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Transportation

Rural California Awaits Its 'Uber'

Armed with a Tesla and a lot of community spirit, a tiny farm town embraces a different kind of ride-sharing.
In tiny Cantua Creek, residents peer into the ride of the community's future.
In tiny Cantua Creek, residents peer into the ride of the community's future.Laura Bliss/CityLab

A farmworker’s hamlet in a sea of almond trees, Cantua Creek, California sits 22 miles from the nearest grocery store, 30 miles from the hospital, and 50 miles from the courthouse. When the county bus to Fresno makes its infrequent stops in town, what would be a one-hour car ride can take three. There is no Uber here, and no official local taxi company. For the many locals who don’t own vehicles, or know how to drive, these treks can be arduous, even impossible distances.

But they’re about to get a little easier. In the coming weeks, a brand-new seven-seat Tesla Model X will be ferrying residents of this 500-person Central Valley outpost to distant towns, at roughly the cost of a bus ride. For a one-year pilot period, the Tesla will be operated as a ride-hailing service for part of the week, and available for hourly, Zipcar-style rentals on weekends. “Van y Vienan” (“They Come and Go”) will be among the first rural ride-share programs in the country operating with an electric car.