Elk Grove’s e-tran city buses and Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit vehicles last week began running under their new operator, Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) District.

This change was unanimously approved by the Elk Grove City Council last March.

The day after the contract of former operator MV Transportation expired on June 30, SacRT took over all of the city’s public transit routes. This new contract runs through 2024.

Although MV Transportation had difficulty finding enough drivers, Henry Li, SacRT general manager and CEO, told the Citizen last December that his organization has a much larger pool of drivers.

“We can always make sure Elk Grove has enough drivers to run the service,” he said.

To hear some of the e-tran bus riders’ firsthand experiences, the Citizen spent an hour on one of the city’s buses last week.

Following a wait of 27 minutes for the Route 116 bus to arrive at a bus stop on Elk Grove Boulevard, just east of Elk Grove-Florin Road, the Citizen boarded a bus bound for Cosumnes River College.

The bus, which makes the same stop once per hour, arrived at 1:17 p.m. – three minutes ahead of schedule.

After being greeted by a veteran driver, named Darnell Kelley, the Citizen began a round-trip voyage, which would conclude at the Elk Grove United Methodist Church, less than a block from the bus’s starting point in Old Town.

During the July 5 trip, there were fewer than 10 passengers riding the bus at any given time.

Passenger Savannah Bartley expressed frustration with late buses in Elk Grove.

“There were time periods when they were really late,” she said. “They were five or 10 minutes late, frequently. I’ve noticed that in these past two years, there’s at least once a week (that) a bus (is) 40 minutes late.”

Bartley added that she was pleased with the arrival time of a bus she rode on July 5.

“This bus was way on time,” she said.

Earlier in the day, she rode another bus that arrived two minutes behind schedule.

Bartley expressed great frustration about Route 114, which runs to Cosumnes River College and travels along Laguna Boulevard, and Calvine and Elk Grove-Florin roads.

However, while recently riding a bus on that route, under SacRT’s operation, Bartley had a better experience.

“I don’t remember receiving a notification (of a late bus),” she said.

Andrew Guereca, who spoke with the Citizen near a local bus stop, said he would rather ride his bike than take a city bus to Cosumnes River College.

“I just found it easier to ride a bike to the light rail station (at the college) than actually wait a half an hour to catch a bus,” he said. “And the buses (come) only once an hour. It’s kind of ridiculous. People have places to be.”

Carol Webb, a Montanan who is temporarily living in Elk Grove, recalled waiting over an hour for a bus on July 3, after the SacRT takeover. She arrived at the bus stop around 5:10 p.m.

“Finally at about 6:30, I had to call Lyft,” she said.

Not everyone interviewed mentioned frustrating stories about Elk Grove’s bus service.

Elk Grove resident Timmy Elrod said he began riding buses in North Highlands in 1972.

Elrod noted that he found few problems with bus service in Elk Grove.

Richard Yang, who sat across from Elrod, said he also discovered few problems with e-tran’s service.

Kelley, the e-tran driver, who was born and raised in Chicago, said he makes an effort to be on time and have friendly interaction with his customers.

As for the switch to SacRT, Kelley mentioned that the company’s performance is currently being evaluated.

“(SacRT) hasn’t fully got in,” he said. “They’ve got to get in and get everything going, and then they’ll see how everything works out. They need to see how the system goes and where they need to make changes. So, that’s where they’re at.”

On a personal basis, Kelley said he is enjoying his small pay raise and the benefits he receives as a SacRT employee. He revealed that he earns about $20.50 per hour.

The cost for an all-day, Elk Grove pass is $6 for a general pass, $3.50 for seniors and $3 for disabled riders. A one-way, general ticket runs $2.25.

The total general cost to ride buses and light rail trains to and from downtown Sacramento is $7.

For additional information about e-tran, visit www.e-tran.org.