Transit Talk with the General Manager

February 03, 2017
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:


The New Year has started with an exciting development. RT recently received a check in the amount of $41,188,845.45 from the State of California's Transportation Congestion Relief Program (TCRP) fund. The money will be used to pre-pay part of RT's revenue bond debt that was used to build the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (CRC) light rail extension. While this is very positive and will help reduce future annual debt payments that will partially relieve our long-term operating deficit and help put RT's financial house in order, RT needs to continue to build operating reserves. We will achieve this by implementing comprehensive reform initiatives and business processes to run RT in more efficient and effective ways.

On Monday, February 27, RT will hold a public Strategic Vision Board workshop from 9 a.m. to noon in the RT Auditorium. During this workshop we will elaborate on our comprehensive and bold strategies to address ongoing operating deficit, and seek and secure local and state assistance to address "fix-it-first" issues and long-term system expansion. This meeting will be held in place of the regular evening Board meeting.

Other news at RT is the launch of our new online store where customers can purchase parking passes, monthly passes and now discount monthly stickers. Visit This is just another example of how we are consistently looking for new ways to make riding RT more convenient for our passengers.

Another exciting development is the addition of the nine regional transit partners now accepting the Connect Card, the region's new electronic smart card fare payment system. The card is valid for travel on RT bus and light rail trains as well as on e-tran, El Dorado Transit, Folsom Stage Line, Placer County Transit, Roseville Transit, South County Transit Link, Yolobus and Yuba-Sutter Transit. Users can simply tap their Connect Card at a card reader to pay before boarding. The Connect Card can be reloaded online, Add-Fare machines at select light rail stations and transit centers, RT's Customer Service and Sales Center or at a participating transit agency. Visit for more information or to register your card.

Lastly, I would like to provide a quick update on the status of repairs to the damage of the light rail system in Folsom. As you may know, currently, Gold Line trains traveling to Folsom are only able to travel as far as the Iron Point Station. RT is still expecting the repairs to be completed in late February 2017. The extensive damage, caused by a truck that hit and destroyed a crossing gate mechanism, required many parts to be special ordered. As those parts arrive and are installed, we will be able to provide a more accurate estimation on a timeline.

Until repairs can be completed, we will continue operating a shuttle bus from the Historic Folsom Station to the Iron Point Station. Updates about service changes will be posted as they occur. Because shuttle buses operate on surface streets, they are subject to traffic delays and the timing may be off when connecting passengers to light rail at Iron Point Station. Passengers may find it more convenient to park and ride from the Iron Point Station; or, Sunrise Station for more frequent light rail service.

Thank you for your patience as RT works to repair the damage to the light rail system in Folsom.

As always, I take your feedback very seriously and appreciate the suggestions and comments that I receive here and at

With that, let's get to your questions.

Sacramento, CA:  What's the status of light rail extensions to the airport and/or Roseville.

Reply:  RT is completing the environmental and planning work for the extension of the Green Line to Natomas and the airport to keep the project moving forward and in line for future Federal funding. To move beyond the planning stage, RT will need a new, local, source of funding in order to cover the local portion of the cost of the project and to fund the on going operation. A light rail extension to Roseville is not an active project for RT at this time. To become a project, Roseville and perhaps Placer County, will need to express an interest in an extension to their jurisdictions.

Sacramento, CA:  First, the efforts your front line employees are making to improve our experience is noticed and appreciated. That being said, the frequency of mechanical issues with train cars has become an immediate and serious need. We don't care if the paint on the outside looks dingy and old. We do care that the trains are reliable and run in 4 car trains during commute time. What immediate steps are you taking to address this growing problem of unreliability with the train service?

Reply:  Thank you for your positive comments concerning RT's employees. We are working very hard to improve the quality of our service. With respect to 3 versus 4 car trains, this remains a continuing problem for us. There are two reasons we are having this problem. The most significant is the age of our Siemens fleet. These are the vehicles that started light rail service in Sacramento and have reached the end of their 30 year useful life. These vehicles can continue to operate safely, but as you would expect they are having a higher rate of mechanical failure and are out of service more often. The other problem is that the recent expansion of the Blue Line to CRC requires additional trains, reducing available spares. We will overcome this with the addition of the refurbished UTDC vehicles that we acquired from San Jose once we are able to put all 21 of these vehicles in service. We have completed the refurbishment of these vehicles, but only have a limited number in service as we work through commissioning issues. The replacement of the Siemens vehicles is a significant ($160 million) capital investment for this region. We do not have the funding at this time to replace these vehicles. We will continue to maintain them and keep them in service while we look for the funding to replace them.

