Wheels are in motion for countywide transit

Cities may begin transitioning their transit agencies into the Tulare County Regional Transit Agency as early as next month

TULARE COUNTY – Local agencies are gearing up for a transition to a countywide transit system.

During a report to the Tulare City Council last week, deputy city manager Josh McDonnell said the city, along with six other cities and the county of Tulare, could begin transitioning their public transportation services over to the recently formed Tulare County Regional Transit Agency (TCRTA).

“They are not quite ready, but at their March meeting they may be ready to discuss that transition,” McDonnell told the council.

Tulare Councilmember Jose Sigala, current chair of the new TCTRA, said he was excited at the prospect of having a service providing more transportation options to local residents at a lower cost to the city’s taxpayers. He said Woodlake City Transit will be the first to transition over due to its size but suggested having Tulare lead the way by becoming the first larger city to transition to the countywide agency.

“Every month we begin to grow toward that goal and figure things out,” Sigala said.

TCRTA was established last summer as a way for local transit agencies to realize economies of scale through consolidation. The agency will absorb nearly every existing transit agency in Tulare County with the exception of Visalia Transit. Once the transition is complete, buses with a new TCRTA logo will be pulling up to stops in every city and unincorporated community in the county. DART (Dinuba Area Rapid Transit), TIME (Tulare InterModel Express), Porterville Transit and Woodlake City Transit buses will all become TCRTA buses, have uniform fares, more efficient routes and residents will be able to travel between cities easier. Farmersville and Exeter are currently served by Visalia Transit but will eventually be served by new TCRTA routes.

“We will be doing branding with a new logo and be part of one larger system that will be better for our residents,” Sigala said.

Sigala, along with Farmersville Mayor Greg Gomez and Supervisor Eddie Valero, are on the hiring committee for the agency’s fist full-time administrator. The Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved the creation of an executive director position, and laid out duties and responsibilities and set an annual salary for the person who will oversee the newly formed TCRTA at its Feb. 9 meeting. The executive director will serve as chief administrative officer and manages all aspects of the Agency in terms of development initiation, administration, operations, and maintenance.

The ideal candidate will have a proven track record of successfully managing a large, complex and diverse organization that operates to provide the highest quality of service to its customers. The person serving in the position should possess outstanding leadership and business skills as well as strong financial management, strategic planning, public relations, community relations and governmental relations skills.

“TCRTA’s executive director will be an integral leader in enhancing transportation options in the Tulare County region,” the staff report stated. “Elected officials, businesses, residents and other stakeholders expect the next executive director to lead a team of transit professionals who are capable of identifying and launching clean innovative transportation solutions to improve mobility and greater access to the region which will in turn lead to smart growth, increased business opportunities, jobs and economic development.”

Salary for the new full-time position will be between $108,661 and $162,718 per year.

Since its inception, TCRTA has been run under the umbrella of the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG), the county’s transportation authority for public transit funding and Measure R, a half cent sales tax approved by voters for transportation projects in 2006. TCRTA is currently being run by TCAG executive director Ted Smalley along with TCAG staff and Porterville Transit manager Richard Tree, who splits his time between Porterville and the TCRTA.

TCRTA consists of eight voting agencies (the County and all of the cities with the exception of Visalia) and two ex-officio representatives from CalVans and TCAG Transit. Most decision would be made by a majority of the voting members but a few issues would require unanimous approval, such as the budget, funding claims, withdrawal of an agency prior to the completion of its new members term (defined as the year the agency joined and the ensuing three fiscal years) and the readmission of an agency that was a prior member and had since withdrawn.

Under the plan, which includes five transit agencies and eight governmental bodies, the cities and county will split up costs based on population as follows: Dinuba 8.2%, Exeter 5.25%, Farmersville 5.35%, Lindsay 3.15%, Porterville 24.85, Tulare 20.95%, County 31.2%.

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