Transit Talk with the General Manager

April 07, 2017
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Welcome to the April Transit Talk with the General Manager!

There are several exciting things going on at RT this spring. RT is preparing for a Pre-Paid Ticket and Pass Exchange, which will begin June 1, 2017. All pre-paid RT tickets and passes with a June 30, 2017 expiration date must be exchanged for new ones. The prices of the fares will not change. For more information, visit

I am also pleased to share with you an exciting new update for the Connect Card. Connect Card users on RT will no longer have to purchase daily passes upfront. Riders can now "tap on" bus or train validators for each ride and the appropriate single ride fare will be deducted from the card's cash value. The total amount of money withdrawn from the card will be a daily maximum equal to the cost of a Basic or Discount daily pass.

Lastly, RT is undergoing an historic transformation to optimize service, seek continuous improvements, and bring greater value to our region. In late February, RT revealed its proposed Strategic Vision plan, which is an ambitious, but essential, set of goals and specific initiatives to improve efficiencies, increase service and frequency, focus on "Customers First," and address "State of Good Repair" challenges to ensure a sustainable future.

RT's route structure was primarily designed 30 years ago. Land uses, travel patterns and economic centers have changed dramatically since then. RT aims to revise travel routes to better fit the region. RT has committed to engage with broader community groups to fully understand the mobility needs and desires of our region.

RT wants to help build awareness around the current state of our transit system, gather ideas and feedback from the community, and explore what could be done with additional transit funding throughout the region. Please take the short community survey to let us know what you think.

Now let's get to your questions!

Sacramento, CA:  Do you know yet when all public sector employers that offer discounted transit tickets to employees will be able to offer Connect Cards and discounted fare/passes to their employees? My understanding from a previous Transit Talk answer was that only a select few public employers can currently do this since they are participating in the soft launch.

Reply:  We are planning to start getting more State Agencies on the Connect card system this summer. The Agency Transit Coordinators will be contacted for training before they can change over to Connect card.

CA:  When there are delayed train alerts displayed on light-rail station signs, can "regular" schedule info screens be interspersed with the alert displays? That would provide more meaningful info for passengers.

Reply:  I have observed this as a problem as well and I believe that we can alternate the regular schedule display with the alert message. We will look into it and see what we can do.

Sacramento, CA:  Route 26 has always consistently been late on weekday trips since the service restoration when the McClellan loop was added. Can you please remove that loop from the route & give McClellan loop its own separate route? Shawn from Arden-Arcade

Reply:  Thanks for the suggestion. It would add some cost to make it its own route, which would mean we might have to cut somewhere else. But there may be some other options. I'll share this with our planners and schedulers to consider when they evaluate the Watt/I-80 area bus routes.

CA:  For delayed trains: since light-rail trains run every 15 minutes during commute hours, other than the first train that runs late, it doesn't matter for following trains. Particularly on the Blue line which always serves the same stations. For example, if the first late train is scheduled to arrive at 4:00 and comes at 4:15, nobody cares that the train that shows up at 4:30 was scheduled to be there at 4:15. As far as the passenger is concerned, a train still showed up at the scheduled time. Only if there are missed trains would any delays following the first delayed train matter. So can you please stop displaying the alerts - to the exclusion of displaying any other useful info - after the first train?

Reply:  I understand your concern, but sometimes the delays affect more then one trip or are to alert passengers that service can not proceed past a certain point and a bus bridge is in place. In these situations the alert message needs to continue. I think the better approach would be to alternate the alert message with the regular scheduled service display so that both are available. This is particularly important in the downtown area where currently a alert message for one line will block scheduled information for the other line.

Citrus Heights, CA:  What, if any, are the pending and/or potential service changes for late spring/early summer 2017 on both bus and rail?

Reply:  We've made some minor changes to Route 28's schedule and we've also shifted the times on Route 55 by 5-15 minutes. More info: We're not planning on making any route or schedule changes for the summer.

Granite Bay , CA:  I greatly appreciate RT services and also I wonder if there is a chance the last train to Folsom could be extended by 30 min (leaving 29th at 7:05 PM instead of 6:35)?

Reply:  The level of service we run to Folsom is dictated by our contract with the City of Folsom, so you may want to inquire with the city. This has been a common request over the years; however, both the City and RT have limited funds for transit, so there is a need to prioritize spending and not all needs can be met. At least not at existing levels of local support for transit.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there any public and community workshops being scheduled regarding the Route Optimization Study? I'm quite interested in this.

