September 4, 2010

Rural Transit

The Kings County Area Public Transportation Agency (KCAPTA) has achieved a difficult feat in the world of transit: a successful public transit system in the lowest of low density areas. From Way2Go:

KCAPTA oversees the Kings Area Rural Transit system (KART) and the Agricultural Industries Transportation Services, which includes more than 380 vanpools and 23 rural bus routes stretching from Kern to Madera counties.  The system connects agricultural workers and correctional officers to work every day, provides critical access to medical services for the elderly, and ensures that low-income residents have a way to get to colleges that are spread throughout the area.

Kern to Madera county: that's a big stretch of land. Kern county alone is over 8,000 square miles, and has only 660,000 people. Efficient transit is tricky when the average density is 81 people per square mile.

Yet KART has managed to thrive under such difficult conditions. Rather than spending millions on the capital outlays for light rail or even your typical 40 foot bus, KART relied on state grants to purchase a van fleet originally intended to aid commutes for day laborers. The service expanded as popularity and revenue increased: what began in 2002 with 28 vans now has over 230 vanpools serving nearly 4,000 people. The day laborer program now has its own umbrella, Agricultural Industries Transit Service (AITS), and state employees (mostly of the multiple prisons in the area), teachers, and students utilize KARTvanpool to register their own vanpool.

Talk about low risk expansion: simply gather riders with a shared destination, make sure one has a DMV-approvable driving record, and call the Kings County Area Public Transit Agency.

The kicker: all operational costs are covered by rider fares.

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