Exeter, F'ville may contract intercity transit with Visalia

By Reggie Ellis

Trips to doctor's appointments and shopping trips in Visalia seem to be more difficult than ever if you don't have your own vehicle or are unable to drive for medical reasons.

Family and friends are busier and there are less and less people who have the time to give someone a lift.

The same can be said for Visalians in similar situations. Exeter merchants may be missing out on a potential customer base that is unable to come to Exeter to shop and dine while looking at the murals.

The only option for many is to use the infrequent and inconvenient Tulare County Transit system. The county buses stop in Exeter at two locations - the SaveMart parking lot and Carole's Restaurant at the corner of Palm and Kaweah avenues - but only about three times a day. In Tulare County's defense, the route is extremely long beginning in Visalia and traveling to Porterville and back, but understanding doesn't make it user-friendly.

The Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG), the entity that acts as a clearinghouse for transportation planning and funding, may have a solution to improve the frequency and convenience of those routes that will benefit Visalia, Farmersville and Exeter. During a special meeting of the Exeter City Council on June 22, representatives from TCAG, the City of Visalia and a transportation consulting firm discussed a plan to increase bus service frequency between Exeter and Visalia. And it will cost residents less than the $1.50 one-way fare for the county's service.

Ted Smalley, transportation engineer with TCAG, said CMAQ funding is available for urbanized areas to build up their intercity transit. CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) improvement funds are used for programs that encourage the use of low-emission means of transportation, such as clean burning buses, pedestrian and bike paths.

The 2000 Census identified Exeter and Farmersville as being part of the Visalia Urbanized Area, so TCAG, in partnership with the City of Visalia, is approaching Exeter and Farmersville about working to create a more consistent bus route between the three cities. Smalley said the funds will cover 88 percent of the cost to develop the transit program with 12 percent matching funds from each city. Twelve percent works out to approximately $50,000 a year. Some might consider that outrageous, but Exeter's Dial-A-Ride costs $98,000 a year to operate. Smalley said Exeter and Farmersville would contract with the City of Visalia for transportation services between the cities.

Smalley said the benefits are three fold:

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