Natomas, CA:  Will Placer County participate in the Connect Card program?

Reply:  Yes it is, please visit for more information

Natomas, CA:  When is the official "soft launch" going to be over for the Connect Card and all participating agencies be on board? I would like to know the date? Thank You.

Reply:  The soft launch now includes all nine participating transit agencies in the region. You can use your Connect Card presently on any of them. The soft launch will transition seamlessly into the full launch sometime around June 2017. For more information please visit

Folsom, CA:  What is the latest news that you are able to share regarding service restoration to Glenn Drive and Historic Folsom? For example, will the company responsible for damaging the electrical equipment causing the service disruption be liable to reimburse the Sacramento Regional Transit District the amount of funds of lost revenue service hours, "plus" interest? Many of us in Folsom are angry at that company, and want the Sacramento Regional Transit District to break financially even, and in this case, collect interest and make a profit off of that company causing the service disruption in the first place. Hopefully this is something you can positively share with us. Thank you.

Reply:  The quick response to your question is yes, RT is seeking reimbursement from the trucking company that damaged our system causing this lengthy disruption in light rail service in Folsom. We expect to recover our complete cost of repairs, the extra service and labor that we have provided during the disruption and any lost revenue as a consequence of lost ridership. Let me provide a little explanation over what happened and what we are doing to restore service. At about 7 PM on December 12, a truck hauling an over sized load was trying to turn left from Natoma Street on to Folsom Blvd. The truck hit our grade crossing equipment, knocking it into the high voltage line that powers the trains. This sent high voltage through our train signaling and grade crossing protection systems causing damage from Sutter Street to past the Glenn Drive light rail station. This section of our system is a bit unique in that it is 5 miles of single track operation with trains operating in both directions on the same track. This requires a complex signal system that received major damage as a result of this accident. The high voltage literally blew the doors off of the equipment cabinet at Natoma Street requiring the complete replacement of the cabinet and all of the equipment in it. While normal service is down, RT has been able to restore train service to Iron Point and we have operated replacement bus service from the Sutter and Glenn stations. We also have added a person to control train movements into and out of the single track section through out the service day. We have been actively working on the repairs. In addition to there being extensive damage, we also had to acquire a few specialized parts that had a long lead time. Much of our work is not visible in the field being either in the instrument houses or back at our shop. Our expectation is to have normal service restored by late February or early March.

Citrus Heights, CA:  What is the status of the Route Optimization Study at this point? When do you expect to provide an overview of information on it to the Board of Directors? March? April?

Reply:  In January we actually held the first of a very informal focus group with some of our riders to discuss how they use the system. We've also begun rolling out customer origin/destination surveys which are a key piece of data and which haven't been updated in over six years. We'll be in the south area over the next couple weeks, so look for our surveyors and also keep an eye out for an online version we should be releasing soon. We have also been working a fair amount behind the scenes to update a number of our demographic and ridership reports, both for Route Optimization and for our triennial Title VI civil rights program update, which have a fair amount of overlap. At this time, the project is being done primarily in-house, with the staff we have, in addition to their regular projects, but we are also looking into opportunities for grant funding which would allow us to bring in some extra help to scale up the project. We'll also be talking with our Board of Directors about the project at their meeting on February 27, which will be held at a special time at 9:00 a.m. at our usual location at 1400 29th Street.

Natomas, CA:  Will Bus 11 ever run every half hour? It's highly congested especially in the afternoons. It services two high schools, Natomas ARC students and numerous individuals (that especially frequent the WalMart shopping center) that it is standing room only in the afternoons from 3-6pm. Please address Bus 11 specifically and not respond with a general answer. I asked this question in September with the online chat with the GM...with the response of it will be referred to the Service Planning Department.

Reply:  Back in September, it was unknown what would happen with Measure B, the local sales tax increase for transportation. Had Measure B passed, improved headways on Route 11 would very likely have been one of the improvements we would have made with some of the new revenues. Without Measure B, our budget situation unfortunately does not allow for any service expansion, but we do recognize headway improvements on Route 11 as being one of our higher-priority issues, along with adding Sunday/Holiday service on Route 11 as well.

Sacramento, CA:  Hi Mr.Li What is RT doing to improve its image in the city and the county ? I am a regular rider and given the all the challenges that RT currently has, the organization is doing good job. I would think if RT conducts more community outreach, maybe like monthly open houses, it would go a long way to improve RT's perception in the community. Public transit should be a city's pride, both for the community and the businesses. Unfortunately some communities in Sacramento think RT/public transit is not in their best interests to support.

