The Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) recently awarded a $12 million discretionary grant to the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) to expand its SmaRT Ride microtransit service.
“We are grateful to have the support of the STA for our SmaRT Ride program, which could very well change the nation’s transit industry should innovative programs like SmaRT Ride continue to flourish,” said GM/CEO Henry Li. “Implementing new approaches to solve mobility challenges is an exciting endeavor and our SmaRT Ride service is proving to be an excellent solution.”
The STA Board of Directors voted unanimously to award the $12 million grant, which comes from Measure A funding and is guided by a Transportation Expenditure Plan.
SacRT is in the process of developing the new service, with the Historic Franklin Corridor and South Sacramento communities identified as the next phase for SmaRT Ride. Service is expected to start in late July. SacRT planners will work with the STA to identify the boundaries of each new phase of the service roll-out. The grant funding is expected to cover operational costs for the next two-and-a-half years.
SmaRT Ride has only been in operation since February 12, when it was rolled out as a pilot service in Citrus Heights. Within six weeks, the pilot was expanded to Orangevale and Antelope, with a connection to the Historic Folsom Station. Ridership on the service has jumped by more than six times since its inception, and the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
Similar to other ride-hailing services, SmaRT Ride relies on a smartphone app to schedule customized trips. The app, known as Microtransit by TransLoc, is connected to proprietary software that allows bus operators to pick-up and drop-off passengers in an efficient manner. The service relies on small, neighborhood-friendly shuttle buses to easily maneuver on residential streets, and they conveniently accommodate people with disabilities.
“We initially saw the pilot service as a way to serve areas that may not have easy access to fixed-route service, but it’s also proving to help people connect to the larger SacRT transit network,” said SacRT Board Chair and Sacramento County Vice Chair Patrick Kennedy. “Interestingly, survey data indicates our residents are also enjoying the freedom to travel within their communities for shopping and dining experiences. SmaRT Ride has turned out to be a service that truly enhances one’s quality of life.”
The cost to ride is only $2.75 per trip, $1.35 for those eligible for discount fare (seniors, students, and persons with disabilities); or, riders can use their SacRT monthly pass. The low-cost makes SacRT’s SmaRT Ride more affordable than a traditional ride-hailing service, which could cost riders more than five times the amount for a similar trip.
The on-demand service is also generating a significant amount of national attention due to its innovative nature. The pilot is proving to be an exceptional model for other transit agencies who are adopting similar programs.