SAM on demand


Used with Permission by Wikimedia Commons/AlexiusHoratius

This photo of the downtown bus station was captured in 2009, near the intersection of 1st ave & 11th st.

Daniel Valentine, Staff Writer

Sioux Area Metro (SAM) is Sioux Falls’ government-owned public transport and has been running on its current routes since 2016. 

SAM on demand is a system that was rolled out in late 2020 to allow for adequate social distancing during the pandemic. Residents of Sioux Falls could use the app to schedule pick-up or drop-off times for a shuttle on most days of the week, except Sundays. Now that we are in our post-pandemic lives, the SAM schedule has mostly returned to normal routes on a Monday through Friday schedule. However, completely dropping the program would be a disservice to our city, as many people began to rely on SAM on demand for convenient transportation in their everyday lives. On the other hand, consistent bus scheduling is equally as important to the people of Sioux Falls. 

As a compromise, the SAM agency has developed a sort of mixed schedule, within which users who still need on-demand service can use this on Saturdays, where riders will be able to reach their destinations with as few transfers as applicable, but will have to pay another fare if a transfer occurs. Otherwise, riders will have to adapt to the regular schedule of the buses to get where they need to go. This means paying the ordinary transfer fares that are necessary for everyday commutes. So far, this system seems to be working great for SAM, but there could be more changes to come. 

SAM’s fixed shuttle rider usage has been slowly declining since 2013, according to the National Transit Database. While this census is not able to account for on-demand usage, it is pretty clear that the fixed metro system is slowly teetering off with its use. It is not to say that this system will ever be removed from our city, but it might be in the interest of the government to slowly shift to more demand-focused services. Perhaps Saturdays could be the all-day demand service, and a small portion of the buses are used for demand on Fridays. This setup would ensure that both populations of commuters would be able to use the transit as best meets their needs. 

As stated on the SAM website, the agency has also paired up with the Token Transit application, and riders will be able to pay their fares from their phones. With the SAM on-demand app also being available on smartphones, public transportation in Sioux Falls continues to be easily accessible.