A California City Is Taking Electric Transit Into Its Own Hands

A California City Is Taking Electric Transit Into Its Own Hands

Many cities want to electrify their public transit fleets. Doing so, though, requires incredible investments in both vehicles and infrastructure — investments many cities are loath to make. When the bills start to include multiple commas, organizational inertia kicks in for many municipalities; it’s easier to keep buying gas vehicles, so why stop? But for cities that lack transit infrastructure, the choice to go electric is a lot simpler — at least, that’s what the city of Huron, CA is trying to prove.

Huron is a small city in California’s Central Valley, primarily composed of migrant farm workers. Until recently, access from Huron to Fresno was limited to slow, unreliable bus routes — routes that mayor Rey León can’t abide. After his petitions for more public transit were denied, León established a citywide electric transit program based on the ride shares of his youth. From the Los Angeles Times:

Tucked behind the boarded-up buildings of the town’s struggling main drag is an arsenal of innovation that León calls the Green Raiteros. It has put Huron on the map as perhaps the greenest migrant farmworker community in the country. Headquartered in a former diesel truck garage, the growing fleet of nine electric cars managed by León’s Green Raiteros program shuttles residents all over Fresno County free of charge.

“It’s a Spanglish term,” León said of the word “raitero” and its root, “raite” — slang for “ride.” In the long history of migrant workers seeking and offering lifts, the person who gives or receives the ride, León said, is the raitero.

The Green Raiteros program, with its city-funded drivers and investment in EVs and charging stations, is costly. León’s office funds the system through a patchwork of climate grants, hundreds of thousands of dollars pieced together from programs that get their money from industrial polluters.

The Green Raiteros model may not work in every city, but it’s a step in the right direction. More public-oriented infrastructure, and more electric transit, are necessities in a country built for cars. Even if Huron can’t be a model for places like New York and Los Angeles to directly imitate, it can stand as an example of what can be achieved once local governments commit to helping people.