TCRTA connects Tule River to Porterville

(Tulare County Regional Transit Agency)

Tulare County Regional Transit Agency extends services to Tule River Reservation to provide services to reservation residents

TULARE COUNTY – As Tulare County Regional Transit Agency (TCRTA) charts new paths, the Tule River Reservation now has a fresh route connecting residents to the city of Porterville, allowing them the ability to travel into town as well as to Visalia, Dinuba and other area cities.

The route opened service on April 1. According to Jose Sigala, TCRTA board chair, the new line has been a goal of the TCRTA board. TCRTA was formed in 2020 when the transit agencies of nearly all Tulare County cities joined forces. The city of Visalia is the lone exception. 

“Around the time of the pandemic, there were a lot of cuts to transit, a lot of people not using the service; so that one particular route that travels from the reservation down to Porterville stopped providing service,” Sigala said.

Sigala went on to explain that, about a year ago, the TCRTA worked with the Tule River tribe to submit a grant to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to get that transit line going once more.

“We are very proud to have restored the service that gives the people who live at the reservation the opportunity to get down to Porterville and connect at the transit center to other points beyond,” he said.

Sigala said the route opens up opportunities for reservation residents to have better access to doctors, grocery stores and employment opportunities. He said that the paperwork process was the biggest obstacle to getting the route reestablished.

“There were no unnecessary hiccups other than just having to go through the process,” Sigala said.

The route features one bus that begins around 8 a.m. and runs to about 4 p.m. It takes about an hour for the bus to make a loop.

“This is the first step in looking at the needs of the folks in the reservation,” Sigala said. “We learned that there are a lot of folks in the reservation that are transit dependent. There are additional residents that live a little further up in the mountains that may benefit from the microtransit program we are rolling out in the county.”

Abul Hassan, TCRTA executive director, explained the process of funding the route and the complexity of the process.

“Anytime that a transportation entity works with a tribal entity, it is a very complex process and the reason that it is a complex process is because tribes are essentially sovereign nations,” Hassan said.

He said this is because the tribes funding steam through the FTA is unique and a separated line item, which nearly 99% of the time, transportation providers like TCRTA don’t have access to.

“This (effort) was a culmination of partnering with the tribe to be able to leverage the funding that was available to them with the State of California to essentially connect two communities,” Hassan said.

Hassan and Sigalaboth said the long-term goal of TCRTA and the Tule River extension is to continue expanding.

TCRTA is in the process of rolling out several new services this year including the TRANSPORT project, which allows users to have door-to-door service. The agency is also in the process of upgrading transportation terminals throughout the county to better enhance service.

Recent board meetings have explored opportunities to begin upgrading the county’s bus fleet to electric options ahead of the state mandate coming in 2035.

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