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October 12, 2020 | Articles, News, Studies |

REV-UP: Walker’s rural microtransit service plan launches in Fresno County

Fresno rural transit electric vehicles

This October, the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency (FCRTA) launched REV-UP (rural electric vehicle utilization project), it’s new electric vehicle microtransit program for residents in rural Fresno County.  Walker planned, designed, and worked with FCRTA to implement the innovative and cost-efficient transportation service in areas of the county where traditional public transit has not been a suitable option.  The vehicles have been funded by Measure C dollars, a local sales tax in Fresno County aimed at improving the overall quality of Fresno County’s transportation system.

Walker’s Mobility practice is led by Chrissy Mancini Nichols and Manuel Soto, both of whom worked on the project.

Mancini Nichols shares, “An important component of the new REV-UP service is coordination with social services agencies to offer a low-cost travel option for the most in-need riders that’s also good for the environment.  This coordination also helps grow transit ridership, a challenge in rural areas”

Soto further says, “The REV-UP service is the result of a year-long study conducted by Walker Consultants that explored the feasibility of operating shared-ride on-demand services in rural parts of Fresno County to satisfy mobility needs in disadvantaged communities, eliminate transportation barriers and provide access to employment, training and healthcare opportunities. Walker assessed market demand, projected costs, and revenues developed a financial model, and identified performance goals to ensure the sustainability of service operations.”

Moses Stites, the general manager of the FCRTA shared, “Without the expertise from Walker, FCRTA would not be in the position to launch this new and innovative microtransit demonstration in Fresno County.”

Rural public transit agencies face several challenges.  The cost of providing traditional transit service in rural locations grows every year while struggling to meet rider’s needs due to wide coverage areas in sparsely populated, low-density places. At the same time, rural demographics that are aging and lower-income mean residents are more likely to need public transit.

As a result, there are no transit services in many areas of Fresno County. Ride Apps (such as Uber and Lyft) are also non-existent because of the low-density nature of demand.  The only transit option for people is a miles-long walk in the heat and elements to get to the nearest bus stop. From there, riders often make several bus connections to reach their final destination, making it a long and unreliable travel option.

The new REV-UP microtransit service will help fill those transportation gaps so people can easily travel to jobs, training, health care, and other quality of life destinations.  The program also aims to reduce vehicle emissions to improve air quality and community health in one of the most polluted places in the nation.

FCRTA engaged Walker in 2019 to investigate how new technologies can be implemented to enhance and expand transit service in rural areas. Walker’s planning and analysis identified existing transportation gaps and determined how to deploy electric vehicle technology and rideshare in new and more cost-effective ways to expand transportation options.  The study also included outreach to local social service organizations to create partnerships and coordinate service to give their clients access to low-cost transportation to meet basic needs.  The study was funded by the Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant through the Fresno Council of Governments.

FCRTA is partnering with Inspiration Transportation to operate the service.  Inspiration Transportation is a local 501 (c)3 organization that provides sustainable transportation services to underserved communities.  Rides are offered in advance and on-demand for a $5 round trip in all-electric vehicles.

Walker will continue to work with FCRTA to expand REV-UP across Fresno County.

For more info, Inspiration Transportation’s founding director, Matthew Gillian was recently featured on the local ABC affiliate.

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