Sun Express service, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us at

Answers provided by our team of professional transit planners at Pima Association of Governments.


Need an article for your company/neighborhood newsletter? All articles in Sun Rideshare News are available for non-commercial reuse. When you reuse an article, please ensure that all links remain active, all photo attributions remain intact, and attribution is given as follows: Published courtesy of Pima Association of Governments. 

Interested in having your company sponsor TRP incentive programs? For more information on how your company can sponsor TRP incentive programs, contact Mary Carter, PAG Director of Engagement and Partnerships, at




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