Reply:  At this time, we are collecting feedback via a Community Survey: Please take that survey and let us know your thoughts! We will notify the public if any workshops are scheduled in the future.

sacramento, CA:  there are no "No Smoking" signs at the upper levels of Watt-I80 light rail stations and there is always smokers there, can they smoke there legally?

Reply:  We can only control no smoking at station platforms and bus shelters. When we switch from guards over to transit agents at stations they will have the ability to cite for the no smoking ordinance. Some of the bus stop areas and stations sit right next to public right of ways which does not allow us to enforce in those locations.

Sacramento, CA:  When is the roll out of the Connect Card?

Reply:  The Connect Card is currently in a soft launch phase, but it is fully functional and has been rolled out across all nine participating transit agencies. You can sign up to get a Connect Card online at

sac, CA:  some of the light rail stations needs improvement, is there planning on that?

Reply:  We do have plans to spruce up many of our older stations, this work will start in the next few months.

Sacramento, CA:  I work for a public sector employer and they do not currently offer the 10-pack of Single Ride tickets at a discount. They only offer the monthly pass at a discount and do not offer the 10-pack Single Ride tickets at all. When Connect Card goes live, will I be able to purchase the Connect Card equivalent of Single Ride tickets at a discount, or will it still depend on what my employer decides to offer?

Reply:  With Connect Card your employer will still be able to choose which media they offer with a subsidy to their employees, but the Connect Card should make it easier for employers to offer all media types for RT and partner agencies. Employers will be encouraged to sell all media types with Connect Card.

Sacramento, CA:  I am looking forward to the ConnectCard; however, I do have some concerns, to wit: What if you do not have [or plan to have] a Smart Phone for this transaction and what is planned to have these cards uploaded at other sites than the R Street site. Previously, there were sites such as Raleys and BelAir that offered the same services. Be aware that there are many seniors who take buses/light rail. One person I spoke with said he is not planning to get a smart phone or to travel great distances to get a pass/tickets and will just drive. I'm assuming that you will be working on the "bugs" of this new system for quite some time, but I wanted to bring certain issues such as this to your attention. Thanks

Reply:  The Connect Card will not require a smartphone to use. You will be able to order and load a Connect Card from any internet connected computer, tablet or smartphone. There will be locations other than RT Customer Service Center where the connect card can be purchased and loaded as well.

folsom, CA:  what happened to all the security at the light rail stations? don't feel safe no more at the stations with homeless that hangs around there and come up to your car . also why is there no security checking for passes on the early trains 5:00, 5:30? how do you expect passengers to feel safe if there is no security on or off the train.

Reply:  Security deployment has not changed. We are in the process of transitioning from guards to transit agents at stations which will be completed by July 1st. When this occurs we will be checking for fare at station platforms and on trains. Our gap in coverage on the trains is still in the morning hours and as funding allows we will add staff to fill those gaps.

Laguna, CA:  I know that getting the Blue Line to Roseville is a challenge since it's in Placer County and you need to work with Placer County to get it there, but what about extending it to the border between Placer and Sacramento?

Reply:  Long term growth plans do consider extensions to better connect our region however funding must be identified to accomplish these goals. We appreciate the desire by the community for better coverage of public transportation and need more voices to champion the cause.

Sacramento, CA:  With the steady growth at Sacramento International Airport, it's interesting that Sac RT does not serve it and we must rely on hourly Yolobus service to access the airport. While Green Line to SMF is a ways off, are there plans to run express busses to our airport that is quickly gaining relevance?

Reply:  Airport bus service is something we get a lot of requests for, but as long as we still have a number of communities with no bus service or with very minimal bus service, we have felt that an RT airport bus would be somewhat of a luxury, when there is Yolobus service to the airport. It's important to keep in mind that for Yolobus, their bus is already travelling from Sacramento to Woodland, so an airport stop is just one stop along the way; whereas, for RT, it would be a single-purpose bus running point to point from Sacramento to the airport, with very little other ridership on the bus. The Green Line to the Airport is a little different, because it would go through Natomas, much like Route 11 today, so it would serve a lot of other purposes and attract a lot of additional riders beyond the airport market.

