Transit Talk with the General Manager

October 07, 2016
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
Questions for the GM

North Natomas, CA:  First of all, congratulations to you on the record ridership so far with the couple or so Golden 1 Center events so far. Here in North Natomas, I for one seem left out as Route 11 does not have later operating hours or Sunday/Holiday hours for me to benefit going to the Golden 1 Center. Would you be able to look into bus service to and from Golden 1 Center, especially where there is no light rail present or available. Many buses that go Downtown go to outlying areas where there is no light rail. Don't forget about us as well. Thank you.

Reply:  We've been discussing some options to make transit more viable for North Natomas residents such as a shuttle bus. One issue is that we do not have any extra bus drivers available on game nights at the moment.

Comments from Henry Li: 

October is an exciting time for RT! With the opening of Golden 1 Center, RT is experiencing a surge in ridership and a renewed confidence in our ability to meet the transportation needs of the Sacramento community.

Last Saturday, RT provided approximately 10,000 passenger trips for Golden 1 Center's public open house and Fan Fest events. Subsequently, RT saw an increase in ridership on October 4 and 5, when Paul McCartney took the stage at the new arena.

I am pleased that we have received such positive reviews from first time riders who plan to try transit again. Seasoned riders have also seen the improvements and truly appreciate our efforts. Our success comes from months of preparation and hard work cleaning stations and trains, hiring extra security, and promoting the convenience of taking RT.

RT celebrated the re-opening of the 7th & Capitol Station on September 27. This beautifully renovated station is the "flagship" station for light rail service to the new arena. It features new shelters, security cameras, fare vending machines, public address system, signage and unique lighting. Upgrades were also completed at the 8th & K Station and the 9th & K Station.

In addition, RT recently debuted a new reporting app for passengers called Alert SacRT, which allows passengers to report safety and security concerns anonymously.

On October 3, RT introduced Station Link. Station Link is an innovative and economical program for passengers who want an easy way to get to and from one of the six participating light rail stations (Sunrise, Watt/Manlove, Power Inn, Florin, Franklin, Roseville Road). Under the RT Station Link program, passengers who take Uber, Lyft or Yellow Cab to or from one of the key stations will receive up to $5 off their ride, up to 10 rides, courtesy of RT.

As always, your feedback is most important. I appreciate all of the suggestions and positive comments received to date. All of us at RT look forward to making continued improvements to the system in order to provide the Sacramento region with a first-class transit system that it deserves.

Sacramento, CA:  I am a daily light rail rider, and while I definitely appreciate the more frequent presence of fare checkers on the train, almost daily I see the same transit officer give out no tickets for fare evaders. All he does is give them a warning and/or tell them to get off the train at the next stop. While that might present a more "friendly" RT face to the riders, it definitely makes legal paid riders question why we're bothering to pay. What discretion do the new transit officers have for ticketing or not ticketing non-paying riders? When the police used to do sweeps on the train, it didn't appear that there was as much leeway on whether a ticket would be given or not.

Reply:  Fare inspection staff actually are given strict guidelines on when discretion to cite can be utilized. However, there are times when we tell the inspection staff to not cite and just remove fare evaders. Examples of these times are when police officer response to back up the inspection staff is limited (bus bridge, high call volumes, major event nights) or when the need for higher visibility on more cars is the goal versus stopping and writing cites. With all that said our citations have increased significantly with the added staff and our fare evasion has dropped from 15% to 5%.

CA:  How does a round trip work from first mile /last mile from from light rail station? Any light rail station anytime?

Reply:  Thank you for your interest in RT's Station Link program. The program may be used on any date and at any time during the duration of the program which will end no later than March 31, 2017. Eligible trips must start or end at one of six participating RT light rail stations. The participating stations are: Roseville Rd; Florin; Franklin; Watt/Manlove; Sunrise; and, Power Inn. To receive the savings, you must provide the promotional code of "SACRT". Trips may be scheduled through each partners mobile application or via phone for Yellow Cab. For more information about this program including how to schedule wheelchair accessible vehicles, please visit RT's website at:

Folsom, CA:  Why is late night Folsom Light rail service mainly dependent on whether there is a Golden 1 Center Event. My fellow riders and I are mad that we have to now keep a calendar where we have to mark when there is, versus when there isn't something going on at Golden 1 Center in Downtown so that we know. This is a bit ridiculous, don't you think? We think Folsom deserves better and consistent night service each and everyday. Even if this is going to cost some money, doesn't this seem to make common sense, rather than marking up a calendar as to when there is or is not service dependent upon one major Downtown facility having an event or not? My fellow riders and I do think so. Do you agree? Am I making some sense here in the monthly chat box?

