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While the North State region spans over one third of California’s geographic area, the many communities of the region are almost entirely disconnected from the major economic, educational, and healthcare centers of the rest of the state. There are minimal options for travel from Redding and Chico to major urban areas unless you have access to a personal automobile. Public transportation riders must rely on limited intercity connections and the existing options have a number of constraints: unreliability, limited destinations, inconvenient schedules, poor on-time performance, confusing ticket purchasing, lack of station services, frequent stops, indirect routes, need for transfers, and prohibitive costs.
To address this need, SRTA submitted an application in February 2021 for a Strategic Partnerships Transit grant to fund the North State Intercity Bus to Rail Plan (through the Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant Program), in the amount of $291,819. The grant application proposes a plan to provide improved transportation options between Redding and Greater Sacramento and/or the Bay Area primarily along the Interstate 5 corridor through enhanced bus connections to rail hubs and possible daytime passenger rail service. Additionally, the North State Intercity Bus to Rail Plan envisions a new governance structure for the planning, management, and operations of the expanded transportation options through the North State region. This will address the need for ongoing coordination with the state, regional, and local agencies that would be involved in running the service.
In June 2021, SRTA was awarded the full grant amount for the North State Intercity Bus to Rail Plan, among a number of highly-competitive applications statewide. This grant secures funding for the plan which will study public transit service improvements in order to establish public transit as a convenient, affordable, and reliable way to get to and from Shasta County which will benefit a number of people in the community including but not limited to: high school and community college graduates aspiring to study at the nearby campuses of the California State University and University of California systems; North State residents across the 16-county region who have doctor’s appointments at large healthcare institutions in Sacramento and the Bay Area; people who do not have consistent access to a car; people who prefer to travel by public transportation for numerous reasons; travelers looking for more environmentally sustainable transportation options; business travelers that have to travel frequently up to Redding or down to Sacramento and the Bay Area; and visitors en route to tourism destinations in the beautiful North State region — and North State residents looking to get to Sacramento and/or the Bay Area for tourism, as well.
The project proposal was developed through conversations with Caltrans staff in the Division of Rail and Mass Transportation (DRMT) which were fundamental for aligning SRTA’s effort to state objectives and priorities, including the development of the 2021 Intercity Bus Study and 2022 State Rail Plan. Through the plan, SRTA will continue to collaborate with DRMT to inform the development of these mutually beneficial efforts. The plan will demand the coordination between a number of government agencies, including SRTA, the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, the Butte County Association of Government (BCAG), Caltrans (Districts 1-4 and DRMT), the cities of Redding and Sacramento (among others along the corridors), and the regional transportation planning agencies from 16 counties in Northern California that comprise the North State Super Region. The plan will also involve public outreach and engagement to gather community input on the project and prioritize the needs, concerns, and ideas of the local communities who will benefit from improved intercity service.
This planning effort could begin as early as July 2021, and it is expected to be completed by no later than December 2023.