Laguna, CA:  Comment on the state of transit in Sacramento: When I hear public commenters talk about the problems they have with transit; things like "poor bus frequencies, light rail is old, dirty, etc., it takes decades to extend light rail, the bus stop is too far, doesn't go close to me or doesn't get close enough to where I need to go - the feedback we get from, not just you but transit officials in general, is along the lines of cost, money, we don't have enough, there isn't enough, blah blah blah. I don't care about that and I strongly suspect a lot of the public doesn't care either. What we want to hear is what YOU are going to do to improve the system YOU are responsible for. What are YOU going to do to get NEW low floor trains on the light rail, not just the latest outdated models, what are YOU going to do to get BRT up and running as quick as possible, what are YOU going to do to improve frequencies of both bus and rail, what are YOU going to do to aggressively and timely extend service of both buses and rail into underserved locations and communities? I could go on, but you get the gist. And I challenge you to respond without crying poverty. I get that money is short, but it is YOUR job to GET the money without boring us on the details! And it is YOUR job to do it without pursuing regressive revenue policy (i.e. sales tax increases) that are more of a burden on people who's only crime is not being rich.

Reply:  You are correct, funding is a huge issue that RT struggles with. However, we are not crying poor, we are taking aggressive steps to improve our financial state and provide the Sacramento region with better service. We are reducing costs wherever possible, looking for creative ways to improve efficiencies and identifying new sources of funding. We also want to show the region what transit could look like if we did receive the same amount of funding as other transit agencies in the state. We are currently seeking public feedback on how RT can serve them better. I take community feedback very seriously. Please take our survey if you would like:

CA:  Is "Pay to Park" at RT lots generating significant revenue? Is this discouraging potential customers from using Light Rail?

Reply:  Parking fees generate a little over $200,000 each year, so the revenue is fairly significant. We do believe that there have been some effects on ridership; however, our philosophy for the parking program has been that persons who own cars are typically more able to afford to pay and that they tend to get a longer-distance, higher-value ride on the system, so there is an element of fairness and market-pricing to the system.

Folsom, CA:  Can SacRT install turnstiles to increase safety and sanitation?

Reply:  When the light rail system was first built in the 1980s, it was designed as an open system (instead of a closed system with turnstiles). The reason that it was designed this way was to make it affordable in terms of cost. Closed systems are much more expensive to construct. The light rail stations would need to be physically separated from the public thoroughfare. Typically this is done by either raising the station platforms to the floor height of the car or putting the station and system underground. Both options are very expensive and it would be cost prohibitive to convert the existing light rail system.

Sacramento, CA:  I remember "the good old days" where bikes were not allowed on light rail cars during commute hours. I understand why bikes are now allowed, but it would be really nice if bicyclists were instructed to place their bikes up against the end of the cars instead of taking up four seats (for cyclist and their bike) by sitting on the last (short) bench seat and placing their bike between the facing bench seats. The bike then prevents the facing bench (two seats) from being lowered so it can be used for seating.

Reply:  We actually prefer bicyclists not put their bikes at the end of the cars, because it obstructs the aisle and doorways. I understand about the capacity problem at peak, but we would still prefer the aisle and doorways remain unobstructed for safe, orderly, and efficient boarding and deboarding of customers (which is especially important at rush hour, when passenger loading/unloading can slow the train down).

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I have a beef to pick with you regarding the Connect Card. I have not been given "friendly" customer service when I come in to exchange a sticker that was sent to me in the mail for the "equivalent" loaded onto my Connect Card. Staff will not do it. With the upcoming ticket exchange, and the Connect Card out there now, I want to exchange all of my tickets I have with multiple transit agencies, but am afraid that, once the ticket exchange begins, your staff will not be friendly to help me trade in my existing tickets for the "E-Cash" equivalent on my Connect Card. Can you help all customers out there to rectify this situation so that we never have to carry pre-paid tickets ever again? Thank you so much. Looking forward to your answer on this topic.

Reply:  I'm very sorry to hear about the customer service you received, if you would like to convert your monthly sticker to connect card media please call RT's Customer Advocacy Department at (916) 557-4545. At this time because of Financial Reporting issues we will not be able to convert paper media to cash value on a connect card, I would encourage you to please use your paper media.

Folsom, CA:  You stated on last month's call that the only station that required modification in Folsom was the historic Folsom station where the tight geometry of the turn into the station just didn't work with the refurbished vehicles. So was that turn radius corrected? Can the Gold Line now use those new cars?

Reply:  Yes, those modifications have been completed and the refurbished light rail vehicles can operate on the Gold Line.