Reply:  I agree with you, the lack of later night service to Folsom is confusing and has become even more so with the opening of the Golden One Center. RT's service between the Sunrise Station and the Historic Sutter Street Station is operated under contract with the City of Folsom. The City of Folsom decides, and pays for, the overall span of service to and from Folsom. We have had discussions with Folsom over expanding service later into the evening, but do not have an agreement beyond the special service operated to the larger events at the Golden One Center. I will certainly share your concern with the City of Folsom and encourage you to do so as well.

Sacramento , CA:  I just moved from L.A., their transit system is so user friendly. Didn't know you had to push a button to open the doors on the train, caused me to miss the train. Why doesn't RT train doors open automatically when they pull into a station? I been on trains in San Jose, Bart, Washington D.C., all their doors open automatically when trains pull into the station. You are going to have many new riders going to the Golden One Arena why don’t you make it convenient as possible for your passengers. New riders shouldn’t have to be told to push a button in order to board the train.

Reply:  The push buttons to open the doors is actually a common practice in Light Rail systems around the country. In California, San Diego operates this way as well. One of the benefits of the push to open feature is that the doors stay open less time, allowing the heating and cooling system in the vehicles to work more effectively. This is most important during the summer months in Sacramento when it can be very hot during the day. Once you understand how the system works it is very easy to use. For new riders attending events at the Golden One Center, we have staff deployed at key stations and at our downtown stations to help new riders use our system.

Sacramento , CA:  Do Golden 1 Center employees ride free?

Reply:  The Sacramento Kings Golden 1 Center employees have arranged for sponsorship of transit and parking from lots under the W/X freeway to the arena. The employees have the option of taking the 51 or 51X bus or taking the train from Broadway to and from the parking and the arena. The employee ID is the proof of fare and the employer should have given a parking pass. This arrangement is only for riding between the arena and the designated parking under the W/X freeway. Employees can not ride free on the rest of the RT system. Unfortunately, Legends, has at this time, chosen not to enter into an arrangement with RT and the City for the same transportation opportunity.

Sacramento, CA:  Looking over RT's plans with Measure B funds, the vast majority seems to be focused on improving commutes within Downtown Sacramento. What benefits are there to these plans for someone like me who lives and commutes with RT primarily outside the city?

Reply:  We are gearing up now for a Route Optimization Initiative and one of the things it will look at is the change in travel patterns after the recession including exactly what you're discussing, that is, how much should RT's service focus on the central city versus suburb-to-suburb travel. We plan to start the Route Optimization Initiative early next year.

Sacramento, CA:  Have you studied installing Wi-fi on trains? You could implement a system similar to the Sacramento International Airport. A sponsor will show an ad and then allow people access. Businesses could offer people coupons for meals or dirnks before and after events.

Reply:  We've looked into it. It tends to be a little more common on longer-distance rail services such as Capitol Corridor, Amtrak, and commuter rail like the Surfliner or the San Joaquins. Light rail systems such as RT's tend to have shorter travel distances, so the vehicles tend to be geared more around riders frequently getting on and off (e.g., more doors, wider doors, more space devoted to standees), as opposed to the long-distance commuter who might want to open a laptop, plug into power and wifi, and get some work done.

Sacramento, CA:  Why doesn't SacRT run a bus to the airport from downtown (or anywhere else, for that matter)?

Reply:  We've looked into an airport bus several times before, but it would be redundant to the hourly bus service already provided by Yolobus. For Yolobus, their main route runs back and forth between Sacramento and Woodland already, so the airport is just one stop along the way. Yolobus airport service:

Sacramento , CA:  When will RT release a new bus and light rail timetable book?

Reply:  There are no current plans to produce a Bus and Light Rail Timetable book in the near future. However, the schedules and maps on are up to date.

Sacramento, CA:  RT has one of the highest base fares in the country. Transit riders, especially bus riders, tend to be working class and people of color. What is RT's plan in the medium term for stabilizing fare increases and bringing prices to a more reasonable level? Shouldn't a public service like transit be cheap enough to be utilized by the working public?

Reply:  There are many factors that determine the fare structure for transit agencies. A major component of this is local support provided to the transit agency from the local community. Limited local support puts more pressure on revenue raised through fares to support the operation of the system. Unfortunately, RT receives very little local support when compared to many other transit systems. Recently, RT's board adopted fiscal sustainability policies that will direct staff to examine it's fare structure on a more frequent basis and will encourage the agency to be more nimble in reacting to changes in our financial position.

Orangevale , CA:  The second 109 bus in the morning is always late arriving downtown. Riders have sent over 20 complaints to your Customer Advocacy Department and nothing has been done to fix this problem. I cannot afford to be late to work everyday. Can you do something to make this operator pick us up on time in the mornings?

