SacRT GO paratransit service is on the move in the post-COVID era, serving Sacramentans countywide
Each day at teacher Alice Kimble’s Sacramento preschool, a yellow, blue and white shuttle bus shows up, bringing Kimble in her wheelchair to work and then taking her back home again.
The students love it. They call it “Miss Alice’s bus.” “They look forward to watching me go up and down the lift every day,” Kimble says. “They don’t want their parents to leave until they watch me get on.”
The bus is part of the Sacramento Regional Transit District’s (SacRT’s) special SacRT GO paratransit service, a system of buses and cars that offer a robust mobility option enabling disabled and elderly Sacramentans to live active lives.
Kimble, a preschool teacher who suffers from a childhood disorder that affects her ability to move and maintain balance and posture, has been using the service for decades, and says she appreciates it tremendously. “It lets me be a productive part of society. That is what I always wanted to be. If it weren’t for paratransit, I wouldn’t be able to be me.”
This week marks the third anniversary for the newest iteration of the service. On June 28, 2020, after 28 years of contracting its paratransit service out to partners, SacRT transitioned the operation of its ADA Paratransit and Non-ADA Demand Response service back in-house to consolidate and boost services.
SacRT GO paratransit service is a door-to-door service for qualifying riders who have disabilities as well as elderly riders who have difficulty using the fixed-route bus and light rail service. Ride reservations are taken a day or more in advance. Fares are $5 one way, or $137.50 for a two-month pass. Personal care attendants ride free.
Most individuals with disabilities can utilize SacRT’s fully accessible fixed-route services; however, under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit service is designed as a safety net for individuals with disabilities who are functionally unable to use the fixed-route for some or all of their trips. The ADA ensures via SacRT GO service that these individuals with disabilities have transportation available to them on the same basis as individuals using fixed-route systems.
The transition of SacRT GO paratransit services in-house happened just as the COVID-19 pandemic was causing most people to stay at home. But SacRT GO staff now report the lifeline service is back on the upswing, gaining new riders each month.
Richard Mitchell, SacRT’s Director of Community and Contract Bus Services, says ridership numbers have risen to more than 80% of the agency’s pre-COVID levels, among the best for transit agencies nationally.
“We are recovering well,” he said. “We’re bouncing back. The number of eligibility requests have been breaking records the last few months.”
The reason is clear, he said. “SacRT GO is a vital service in the community for the elderly and disabled. It gives them the mobility to get to work, to school, doctor’s appointments, stores, entertainment, family and friends,” Mitchell said. “Without it, they would have limited options.”
The month of May 2023 hit a high of 26,724 riders on a combination of more than 120 SacRT vehicles as well as contract vehicles from UZURV, an Adaptive Transportation Network Company that teams with SacRT to provide additional support.
While the transition to in-house service has been smooth, the pandemic has caused a driver shortage at transit agencies nationwide. In response, SacRT has been engaged in a vigorous effort to hire drivers.
Longtime SacRT GO riders, such as Kimble, advise new riders to be understanding, flexible and patient as the agency continues ramping service up. “It’s a rideshare program, and sometimes people forget that,” Kimble said. “You have to give your driver plenty of time to get you from point A to point B,” she said.
SacRT GO is one of many SacRT services designed to provide equity, inclusivity and fairness to all members of the Sacramento community. SacRT works regularly and directly with our partners in the disability, elderly and transit communities to meet their mobility needs.
Anthony Jackson, who is sight impaired, uses SacRT GO paratransit service to get to work at the UC Davis Medical Center in central Sacramento. He said he is grateful that Sacramento provides a reliable way, for only $5, for him to get to work each day.
The drivers are cordial, he said. They will hop off the bus in front of his house to greet him, even though he can get on the bus easily by himself. “A lot of the drivers I deal with, we talk as if we have known each other for years.”
SacRT’s goal is not only to get people where they want to go, but to make travel convenient and comfortable.
Rita Schabow, who works as a therapist, says she appreciates how pleasant the ride is, and how safe she feels on SacRT GO. She even feels comfortable enough at times to take a little cat nap while listening to a book or music during her commute from Elk Grove to Folsom Prison.
“It’s pleasant, it’s safe, it’s comfortable,” she said.
For more information on SacRT GO Paratransit Services, visit: sacrtgo.com
You can also call SacRT GO at 916 321-BUSS (2877), select option #2.
For detailed information about applying to ride SacRT Go, review our riders’ guide at www.sacrt.com/apps/wp-content/uploads/SacRT-GO-Riders-Guide-June-2020_FINAL.pdf