Reply:  Thank you for your feedback. RT is working to identify opportunities to improve and increase communications with riders and other stakeholders in the community. RT is also working to improve our image in the community through increased security, cleanliness and improved customer service. Anyone is welcome to send me an email directly any time at I always welcome feedback.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I like the new online system for paying for monthly passes but it's not specific about how quickly they will be shipped? The last system took 10+ business days which made it almost unusable to depend on for monthly riders, who need the passes before the first day of the next month.

Reply:  I am glad to hear you like the new online store. Shipping typically takes 5 to 7 days. If you need your pass sooner, I would suggest you purchase it at our Sales Center at 1225 R Street. Thank you for riding! As an alternative, you might want to consider RT's mobile payment app for smart phones. The app is called RideSacRT.

Natomas, CA:  I would like to know how can Natomas Flyer reject patrons from using the Connect Card? The Natomas Flyer uses buses, drivers and dispatch supplied from Sac Regional Transit and has fully functional operating Connect Card equipment. I look forward to your response.

Reply:  The North Natomas Transportation Management Association (NNTMA) contracts this service with RT. Therefore, they determine the fare and what passes will or will not be accepted. Please contact the TMA directly for additional information.

sacramento, CA:  as a disabled person i moved here from SF and wonder why regional transit is not using clipper for your passes and fares, it is so much easier than haveing to keep it on my phone screen? i walk with a cane which leaves me only one hand free, and if i have a bag to carry it is extremely difficult to coordinate holding everything and not dropping the phone.

Reply:  The Sacramento region has recently started using a system similar to the Clipper Card called the Connect Card. This card allows riders to store, passes and fares electronically on a plastic card. It can be used for nine different transit agencies in the Sacramento region. The Connect Card is currently in a soft launch phase, but is actively being used by all nine transit agencies. Please visit for more information.

Hayward, CA:  Will there be better training opportunities for drivers that know what to look for when it comes to accepting disabled cards from other transit agencies? Some drivers I've encountered when visiting and trying to board the buses won't accept my disabled Clipper Card with my photo from the Bay Area leaving me to be lucky and catch the next bus for a driver who knows what it is.

Reply:  I've asked our head of operator training to roll out a brief update on the discount Clipper Card so our operators and ticket inspectors are all able to recognize it as valid proof of a disability and eligibility for our discount fare. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

sacramento, CA:  why is regional transit not on the next bus network online?

Reply:  RT does have an on line , real-time, bus tracking and arrival prediction system called RT Tracker located at:, as well as a mobile oriented site for your smart phone at

Sacramento , CA:  Where can one find more guidance and or detailed information on how to use the spoken voice feedback on the ConnectCard terminals that are at the RT Light Rail stations? I, as an avid blind traveler use RT often and yet the voice output on the terminals does not give me ample feedback and or it is not intuitive enough to use. Richard R in East Sacramento.

Reply:  Richard, thank you for the feedback. We'd love to talk with you directly about your experience. Please email your contact information to and we'll give you a shout. Thanks!

Orangevale, CA:  When will the trains resume to Folsom?

Reply:  At this time, we are expecting repairs to the Gold Line in Folsom to be completed in late February or early March. The extensive damage required many parts to be special ordered, and as they arrive and are installed, we will be able to provide a more accurate estimation on a timeline. We will continue operating a shuttle bus from the Historic Folsom Station to the Iron Point Station until repairs are completed, and updates about service changes will be posted as they occur.

Sacramento, CA:  Regarding the smoking rules, why is it that drivers are not abiding by it? No matter what station I am at, drivers are smoking and it becomes a nuisance when they are smoking right near their their buses.

Reply:  Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I have asked our operations staff to step up enforcement in this regard.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I understand why there are limited cars during commute times, but it seems like this is extremely limited on days when it's raining? I take the same trains every day and typically when it's raining it will have 2 cars instead of 3 or 4? We know that the homeless in our community utilize these trains to stay warm and often lack alternative resources, and do so particularly when it rains. Knowing this, why are there even fewer cars on the trains on days when it's raining?

Reply:  We do not change our light rail operation based on the weather. We will put extra staff in the field to deal with more maintenance issues when it is either very hot in the summer or very windy. Sometimes inclement weather can cause more failures which will impact service, mostly delays to trains and not shorter trains.

Elk Grove, CA:  So the TCRP money was expected, and you just got it earlier than anticipated?

Reply:  The TCRP money was originally a commitment from the State to fund a part of the cost of the Blue Line extension to CRC. At the time RT needed the money for the project, the State was unable to allocate it. While we are very pleased in receiving the money this past month, it is actually very late from the perspective of its original commitment

South Sacramento , CA:  You've indicated that there will be a meeting regarding Route Optimization. Can you provide any details regarding this plan?

