Ride free through Wednesday: Sacramento RT launches major bus-route overhaul

Changes at Sacramento Regional Transit District bring more coordination between bus and light rail schedules.
Changes at Sacramento Regional Transit District bring more coordination between bus and light rail schedules.

Sacramento’s main transit agency on Sunday unveiled the biggest bus route redesign in its history, including extended service hours and more coordination between buses and light rail trains.

The project, called SacRT Forward, is part of a multiyear effort by the Sacramento Regional Transit District to modernize its service and operations in hopes of giving transit a stronger role regionally as Sacramento’s core metro area becomes denser and its freeways and main commuter routes more crowded.

The agency and other transit companies have seen their ridership erode over the past decade as more people use ride-sharing services, forcing SacRT and others to rethink their service approach.

The new routes, more than a year in planning, are based on an analysis of population and job centers as well as travel routes. The agency has focused on bolstering service along major corridors. The changes include discontinuing low-performing routes or sections of routes.

“This is much more than changing bus routes; this is about reimagining what mobility means for the diverse communities in which we serve and getting people to places they want to go,” SacRT General Manager Henry Li said.

The agency is offering free rides on all buses and light rail trains Sunday through Wednesday of this week.

SacRT also plans to offer free rides this school year, starting Oct. 1, to all elementary and high school students. Yolobus and Stockton transit agencies also are experimenting this year with free rides for students.

The new SacRT service this week includes extended service late nights and on the weekends to offer more service to swing shift workers. It divides service into 27 regular routes and 15 peak-hour-only routes. All routes provide seven-day service except bus route 33.

Agency officials said they took in more than 600 public comments in the last year while preparing the service changes. Those changes are listed on the SacRT website at:

Among other recent changes at SacRT:

  • Adding fare inspectors and security on most trains.
  • Plans to buy low-floor trains over time so that riders do not have to climb stairs.
  • Working with local cities to create live-work hubs near transit stations.
  • Creating better linkages among bus systems around the region.
  • Experimenting with “micro-transit” service in several communities. The service, called SmaRT Ride, allows people to request a shuttle bus via an app or phone call that will pick up at their home or wherever they are.
  • Re-emphasizing cleaning of trains and light rail stations.
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