The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) is set to launch a microtransit pilot program that will allow riders to request buses and shuttles from their smartphone. Similar in concept to services provided by rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, microtransit options have gained popularity in cities across the country. On-demand microtransit may prove particularly useful in meeting first-and-last-mile transit needs, as well as the needs of suburban residents and less mobile senior citizens.
Nevertheless, microtransit is relatively nascent. “It’s brand new,” said Dan Sperling of the University of California, Davis, adding that “the reality is there is very little experience with this.”
SacRT hopes to charge $2.75, the price of a bus or light rail ride, for its neighborhood-based microtransit pilot rides. SacRT expects to pay about $25,000 for the project, funds which will be used mainly for the software needed to run the on-demand service.
Companies such as Uber and Lyft, which are demand responsive, personal, and convenient, have eaten away at about 6% of public transit ridership. A large portion of rideshare users are relatively younger riders that value tailored, convenient, and on-demand service. Sperling believes microtransit may provide public agencies with an opportunity to grow into more responsive providers, although the public sector may struggle to compete with private operators: “It is a challenge for transit agencies to be agile, like Uber. Uber and Lyft have pioneered getting to know their customer very well,” he noted.
The six-month pilot, which will begin in February in the City of Citrus Heights, is focused on increasing ridership among those that tend to avoid public transit. “We’re trying to make transit easy and convenient,” said Citrus Heights Mayor Steve Miller. “It seems like this could be used throughout the region in cities like Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove,” places in which traditional transit options are used sparingly.