Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) launched a pilot in 2018 to offer the SmaRT Ride service as part of its efforts to improve mobility, user experience, and accessibility to public transportation. The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce traffic, improve public transportation, repair local streets and roads, and protect the environment.
This transportation service relies on carpooling in minibuses and trucks to accommodate as many people as possible in one trip. The on-demand transportation system seeks to provide a more convenient service compared to conventional buses and at a lower cost compared to other ride-sharing services like Uber and Careem. The existing on-demand microtransit can bridge the mass transportation gap in areas where buses and railways cannot be provided, in addition to solving last-mile issues and reducing waiting times in crowded public transport stations. Starting in January 2020, the project has expanded in cooperation with Via Mobility Services. It will include six new districts and 42 minibuses, and provide better service with practical advantages for users. To expand SmaRT Ride services, SacRT has dedicated six minibuses to serve the center and east Sacramento. Over the next year, three more buses will be rolled out to Franklin, South Sacramento.
Minibuses allow passengers to request a ride via a smartphone app (available for iOS or Android) and they can get on and off the bus at any time. VIA uses algorithms to match drivers with carpooling requests and guide passengers to a virtual bus stop within a walking distance for pick-up and drop-off. Moreover, the algorithm reduces travel time by recommending shortcuts and avoiding unpractical fixed routes. One trip usually costs $2.50, while the elderly and people of determination get a 50% discount, and young people can travel for free using a RydeFreeRT sticker or card. Groups of five or more can travel free of charge. All drivers accommodating groups of at least five or more must travel to and from the same pick-up and drop-off destination.
SmaRT Ride is provided through Measure A funds, a half-cent tax on sales charged by the Sacramento Transportation Authority to improve transportation services. SacRT received a $12 million grant from the Sacramento Transportation Authority to expand microtransit in the region. Today, the service is the largest on-demand microtransit project in the United States and an excellent model for integrating public transportation and new technologies to make cities smarter.