Baby-blue shuttle buses are showing up in new places throughout Sacramento County.
On Monday, Sacramento Regional Transit launched its on-demand shuttle services in six new service areas, including the central city.
The program works similar to rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber: Customers use phones to request a shuttle, which picks them up near their homes.
Alexandria Smith was one of the first to download the app. Every work day, she has a 14 mile trip from her job as an in-home care provider in Rancho Cordova to her home on Broadway in Sacramento. Previously, that trip meant a lot of waiting.
"I would catch the bus, then I would catch the train, then I would catch another bus,” she explained.
Now, she says she simply takes the new RT shuttle, then transfers to another one before arriving at work. If she times this just right, she can make the trip in 20 minutes.
It was a different story when there were delays to the bus or train, she says. “If the buses are late and buses don't show up and the trains are late, it's an hour and about 20 minutes," Smith said.
Rigoberto Nelson is one of the new drivers for the expanded SmaRT Ride service. He says the shuttle is similar to vehicle rideshares in that if a customer is not there, he'll move on — just like Uber or Lyft.
“We're gonna notify the passenger that we have arrived,” Nelson said. “If in two minutes they have not come to us, we will go ahead and cancel the ride if our dispatcher approves the cancellation.”
SacRT updated its bus routes last year, which left some riders lacking convenient service. RT spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez says the new SmaRT Ride on-demand shuttle program addresses this challenge.
"We were able to implement this on-demand service to help [customers] either get to another fixed route, or just get around their neighborhood," she said.
SacRT is using a $12 million grant from the Sacramento Transportation Authority to pay for the service, which started in Citrus Heights in 2018 and later expanded to Rancho Cordova and Franklin Boulevard.
The original three service areas have door-to-door programs. The six new areas — Arden, Carmichael, North Sacramento, Folsom, Gerber Calvine, and downtown-Midtown — are serviced by the shuttle company Via. Shuttles pick and drop-off riders on street corners near their homes or destinations.
The fare, $2.50, is the same as traditional bus service. Groups of five or more ride for free. People with a Zip Pass app don’t have to pay for a transfer.
Gonzalez says overall ridership compared to last year is up by 5 percent and has been increasing since October 2018 when Sac RT reduced fares by 25 cents.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.