Reply:  We'll be talking briefly about the Route Optimization at our February 27 Board meeting which will be at 9:00 a.m. at 1400 29th Street. However, if you'd like to get updates on the project, please email James Drake at and we'll add you to our mailing list as the project ramps up.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the status of the RideSacRT app? I know from customer service that the current app is still available for use until RT finds a new vendor for the app, however, the site is still not updated to reflect this current information.

Reply:  Great question! We have selected a new mobile fare app vendor and are working with them to configure the new application. We hope to have the new app available in both app stores within the next 60-90 days.

Sacramento, CA:  In a recent message to riders, the Sacramento Regional Transit District discussed peak hour train consists and why they are not at the maximum consists allowed. One explanation mentioned that in March, the original rail cars will reach their 30-Year useful life. What happens next? Are they not usable anymore? Will riders have to suffer further? What commitment do you need from the community? I felt that at 65% that Measure B passed to address this issue, but apparently, California Law currently needs 67% or higher to pass such a measure. That is not fair. Can the community get engaged with the Sacramento Regional Transit District to change this? What would be the most appropriate way to work together to get this law changed?

Reply:  Regional Transit has very little local financial support from the community. We rely heavily on State and Federal funding. This severely limits our ability to expand service and to fund large scale capital programs like light rail vehicle replacement. Other communities in California have successfully past sales tax measures to help with these issues for their systems. That was the part of the purpose behind measure B. We are currently evaluating various ways that the public can help us with this problem in the future, so please stay engaged respect to light rail vehicles that have reached the end of their useful life, we can continue to maintain and operate them safely. As you might expect from a 30 year old vehicle, with 1.6 million miles of service, they will breakdown more often then a newer vehicle. This is what we are experiencing and a part of the reason you are seeing 3-car trains more frequently.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the status of the green line to the airport?

Reply:  RT is completing the environmental and planning work for the extension of the Green Line to Natomas and the airport to keep the project moving forward and in line for future Federal funding. To move beyond the planning stage, RT will need a new, local, source of funding in order to cover the local portion of the cost of the project and to fund the on going operation.

sacramento, CA:  1. Can area State and County employers now offer the Connect Card and discounted e-passes and e-fare? 2. Can they continue to offer physical passes until the transition out of the soft launch? Or, when they switch to Connect Card do they have to stop offering physical media? 3. My employer is not yet offering the Connect Card. If it is available to State and County employers now, who should I have the transportation office at my employer contact about offering the Connect Card to us? Thank you.

Reply:  State and county employers will be able to offer the Connect Card in the near future, but it is not included in the soft launch. Connect Card will be available to local employers and sales outlets over the next three to six months. Please visit for the most recent information.

Sacramento, CA:  I want to commend RT for implementing the bus bridge on Thursday, Jan 19th. I have ridden light rail since 2007 and in the past I have been directed to walk to bus stops which were never close to me. Also I’m not familiar with the bus stops since I do not ride the bus. I left work early that day, after the storms, and a transit agent was there to update me and it just so happened the bus pulled up to Archive station shortly after I arrived. That’s what I call excellent customer service! Kudos RT! Regarding a concern I have, I attend meetings at various locations downtown and I am not familiar with the layout of each light rail station. On a day when I had to catch light rail at a station other than my usual station due to a meeting downtown, the train came just as I was getting there and I did not have an opportunity to validate my basic single fare ticket. I did not want to wait at a station I was not familiar with, in the Alkali Flats area. When my ticket was checked by the transit agent, I explained my situation. The transit agent was going to ticket me, apparently not believing my story, even though I showed her I had 5-6 packets of 10 tickets each on me and wasn’t trying to scam a ride. She told me I had to buy a ticket through my phone which I did not know how to do. The only reason I didn’t get ticketed was my stop came up while I was still fumbling with my phone trying to figure out how to buy fare. I would hope RT would uniformly train their transit agents to use discretion with riders. I felt unnecessarily harassed that day.

Reply:  The fare inspection staff have been directed to use very limited discretion primarily because we have received complaints in the past that when they used discretion they were being discriminatory to riders who received citations. That being said when unique circumstances occur the supervisors have been able to resolve the citations before they go to the courts. Unfortunately your circumstance is an excuse that many other riders use to avoid validating their ticket. Thank you much for your feedback on the bus bridge as we debrief each one to see how we can improve. Thank you for your continued ridership.

Natomas, CA:  Can Los Rios School District employees get Sac RT discounts to ride the train/bus?

Reply:  We do have a discount program for employers. Please contact Casey Courtright at

Closing Remarks:
Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held Friday, March 3, 2017.