Reply:  We have a superintendent who will be and already has begun assessing the route. It's important to determine how much of it is operator behavior versus traffic or other factors. If it's mostly traffic, we may need to adjust the schedule.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the line 82 be running more often? Every half an hour during peak hours is just not enough considering all of the major stops it has. Two colleges, a hospital, and four major grocery stores. It is saturated.

Reply:  Thank you for your interested in increased service levels. RT is preparing for a new planning effort, the Route Optimization Initiative, that will consider major service changes including possible reallocation of services to some areas that may warrant additional service span and frequency. As you likely know, RT was considering significant service reduction earlier this year. This service reduction effort was necessitated by a shortfall of current and on-going funding levels compared to operating costs. RT was able to forgo implementation of major service reductions this year because of several other changes designed to increase revenue and a one-time infusion of funding. As such, we are not currently able to commit to net system-wide increases in service levels. RT is, however, gearing up to a new planning effort, the Route Optimization Initiative, that will consider major service changes including possible reallocation of services to some areas that may warrant additional service span and frequency.

Sacramento, CA:  Hello and congrats on the seamless opening night of Golden 1. I'm a light rail rider and I know what I'm doing, but I had to help several friends (who were using light rail for the first time this week) try to navigate RT's website and map. They both could use a make over. I'm wondering if a web-redesign is in the works? Or at least the light rail map. Thanks.

Reply:  Thank you for the feedback regarding the opening night service. We currently have several promotional items that are available and up to date regarding services and maps. We have partnered with the Downtown Sacramento Guides to help assist first time riders and hand out How to Ride Guides with current maps detailing travel to the Arena. We do have a microsite,, that answers all questions related to Golden 1 travel. And, yes, we are currently working on a complete overhaul on our main website.

Sacramento, CA:  Has RT considered reducing the length of some bus lines? For instance, the 38 runs from the Sac State light rail station to downtown and then to Broadway and 8th. It's always late by the time it gets to the middle of its route (in midtown), sometimes by as much as 15 minutes, which doesn't help anyone who depends on transit to get to work or time-sensitive appointments. It seems like dividing that route into shorter segments would help, especially since long stretches of the route are very lightly utilized anyway.

Reply:  RT is preparing for a Route Optimization Initiative that will consider major service changes and route structure, including issues such as route length that may impact on-time performance. Reliability will be a primary consideration of any potential changes as will convenience and efficiency. The effort will consider issues like the trade-offs between the convenience (for some riders) of one seat rides to multiple destinations along a given route for longer trips and the potential for increased reliability for shorter route alignments.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the line 82 be running more often? Every half an hour during peak hours is just not enough considering all of the major stops it has. Two colleges, a hospital, and four major grocery stores. It is saturated.

Reply:  The short answer is that our funding is very limited, and we are not currently expanding bus service, unless it can be done on a cost-neutral basis. The longer-term answer is that starting soon, we will embark on a Route Optimization Initiative, which will take a detailed look at exactly how we allocate the service we have, and if Measure B passes in November, how we'll expend some of the additional funds it will generate.

Sacramento, CA:  How long until Sacramento regional transit obtains newer and better trains, and if Sacramento regional transit is getting new trains what models will they be?

Reply:  RT will not purchase new trains until funding is available. RT is currently in the process of refurbishing UTDC LRVs and giving the older Seimens and CAF cars a "face lift" with new seats on the inside and graphics on the outside. We do know that when we start to replace our older light rail vehicles we will start a conversion to a low floor rail fleet. A low floor fleet will make it easer for passengers to get on and off the trains and it will increase accessibility for everyone.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the protocol or normal procedure if a RT bus breaks down. On September 15 bus number 2805 that was operating on bus run #1 by American River College was having serious mechanical issues. I believe it was overheating. A burning smell was strong and present on the bus. The bus was full, standing room only and going below the speed limit. The bus driver radio in to dispatch and was told to check To rear of the bus to see if there is any visible hoses/belts loose. The bus stopped numerous times on Auburn/College Oak and the air conditioning was turned off. The bus was over a half hour late for it's normal scheduled pick up along bus route 1 but was able to make it to Watt/I-80 light rail. Why wasn't another bus in better working condition to help aid the bus driver and the many patrons? As I asked earlier, what is the protocol/procedure if their serious mechanical problems with a bus that needs immediate attention? Thank you.

Reply:  We typically keep standby buses deployed throughout the system so that if a bus goes down for a mechanical issue, a replacement bus can be there quickly without having to drive all the way from the garage, but if we are short-handed, we can't always have a standby bus everywhere we would like. I'm sorry you had a bad experience. It can be difficult to diagnose the severity of a mechanical problem. Obviously had the operator or the radio controller known the wait would be over half an hour they would have transferred the riders to the next bus on the route, which is usually just fifteen minutes away on Route 1; however, depending on the time of day, they may have known that the following bus was already full.

