Transit Talk with the General Manager

April 01, 2016
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live on Friday, April 1 from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

In response to a $2.7 million budget deficit projected for Fiscal Year 2016, the RT board of directors recently approved a staff recommendation to increase fares effective Friday, July 1, 2016.

RT fiscal projections show that the modest increase across all fare types, in addition to planned streamlining efforts, will enable RT to have a balanced budget for the next five fiscal years. The increased revenue will also provide the opportunity for RT to begin to rebuild the District's reserve fund, which is vital for RT's financial stability and critical to the District's lenders and credit rating agencies.

The increase in revenue is needed in the face of mounting fiscal challenges to RT's bottom line. While RT has not increased fares since 2009, costs per revenue hour and cost per mile have risen, although below the rate of inflation. We have also since restored bus routes discontinued during the recession and expanded light rail service with the Green Line to the River District and the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College.

Fare revenue has also decreased over the last five years by approximately $500,000 per year and recent gas price drops have correlated with decreased ridership. The lower gas prices also result in RT receiving less money from a state tax on diesel fuels designed to fund public transit operations.

Local media have reported that RT's single ride fare will become among the highest in the nation with the fare increase. What they have failed to report is that many of the agencies with lower or similar fares receive a far greater level of financial support through dedicated local tax measures. RT receives one-sixth of a cent in funding from local taxes, while other large California transit agencies receive a half-cent, full-cent or more to fund their transit operations. In Los Angeles, for example, there are three separate half-cent county sales taxes funding transportation operations and projects.

The Sacramento Transportation Authority is currently considering a November 2016 ballot measure for a new half-cent sales tax to fund major road, highway and public transportation projects in our region. The measure could provide an additional revenue stream for RT to rely on to help stabilize and eventually grow transit service for the Sacramento region. To learn more about a potential ballot measure, the Sacramento Transportation Authority will be discussing the matter at its meeting on Thursday, April 14, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. at 700 H Street, Suite 1450.

RT is committed to improving our passenger experience by upgrading light rail stations, increasing fare inspection on the system, hiring additional cleaning staff, and ramping up our customer service efforts. RT is implementing these improvement efforts now, but a fare increase and possible streamlining of underperforming service are needed to keep RT on the right track.

A chart of changes to RT's fare structure are listed at

Sacramento, CA:  I have heard a great deal about mobile phone application(s) and something now being referred to as "Connect Card" as well. What is the status of both of these. Do you see improvements to mobile phone application(s) on or before July 1st, and will the "Connect Card" become a new way to pay transit fares in the larger region starting on July 1st?

Reply:  RT is in the process of updating our mobile app to provide the ability to report facilities and security issues directly. We also will offer the ability to purchase monthly and semi-monthly passes, in addition to the single and daily passes offered through the RideSacRT app. The timeline for launching the reporting app is July 1. The timeline for expanding the fare app is the end of summer or early fall. The Connect Card project is a high priority for RT. Unfortunately the vendor, Init, that is responsible for delivering the completed project is currently two years late. We are currently working with the Sacramento Area Council Of Governments, who is the lead agency on the project, and our vendor to trouble shoot existing issues. When we are ready to roll out , we will provide at least two months of outreach to prepare our passengers.

sacramento , CA:  I am very disappointed I believe if you are raising the fares RT needs to be more reliable we have really bad service compared to San Francisco Los Angeles NY City what services changes are you guys planing to improve services in san fransisco If i missed a bus I could get the next one within 15 minutes and I pay less but here in Sacramento I pay more and if i missed a bus I have to wait 30 min or an hour depending on the routes

Reply:  Comparing transit service in Sacramento with San Francisco is very inappropriate. San Francisco Muni receives a full 1/2 cent local sales tax (over $100 million a year) to fund their operation. They also receive over $200 million annually from the City's general fund and over $60 million a year in parking revenue. RT receives 1/6th of a cent in local sales tax or approximately $30 million a year. Combined, Muni San Francisco receives more than $330 million more each year than RT.

Folsom, CA:  In six months, the Golden 1 Center opens in Downtown Sacramento. Will Folsom, six months from now, or sooner, be able to obtain service hours on the Gold Line that are equivalent to the rest of the Gold Line between Sacramento and Rancho Cordova. It was brought to my attention that the current situation is based upon what Folsom pays Regional Transit for service hours. Nonetheless, I see a benefit of Sacramento folks spending their money in Folsom, as well as Folsom folks spending their money in Sacramento. Both cities, the County, and the region as a whole as I see it would benefit if Folsom has service hours equivalent to the rest of the two rail lines. Do you agree, and if so, when can the region benefit from this idea of service improvement?

Reply:  I agree it would be advantageous to extend light rail service to Folsom past 7 p.m. in order for residents to use RT to attend activities in and out of Folsom. However, you are correct that funding for service to Folsom is provided by the City of Folsom and would need to be increased to provide extended times when Golden 1 Center opens in October.

