RT Bus Pulls Out All the Stops

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG)  |  Story and Photo by Jacqueline Fox
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From left to right, Citrus Heights Councilman Albert Fox, Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, Sacramento Vice Mayor Steve Hansen, Citrus Heights Mayor Steve Miller, behind him SacRT General Manager and CEO, Henry Li, Patrick Kennedy, Vice Chair, SacRT Board of Directors, County Supervisor Sue Frost and Councilman Jeff Slowey participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the city’s new SmaRT bus service at city hall February 12.

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CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - Move over Uber and Lyft. Sacramento Regional Transit rolled out three new “smart buses” on February 12 that will offer public transit users in Citrus Heights a new way to get around within the city.

No coins needed for the new, on-demand shuttles, which are “ordered” using app-based ride-sharing technology, eliminating the need for advanced scheduling and streamlining the payment process using a smart phone or computer, similar to the same ride-sharing technology used by Uber and Lyft.

SRT’s new "SmaRT Ride” shuttle service will allow residents to virtually “hail” rides on smaller, neighborhood friendly-sized public transit buses.  This first phase of a piloted program for the new service will run for six months to give public transit riders a high-tech options for using SRT’s inter-city bus network, dial-a-ride services and Paratransit services that provide some 8,000 trips annual in the city.

It’s a game-changer for customers like Citrus Heights resident Peter Firpo, who uses a wheelchair and, usually, gets around on Paratransit buses.  He arrived for the unveiling of the shuttle program at city hall via one of the new clean fuel SmaRT Ride buses when the Paratransit bus he’d ordered the day before didn’t show up. 

“I was planning to use the Paratransit bus to get here for this today, but they never came,” said Firpo.  So I downloaded the new SmaRT Ride app, ordered the shuttle and the new bus was at my door within about 10 minutes. If I had waited for the Paratransit bus to get me, I’d have missed this.” 

Firpo said you have to pre-order a Paratransit bus 24 hours in advance. 

The new SmaRT Ride shuttles will provide Citrus Heights residents with curb-to-curb on-demand transit service from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.  SmaRT Ride will connect passengers to destinations in Citrus Heights, including shopping centers, restaurants, movie theaters, community centers, parks, schools and medical facilities.  

You don’t necessarily need a smart phone to use the new service.  Trips aboard the new buses can be scheduled using the app, by phone or online.  Fares for using the new SmaRT Ride buses will run $2.75 per trip or $1.35 for qualifying riders, including students, seniors and those with disabilities.

Citrus Heights is one of the first cities in the nation to adopt the micro transit technology developed by TransLoc. The new service will not only allow riders the opportunity to better manage their time to and from destinations, but also will give them options for avoiding what can amount to long walks between bus stops and home or work.

“This is a turning point in public transit,” said County Supervisor Sue Frost, who added that it is very likely the second phase of the new SmaRT ride shuttle system will expand services beyond Citrus Heights potentially to Watt Avenue, as well as the neighboring communities of Orangevale, Fair Oaks, Folsom and possibly Rancho Cordova.

“I would like to see this program expand beyond our city borders to give riders all over the county the opportunity to have a more efficient option to what we have now,” Frost said.  

A SmaRT Ride request will offer passengers an estimated pick-up time, notification when they are the next passenger in the queue, and alert them when their bus is about to arrive.  The app is tied to a software scheduling program that builds what the city is calling “flexible and efficient transit routes” to manage incoming demand.

Officials from SacRT say the new program represents a pioneering campaign for revolutionizing city bus services. SacRT is the first transit agency to bring a microtransit service to the Sacramento County Region.  As such, it puts Citrus Heights on the cutting edge of the future of transit, delivering rider convenience and potentially enticing more commuters to get out of their cars.

“SacRT is excited to be among a select few transit agencies across the nation leading the way in this new on-demand, microtransit frontier for the transit industry,” said General Manager and CEO, Henry Li. “We believe TransLoc’s demand-response technology has the potential to influence a broader audience to use public transit by conveniently connecting more people and places to our existing system.”

As soon as a passenger requests a pick up using the app, SmaRT Ride will provide them with an estimated pick-up time followed by a notification to let them know when they are the next passenger in the queue.  Riders will also be alerted when their SmaRT bus is about to arrive at their pickup location.

Daily passes also are available for SmaRT Ride service for multiple trips.