Sacramento, CA:  Good Afternoon Mr. Li, I would like to know why Sacramento RT does not participate in Spare The Air Days? On September 26/27 was designated Spare The Air Day with tempatures reaching 99-100 degrees. All commuting buses traveling in Sacramento (Roseville, El Dorado, Natomas Flyer etc.) participated except for the R.T. I would like to know why. I also tweeted this question on that day to Regional Transit Twitter page, but my tweet went unanswered. Thank You, Angela

Reply:  Historically, RT has elected to spend the source of funding that some other systems use to fund spare the air days on projects that have more of a lasting impact. For RT, we have never noticed any change in ridership by allowing free rides on spare the air days. We also have a large percentage of our riders who pay for an entire month and would not receive a benefit from the free rides if we were to offer them.

Sacramento, CA:  What are the plans to update the RT trip planner? It is outdated, not user friendly and gives many prompts for the person to know and type in specific cross streets. I utilize Google Maps before it is easier to get all options available with just a simple input of the address of the destination.

Reply:  We are currently in the process of updating and testing a new trip planner that incorporates Google Maps and combines google address matcher and RT address matcher. The new trip planner will be adjustable to mobile screens and tablets and will be much more user frieldly. Announcements of the new trip planner can be found directly on our website or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there plans to extend the running hours for the CSUS and ARC bus 82? It is packed currently during the day with shopping carts, strollers, and wheel chairs, but stops running too early getting people stuck when concerts and other later activities take place.

Reply:  Thank you for your use of Route 82. RT is preparing for a Route Optimization Initiative which will consider major service changes including possible reallocation of services to some areas that may warrant additional service span and frequency. RT was considering significant service reduction earlier this year that were not needed this year because of several other changes designed to increase revenue and a one-time infusion of funding. We are still not, however, currently able to commit to net system-wide increases in service levels. The Route Optimization Initiative will provide for a comprehensive review of RT's system and designed for near-term implementation based on anticipated funding levels.

Comments from Henry Li: 

Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, November 4.

Sacramento, CA:  Can buses come early to a bus stop and not have to wait? I have missed the bus #15 on a few occasions in the morning, because the bus came before the designated time.

Reply:  The times listed on our public schedules are time points and the buses should not be passing them early. That does mean that from time to time the bus will have to wait at the stop until the proper time to leave. If you consistently have an issue with a bus leaving early from a published time point please let our customer service staff know by calling 321-BUSS.

Sacramento, CA:  Do you ever take the opportunity to do surprise inspections on the buses, light rails or the customer service lobby located on (1225) R street ?

Reply:  On our light rail trains we do blitz that are not scheduled routinely and we have inspection staff assigned to trains. We are also doing some more plain clothes officer bus deployment and fare enforcement. As far as how our own staff are doing at these various locations the management team visits these locations to assure that we are providing the best service possible.

sacramento, CA:  Has RT considered bringing back transfers? Especially now with Event and Kings fans using the System. Also when you use phone App it gives you 90 minutes riding, if you just pay on Light Rail or Bus box you only get that trip.

Reply:  Yes we are. We are not sure just how the ability to transfer will be offered and are evaluating several options.

sacramento, CA:  I have 3 questions. Why did you eliminate K Street Light Rail Station? It was right in front of a Golden 1 Arena entrance, and after events/games plenty of room for riders to wait (where L street more limited). #2 Have you considered doing the trolley again up-and-down K St. and go all the way down to the convention center? Or a RT Shuttle? A lot of people have to park around the Convention Center and if a shuttle/trolley went all the way to Golden 1 Center they might ride. #3 Green line, have you considered extending the Green Line to Broadway and 29th (1 trip to each per hour) and turning around after that Station? Also have you considered also using that train after games to commute more people?

Reply:  There are a couple reasons we closed the 7th & K station. Mostly, we were concerned about safety. Physically, the station had very little room for passenger waiting and pedestrian movement in and through the station. These concerns were validated by the crowds we had at 7th & Capitol on Saturday night, I think having riders go to 7th & K would have been a bit concerning. We were also worried about the heavy pedestrian flows of non-riders crossing 7th Street (i.e., not our riders, just the general public). Without the station, we can hold people back and let the trains pass through the area. The presence of the station made it more difficult to move trains through the 7th and K intersection. If a train stopped there to board riders (2-3 minutes) we were very concerned that the stopped train would become a safety hazard for many of those pedestrians passing through (e.g., people in a hurry running around the train or over the couplers). Regarding the trolley, we are active partners in the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar project, which is being headed up by the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento. We don't have any plans to restore rubber-tired trolley service. We have had some discussions about different things we could do with the Green Line, but Broadway and 29th are not feasible right now because they lack the infrastructure to turn trains around.