Sacramento, CA:  I enjoy using mass transit when its readily available, but I am concerned about the state of things in our region. Fares went up in 2009, service was cut, and transfers were removed. At that time we were told this would ensure positive revenues and a backup fund. Now Fares are going up again, and service has not improved much. It's got to the point were it feels like it's easier/cheaper for potential customers that don't have a monthly pass to simply drive to locations that offer free parking rather than take the bus. Do you anticipate this will hurt ridership (which I assume will further hurt revenues in a downward spiral)?

Reply:  It is anticipated that the impact of the fare increase adopted by the board on March 14th could reduce ridership by approximately 3% in FY2017. Despite this anticipated reduction in ridership, RT anticipates generating an additional $3.4M in FY17 compared to FY16. This is the result of additional revenue from a fare increase and other revenue increases from contract changes. RT is also implementing new programs designed to have a positive impact on ridership. Some of these include hiring transit agents to increase fare inspection rates, hiring additional cleaners to improve cleanliness on the system and providing additional deep cleaning at light rail platforms.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I'm fine with the fare increase. However, could there be more fare checkers in the evening when I'm riding home from downtown? There seems to be a lot more rule violators at that time. This would improve paying ridership.

Reply:  Thank you for providing us feedback. We are aware of the need for increased fare inspection and rules enforcement. To remedy this issue we are in the process of hiring 25-30 positions to conduct fare inspection. We hope to have all the personnel in place by July. The deployment would place a RT employee checking for fare and rules violations on each train.

North highlamds, CA:  According to sheriff officer writing tickets 2 days ago RT does not see much money from tickets any motion or ballot measure so RT can at least see the $35 dollar fine directly ? And where does money go now?

Reply:  The recovery from citations is very minimal. Most of the money from tickets go to court costs and to the County. Ultimately the goal of tickets is to increase future fare compliance. We are exploring other methods to gain fare compliance and are currently hiring 25-30 staff to make our fare inspection more robust.

Sacramento, CA:  Will Regional Transit Staff be going out to schools and employers, including employers of individuals with special needs, to educate everybody on the changes in the fares that take effect three months from today, July 1st? I train people with disabilities, and am doing the best I can on the changes. Nonetheless, I must admit, however, that the best people to train anybody on changes being made at Regional Transit, are you and your staff. That is why I pose this question to begin with.

Reply:  Yes, RT will be conducting a comprehensive campaign to reach out to the community regarding the fare changes which will be effective July 1, 2016. If you would like to schedule a presentation to a specific group, please contact Michael Young, RT Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist, at

CA:  When will the realtime boards be activated?

Reply:  We are currently testing a new device on the trains that, if successful will allow for real time reporting on the trains. If all goes well it should be up and running in the Fall.

North highlamds, CA:  And one other question what the timeline for evelator replacement at watt/i80 station

Reply:  Although we recognize the elevators at Watt/I80 have not been consistently reliable we currently do not have a plan to replace the elevators. We are working on the planning of alternatives to the elevators such as a ramp, however there is no timeline on that project.

sacramento , CA:  can the weekend bus services last as long as the last light rail for example bus 72 ends at 6 but the light rail end at 9 I think weekend service should be extended to last as long as the light rail

Reply:  Thank you for your question. RT regularly reviews service offerings and understands the difficulty with limited span of service offerings, however, RT is not currently able to implement changes that result in a net increase in resource requirements and operating costs as these suggestions would. Recently implemented changes to bus service were designed to be cost neutral. RT is currently reviewing service offerings in an effort to further reduce operational costs, so it's unlikely that we will be able to expand service offerings any time in the near-term. We will, however, consider your request for future implementation when financial and resources levels change. For more information about RT's near-term plans to restore and augment service offerings (when resources allow), please visit RT's website at

Sacramento, CA:  I'm a state worker who rides the train everyday and purchases a monthly pass. Here are my issues...individuals who do not pay to ride and the unsanitary conditions of the train. I've had to complain about people smoking on the train and at the stops. I'm asked to show my pass once about every other month at best. There are areas of improvement that need to be made that aren't a mystery to the RT transit.

Reply:  As I stated in my opening message, RT is committed to improving our passenger experience by upgrading light rail stations, increasing fare inspection on the system, hiring additional cleaning staff, and ramping up our customer service efforts. We are in the process of hiring up to 30 new transit agents who will be on the system by June to increase fare inspection rates. RT is also hiring additional cleaners to improve cleanliness on the system and provide additional deep cleaning at light rail platforms.

Sacramento, CA:  The timing of the fare checking is also an issue. I'm only asked for my ticket when I'm near the Sunrise station in the morning. How about checking fares when I'm riding with all the pothead creeps downtown in the 5-7 pm time?

Reply:  We have a plan to add 25-30 personnel to conduct fare inspection and deal with rule violations. The personnel will be hired and on the trains between May and July of this year. This will place a person onboard each train checking fare during the evening commute hours. Keep an eye out for them as we believe they will have a significant impact on your riding experience.

