June 11, 2017

Getting around in a poor community

Governing - Cantua Creek is a tiny unincorporated community in rural California, some 45 miles from the city of Fresno. It’s surrounded by open space and farmland; there are no doctors or grocery stores, no large retail shops or lawyer’s offices.

Of its 466 occupants, 461 identify as Hispanic or Latino, and most of them work in the nearby fields as pickers or doing other agricultural work. Many don’t have daily access to a car, making simple trips to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment punishingly complicated...

The community came up with its own solution, albeit an informal and makeshift one. “Everyone is always asking for rides,” Julia says. “If people know you have a car, they ask you all the time, 'Can you take me to the doctor? Can you take me to the store?'”

Residents eventually organized an informal van pool.

In March, Cantua Creek and nearby El Porvenir were named winners of the Just Transit Challenge, a contest hosted by the 11th Hour Project that is meant “to bring equitable and climate-friendly transportation solutions to cities across America.” The tiny communities won enough money to purchase a seven-passenger Tesla van and begin a formal pilot electric rideshare program. The grant will fund the van purchase, insurance and all program costs for one year, Monaco says. After that, the hope is that modest ridership fees (which have yet to be calculated exactly) should cover the cost of the program; for now, the program’s planned start date is the end of July.

Importantly, residents won't need to use a smartphone to organize a ride for themselves. They'll be able to call in to a Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission dispatch line, which will organize pickup timing for people's rides. The van will be in operation five days per week, and it will be available for rent in the community on the weekends.

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