Uber and Lyft are about to get some competition from an on-demand public transit system in Sacramento, California. Via has teamed up with the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) to create what they call the largest “microtransit system” in America. That’s heartening to hear for me, as I grew up in Sacramento and used to ride buses all over town in my youth.
It means that the public will be able to hail rides from apps and the city’s public transportation department will send out vehicles to pick people up and deliver them, just as the ride-sharing services do. Called SmaRT Ride, the on-demand public transportation network debuted on January 6 with nine zones and 42 vehicles.
Daniel Ramot, cofounder and CEO of Via, said in a statement the SmaRT Ride service is now the largest on-demand microtransit project in the United States, making it an example of how public transportation and technology can work together to make a city smarter.
Using the SmaRT Ride app (iOS and Android), riders will be able to hail a vehicle directly from their smartphone. Riders will also just as easily be able to book a ride by calling 916-556-0100.
Via’s advanced algorithms will enable multiple riders to seamlessly share the vehicle. The technology will direct passengers to a nearby virtual bus stop within a short walking distance for pick-up and drop-off, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours or inconvenient fixed routes and schedules.
The SmaRT Ride program first launched in February 2018 and, due to its popularity and success, is growing across the city to bring dynamic shared transportation to even more residents. The City of Sacramento tapped Via to power the new service starting in 2020, updating the existing SmaRT Ride system and bringing new functionality for riders.
SacRT CEO Henry Li said in a statement that the success of the pilot means this new mobility option will be extended to more communities.
The service relies on small, neighborhood-friendly shuttle buses to easily maneuver on residential streets, and the vehicles are equipped to accommodate people with disabilities.
SmaRT Ride now services zones in Citrus Heights, Franklin-South Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Arden, Carmichael, Downtown-Midtown-East Sacramento, Gerber-Calvine, Folsom, and North Sacramento.
The cost to ride is $2.50 per trip, $1.25 for those eligible for discount fare (seniors and persons with disabilities), or free for youth with the RydeFreeRT sticker or pass.
Riders can also use their SacRT monthly pass. Groups of five or more are free; all riders must travel in a group of five or more from the same pick-up location to the same destination.
The new SmaRT Ride service is provided through Measure A funding. SacRT was awarded a $12 million grant by the Sacramento Transportation Authority to help expand microtransit into new communities throughout the region.
As part of the SmaRT Ride expansion, SacRT also rolled out six electric SmaRT Ride shuttles in the Downtown-Midtown-East Sacramento service area. In the next six months, three additional electric SmaRT Ride shuttles will be operating in the Franklin-South Sacramento zone. Those three shuttles are being provided by Electrify America.
Via provides on-demand shared mobility solutions, working with cities and transportation agencies around the world to connect more people to transit. Via has partnered with some of the world’s largest public transit agencies to solve pressing transportation needs including the neighboring city of West Sacramento, the Los Angeles Metro, Transport for London (TfL), and Sydney’s Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW).
Via is also working on something similar with Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) in Berlin, Germany.