Meet four Sacramento community members who were true ‘Transit Champions’ for SacRT in 2023

March 4, 2024 SacRT Blog

The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) has long benefited from close ties with caring community members who actively support improved transit service as the region grows.

To honor their efforts, and to encourage more people to join in, SacRT this year launched what we are calling our “Community Transit Champion” recognition program.

Our inaugural group of four champions includes longtime riders, and advocates for the disabled who have helped push us forward in the last year. They were chosen by the SacRT board and agency management, and were recognized with plaques at recent board meetings.

“What we do, we do it for you, but we couldn’t do it without you,” SacRT Board Chair and Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy told the honorees. “Thank you very much for being that arm of SacRT out in the community.”

Our four 2023 champions are:

Keith Smothers: 

Nominated by SacRT board member Patrick Hume for his “tireless work promoting the benefits of transit,” Keith Smothers is outspoken about the personal and general public benefits of transit.

Smothers lives in Elk Grove and works downtown. Five years ago, he decided he had had enough of driving on congested Highway 99. He switched to light rail, and said it made his daily life and commute more enjoyable and healthier.

He recently served as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employee ambassador to transit, showing DMV employees how to use transit and encouraging them to give transit a try.

He tells people transit can benefit their pocketbook. “We went down to a single car. It all just made sense. I’ve never looked back.”

“Part of what I enjoy about transit is that I meet people, and I am doing something good for the environment,” he said. “In the morning, I may use that time to prepare for the day. On the way home, I decompress. I read a lot, so I enjoy the opportunity to do that.”

“Right now, I’m trying now to get my niece to use transit.”

Miguel Barraza: 

Miguel Barraza, a Sacramento native, is an activist on local government issues and member of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. He was nominated by SacRT Board Member and City of Sacramento Councilmember Caity Maple.

“Wherever I can comment or advocate, I like to show up, and I use SacRT to get there,” he said.

Barraza is a voice in particular for Sacramentans who don’t own cars or who are elderly or disabled.

“SacRT and SacRT GO paratransit services are very essential for many people,” he said. That includes his mother. He takes her on transit to doctors’ appointments and to go shopping.

Recently, he has been advocating for SacRT to add a shuttle in the Oak Park area to make it even easier for residents without cars to get to farmers markets, stores and restaurants, to UCD Medical Center and to downtown jobs.

David Von Aspern:  

Nominated by SacRT Board Member and Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, David Von Aspern is a geologist with Sacramento County and a longtime SacRT rider who keeps an eye out for ways the agency can improve service.

Recently in Natomas, a bus stop sign got knocked down, causing buses to fail to stop there. Von Aspern called and emailed SacRT, then showed up at a board meeting. That got Serna’s attention. The sign was fixed within days.

Van Aspern said he is appreciative of the fact that the board listened and responded. “I’ll have to say the SacRT board is approachable and non-intimidating. They listen. I’ve testified at other councils, boards and commissions and they can be a little intimidating, but the SacRT board should be proud that they are approachable.”

Von Aspern has been riding SacRT for two decades, by choice. He typically uses the time to deal with work emails and to get reading done.

“I feel taking transit is the right thing to do,” he said. “There are too many cars on the road. Society is finally figuring out it is using too much oil. In order to do my tiny part, one obvious choice is to use transit.

Rick Hodgkins

Rick Hodgkins, a Citrus Heights resident, is sight impaired, and describes himself as a transit dependent rider. He has used SacRT buses and trains for 25 years.

Hodgkins, who was nominated by SacRT General Manager/CEO Henry Li, is an advocate on advisory committees and at public hearings for persons with disabilities and for lower-income workers.

While SacRT has recently made major strides in helping local governments and low-income housing developers create new units, Hodgkins is pushing for more housing and, in particular, for transit-oriented developments.

“The more housing near transit, the better,” Hodgkins said. “It has to be within a half-mile from transit with adequate sidewalks. And it has to not just cater to the needs of college students and the rich, but for everyone.”

The Community Transit Champion recognition program isn’t just about transportation – it’s about fostering camaraderie and appreciation among the people of the Sacramento region. Nominations for the 2024 Community Transit Champions are expected to be open this fall for participating SacRT Board of Directors.