SacRT Receives the 2021 Outstanding Public Transportation System of the Year Award

July 27, 2021 General, SacRT in Community

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SacRT has been honored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as the 2021 Outstanding Public Transportation System of the Year. This award is given to only one agency in each category of small, medium and large systems. SacRT received the award for the category of public transit agencies with more than 4 million but less than 20 million trips. In 2019, APTA honored SacRT’s General Manager/CEO Henry Li with the equally prestigious Outstanding Public Transportation Manager of the Year award.

APTA is the leading force in advancing public transportation entities providing bus, rail, subway, ferry and paratransit services throughout North America representing over 1,500 public and private sector members, representing organizations not just in the U.S., but also Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The APTA Awards recognize organizations and leaders in the public transportation industry in North America who have demonstrated significant leadership, are outstanding role models of excellence, and whose accomplishments and innovations have greatly advanced public transportation. To put the honor in perspective, winning the national Outstanding Transportation System of the Year award in the transit industry, is the equivalent of receiving the Oscar for best picture.

“This year’s entries were “some of the most competitive and outstanding that Awards Committee members have ever evaluated.” – APTA’s Awards Committee

SacRT was recognized for a number of initiatives that launched between 2018 and 2020 in 12 different areas, including safety, operations, finance, marketing, customer relations, sustainability, diversity and equity. Many, which took place for the first time in its 48-year history, including:

  • Lowering fares
  • Expanding and improving service
  • Achieved double-digit ridership growth
  • Introducing one of the nation's biggest and most successful microtransit services, SmaRT Ride
  • Regaining the trust of city jurisdictions and reannexing transit services back into the SacRT district
  • Implementing the nation's first fare-free rides for student program of its magnitude, RydeFreeRT
  • Generated $12.8 million in operating surplus, staving off layoffs, furloughs, and salary cuts, while maintaining service levels close to 100% while increasing operating and capital reserves by 500% in five years ($30 million+), despite a 60% drop in ridership and farebox revenue during the peak of the pandemic
  • After more than 30 years of contracting, SacRT transitioned the operation of its ADA paratransit and non-ADA demand response service back in-house, called SacRT GO
  • Proactive and immediate best practices to combat COVID-19
  • Maintaining essential travel and providing social services to the community such as free rides to vaccination and voting centers
  • In partnership with the California State Transportation Agency and the City of Sacramento, launched the WiFi Bus to turn buses into free wireless super-hotspots in communities with limited high-speed internet to close digital divide
  • Launched SacRT’s first Airport Express bus service connecting downtown Sacramento to the Sacramento International Airport
  • Launched the first and the largest public-private partnership for a new high-speed electric vehicle charging hub at Power Inn Station
  • Received over $366 million in grants for light rail modernization the last two years. Ordered 20 new modern low-floor light rail vehicles from local business, Siemens Mobility
  • Launched a new public intercity express bus service, Causeway Connection, connecting the cities of Davis and Sacramento using zero emission electric vehicles in partnership with Yolobus and Electrify America (EA)
  • Partnered with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Visa, Littlepay, and SC Soft to add a contactless method for payment onboard light rail trains – a first in the state
  • Installed new smart fare vending machines, which offer several convenient ways to pay, including cash or credit/debit card, Google Pay and Apple Pay, and the ability to add tickets and passes to the ZipPass fare app and Connect Card

SacRT would like to thank our over 1,300 employees; board members; partners; advocates and riders for helping us achieve this tremendous accomplishment. Click here to view some statements of support for SacRT.

SacRT will receive the award during APTA’s Transform Conference and Expo in November 2021, which every year is attended by thousands of industry professionals.

For more information on the APTA Awards, visit