Rideshare on the cheap: Citrus Heights launches a new ride-sharing service

Public, private partnership will look to compete with Uber’s prices

This story was made possible by a grant from Tower Cafe.
This is an extended version of a story that appears in the February 15, 2018, issue.

Transit systems aren’t generally described as fast, convenient and high-tech. Citrus Heights wants to change that.

On February 12, city leaders officially launched a new public transportation system, a ridership experience they hope will be flexible and affordable. The new prototype system is called SmaRT Ride. It will be a joint venture of Sacramento Regional Transit, Citrus Heights and TransLoc, a North Carolina provider of software applications and phone apps.

The prototype service, used in concert with smartphones or computers, allows for pick-up and drop-off via a small shuttle-type van. City leaders say the “demand-responsive” service will be on par with high-tech competitors like Lyft and Uber, while being delivered for substantially less cost, as fees range from $1.35 to $2.75 per trip.

Users can request a ride through landlines as well.

Once a request is placed, users can track the approach of the van, watch its movement onscreen in real time, see an estimated time of arrival and pay for their ride through the app. Dispatchers have even more sophisticated tracking data and will help plot the most efficient routes for navigating an array of passenger trip requests. Dispatchers can communicate with a number of vehicles and drivers simultaneously.

In a city with limited bus access and no light-rail connections, Citrus Heights leaders hope the experimental service is successful enough to start its own riding revolution. If the initiative takes off, phase two would expand into Orangevale and Folsom. SacRT CEO Henry Li called the service his agency’s attempt to lead the way for “a new frontier in the transit industry.”