Sacramento, CA:  When will there be a red line from downtown to Watt Ave instead of a blue line? When will there be a night when trains running until 1am? Will there be a schedule change to have the two car trains running to every 10 mins M-F and 20 mins Sat/Sun to recreate bus connections? Thanks and have yourself a great weekend

Reply:  Thank you for your inquiry. RT is not currently able to implement changes that result in a net increase to operating costs or resources and existing use doesn't currently indicate demand for these changes. RT understands the role service span and frequency plays in attracting riders, but because of currently operating constraints and ridership demands, increased frequency of service on weekends and later evening service is unlikely to be implemented in the near-term. RT is, however, planning to run additional evening service following major events in Downtown Sacramento to ensure that transit is a viable form of transportation these events. Timing of implementation of additional or modified service between downtown and the Watt/I-80 station that may be branded differently than current service lines is uncertain. RT is also working with the Sacramento Transportation Authority on the possibility of placing a measure on the November 2016 Ballot to increase the local sales tax to provide increased funding for transportation improvement. If this measure passes if will help to address some of your interests.

rancho cordova , CA:  why is bus 21 never on schedule most of the time it is anywhere between 10 to 20 min late during the weekday between the times of 3 and 5

Reply:  RT regularly monitors on-time performance and is aware of schedule adherence issues with Route 21. We will continue to monitor this service and seek to implement changes to improve on-time performance.

california , CA:  when will the green line to the airport project start

Reply:  RT is currently in the planning stages of the Green Line to the Airport. An environmental review is being conducted on the entire project and a public hearing is set for April 25 in the RT Auditorium to discuss the portion related to the downtown railyards. We would like to apply for and receive money sooner from the federal government to build a station to serve the area as it develops. Funding for the entire Green Line to the Airport is dependent upon additional transit funding in the Sacramento region. The Sacramento Transportation Authority is currently developing a ballot measure for transportation projects throughout the region that could be up for vote this November.

sacramento , CA:  what will RT do about the heavy marijuana smell on some of the riders on the bus and light rail and almost every day no matter where I am at on the light rail atleast 1 person ask if I need weed RT needs to implement undercover cops to bust these drug dealers who us RT services to sell there drugs

Reply:  We often get complaints on the smell of marijuana. The issue becomes that the laws surrounding marijuana in California has essentially made it legal to use the substance with a simple doctors note and is trending toward legalization for recreational use. We do however use plain clothes officers on the system to address all kinds of rule violations including smoking and other criminal activity such as sales of drugs.

Sacramento, CA:  The current system is so undependable. How are you going to have better communication with all involved?

Reply:  We encourage passengers to sign up for our Facebook and Twitter accounts where we post information on major service disruptions. For less serious bus or light rail disruptions, we encourage use of our mobile site The mobile site allows people to track buses in real-time and view cancelled bus trips and alerts that are posted at any given time to any of the light rail station electronic message signs.

Sacramento, CA:  Hi Mike, I'm wondering if there will be rescheduling of the 30,82, and 87 lines during the CSU Systemwide Strike. I've heard that drivers will not cross the strike lines and there may be extreme congestion. I'd suggest that the 30 be re-routed down Elvis to the 65th Light Rail, and maybe the 82/87 routes go down Howe to Folsom then to the 65th Street Station to make the connections.

Reply:  RT has designed an alternative route for all service to Sacramento State in the event of a strike. If that happens we will post information at the normal bus loop, on our website and via facebook.

Elk Grove, CA:  What's the deal with 30 minute headways on the CRC line after 6 pm? I was stranded at 16th street for half an hour when the Gold Line operator decided to show up 5 minutes late at Power Inn and I missed my connecting CRC train at 16th!

Reply:  I'm sorry to learn of your recent delay. RT's services operate in mixed-flow traffic that sometimes leads to delays much like travel by personal automobile, although light rail operates on-time the vast majority of the time. RT currently provides 30 minute headways on all evening rail lines. Current demand and financial constraints don't allow for increased frequency of rail service without off-setting reductions to other services. RT does, however, plan to increase the frequency of rail services as demand warrants and resources allow.

Elk Grove, CA:  My other half recently went to a safety meeting at work (state agency) and the CHP officer who spoke at the meeting referred to the light rail as "crime rail." He also suggested folks avoid riding light rail. I only ride a few times a month and, I have to say, I have a hard time disagreeing with this CHP officer.

Reply:  The perception of light rail being crime ridden has been a challenge for us to change. The reality is that we have very few criminal incidents on the system especially given the amount of communities that the rail system goes through. We have in fact lowered crimes on our system for theft by 62% year to date and have seen lowering of those crimes for the last few years. We are increasing staffing on our system to make people feel safer on our system. The challenge for us is the feeling of safety during non peak hours which we continue to work on.

sac, CA:  does RT have routes that services the sacramento rivercats games

Reply:  RT does not currently serve Yolo County but should the Streetcar become a reality, it will serve Raley Field and downtown Sacramento.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Yesterday a yellow-clad security person was eating a Subway sandwich (extra onions) on board the Yellow Line. What kind of training do these security people have?

Reply:  Thank you for the feedback. We will look into the issue. Please call us at 556-0275 when you see our security personnel who are not performing as expected. We will assume that you were referring to the Gold Line when you said "yellow line".

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, May 6.