Rural Ridesharing Services Helps Huron Residents
By Media Office Staff
Traveling from the rural community of Huron to Fresno for critical services such as medical appointments can take as long as three hours by bus.
But, the Green Raiteros electric vehicle (EV) ridesharing program offers residents on-demand transportation to and from critical services and errands, said Rey Leon, who spoke about the program at the California Energy Commission on August 6.
The program, which was launched in 2018, was developed through the Latino Environmental Advancement & Policy (LEAP) Institute, a nonprofit that Leon founded and serves as executive director. The program builds on an informal and indigenous ride-sharing system that has existed for many decades in the San Joaquin Valley.
Leon, who is the mayor of Huron, said the Green Raiteros program provides cost-effective transportation services to underserved, agricultural communities. The hope is to help increase residents economic and health opportunities. Using EVs also helps improve air quality.
“A healthy community gives way to a healthy economy,” he said. “That’s economic justice.”
The program connects volunteer drivers with residents needing transportation, a fleet of EVs, and charging infrastructure. Huron has 22 EV chargers, an unusually high number for a city of about 7,000 residents. Leon hopes that those chargers will be used by more plug-in vehicles in the near future.
The median household income in Huron, where the Latino population is more than 98 percent, is less than $23,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Not all families in Huron own cars, making it difficult for them to travel to larger cities for medical care and other needs. Fresno, the closest large city, is about an hour away by car and three hours away by bus.
Program drivers use program-owned electric vehicles. As an isolated community and one of the four lowest income cities in California, Huron needs innovative modes of transportation that lower costs while increasing accessibility, Leon said.
One simply has to call the program to schedule a ride. Operating as a community non-profit, the program is more affordable than other ridesharing options and saves time and money for residents. Having a community-owned fleet of electric vehicles also helps reduce air pollution, he said.
Leon said it is his mission to use EVs to improve the quality of life for Huron and hope other rural communities will look to Green Raiteros program as a model for them to adopt.