Transit Needs in Rural Communities


The eight-county San Joaquin Valley consists of 27,000  square miles, 4 million residents, and 31,000 miles of roadways. While several major urban metropolitan areas exist, a significant portion of the Valley’s four million residents live in rural and “fringe” type settings including low income households employed in the agricultural sector who live in the outer Valley floor, and foothill and mountain residing populations.

Access to education and health represents a significant barrier to fostering healthy communities and social equity. More than 20 percent of the Valley’s residents live below the federal poverty level. One out of five residents is foreign born and 62 percent are ethnic minorities. Hispanics constitute 55 percent of the Valley’s residents. Over 29 percent of the Valley adults lack a high school diploma, compared the the 19.4 percent for California and 14.7 percent for the nation. Reduced life expectancy, premature deaths and incidences of asthma and other health ailments and diseases are disproportionately concentrated in low-income, minority and rural communities found throughout the eight-county region. According to CalEnviroScreen 2.0, 33 percent of the population that experiences the worst environmental quality (top 5 percent) in the state are located in the San Joaquin Valley. This is despite the Valley’s relatively low share of California’s total population.

Meeting the transit needs of the rural and fringe residents poses several issues for our counties who are attempting to implement Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) policies to reduce vehicle miles traveled and green house gas emissions while addressing mobility, access and efficiency deficiencies in our transportation system. Traditional rural transit options have resulted in an economically unsustainable system with costly per trip travel, unfit vehicle types, and in many instances a net increase versus decrease in vehicle miles traveled. As a result, many critical transportation needs of our residents are foregone including health care visits, and access to educational and employment opportunities. Additionally, resident travel safety becomes an issue as under-maintained personal vehicles are seemingly the dominate mode of transportation for rural and fringe low-income residents.

Upcoming EventsDraft Plan DocumentsTechnical Advisory Committee Meetings


The scope of work for this planning grant will provide a comprehensive assessment of existing unmet transit needs in the eight-county region, engage a diverse array of stakeholders, and develop new, innovative, and technology driven alternatives for effectively meeting the transit needs for our most disenfranchised residents. Alternatives may focus on shared access services, which have grown dramatically in the last decade while their market potential, particularly in rural areas, has yet to be realized.


The eight Metropolitan Planning Organization of the San Joaquin Valley along with the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of Californian at Davis will perform this work in close consultation with Caltrans staff. The Valley MPOs will serve as the project manager and dedicate staffing for overall project management, reporting and invoicing, data and report compilation and analysis, stakeholder and public outreach, and ongoing project review and support.


  • Identify salient and significant issues impacting rural transit inefficiencies in the eight-county region
  • Identify impacts to health, social services, education and employment for rural residents dependent on transit
  • Develop a framework for a concept program or programs to address the current transit inefficiencies and needs in the rural and fringe sectors
  • Develop consensus throughout the eight-county region for adopting new and innovative approaches to transit access and mobility
  • Implement a “pilot program” based upon the conclusions of the study
  • Show reductions in vehicles miles traveled and green house gas emissions consistent with our adopted Sustainable Communities Strategies (SB 375) through the pilot program and other implantable recommendations of the study