Folsom, CA:  With yesterday's passage of transportation funding by the California State Legislature, what would that mean for us here in Folsom? Would SacRT be able to operate later train service on all days, like it does already to Sunrise? Hopefully yes, and having an event at Golden 1 Center, or Hornet Stadium will not necessarily factor in, if, and only if, your budget and service teams can determine that the State did its part on funding transit from yesterday's legislative session.

Reply:  The two are not really connected. RT operates light rail service into Folsom under contract with the City of Folsom. It is Folsom's decision as to how much service they fund. If you would like to see later night light rail service into Folsom, it would be helpful if you also expressed this request to them.

Sacramento, CA:  With the California Legislature passing a big transportation funding bill, just yesterday, could you see if SacRT could take advantage by operating Route 30 and Route 51 on 10-Minute frequencies, and realigning Route 51 to have its Downtown terminus be the Sacramento Valley Station, instead of 8th & F. I don't think the route serves any purpose, as popularly utilized as it is, to layover at 8th & F.

Reply:  We are thrilled about the legislature's passage of SB-1 and look forward to signature by the governor. At this time, we expect the additional revenue we would get will help plug holes we are anticipating in our upcoming budget due to the expiration of several one-time revenue sources. We're planning on putting the remainder into deferred maintenance and replenishing our operating reserves--two areas that were cut severely during the economic recession. We don't believe it would be prudent to spend any of these new revenues on expansion--for that, we want to secure an increase in dedicated local funding. But we have been making preparations to modify our fare structure, to make our existing system more affordable and increase ridership on the service we run today.

Sacramento, CA:  Can you please display real-time arrival times for light-rail trains rather than displaying the scheduled time (which drops off the display two minutes after the scheduled arrival time whether the train has shown up or not)? Thanks.

Reply:  There are a couple ways to do real-time info for the trains, both of which are surprisingly complicated and expensive when you're starting from a very old system and fleet. One of the drawbacks to RT being an early adopter of light rail is that our system is now fairly antiquated compared to newer systems, which are typically built with more modern signalling, communications, etc. that track the movement and status of trains and equipment in real-time. There are cheaper cellular based ways to deliver real-time info, but there are still a lot of systems and software issues to work out, which we're working on. In the meantime, we have improved our procedures for updating the message signs when there are major delays our outages, we've added the Alert SacRT app, which can send you push notices to your phone about major incidents, and we continue to use email, Facebook, and Twitter to get information out when our customers need it.

Sacramento , CA:  Lately during peak hours, mornings and evenings, there has only been two or three car trains, and the train has been overcrowded. Is this going to continue, or will there be four cars in the near future? What's the train's station maximum capacity?

Reply:  We have received many comments lately on 2 or 3 car trains during commute hours. We do our best to run 4 car trains during peak times, but realistically, our trains are old and are needing more and more maintenance. We are identifying funding opportunities that would allow us to replace these aging cars, but the financial commitment would be more than $160 million. Each train car has a capacity of about 200.

Folsom , CA:  Two cars again? RT needs to get their act together! What is the excuse this time? And don't give me excuse about old trains. What is RT’s plan to remedy this problem?

Reply:  You are correct - our trains are old and are needing more and more maintenance. We are trying to identify funding sources to replace these aging train cars, but the cost would be more than $160 million.

Antelope, CA:  During the 7:45am train from Roseville road and cathedral square there are usually 3-2 cars lately. The trains are packed like sardines,, what happened to 4 car trains!

Reply:  We have received many comments lately on 2 or 3 car trains during commute hours. We do our best to run 4 car trains during peak times, but realistically, our trains are old and are needing more and more maintenance. We are identifying funding opportunities that would allow us to replace these aging cars, but the financial commitment would be more than $160 million.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Can you do a Youtube video presentation about the Connect Card? There seems to be a lot of questions about it.

Reply:  That is a good idea, thank you for the suggestion. We will talk to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) about this, as they are managing the Connect Card for the nine participating agencies.

Hayward, CA:  What is is the status of drivers recognizing the discount Clipper Card from the Bay Area as a valid form of disabled identification when obtaining discount fare on RT? I'm still encountering difficulty paying discount fare on buses and have had to pay the full when visiting from the Bay Area.

Reply:  This is not an issue that comes up much for us so we have not really moved forward to address it. It is also difficult to enforce a consistent application among 450 operators many of whom will never see a Clipper Card used in this way. I would encourage you to move to RT's version of the Clipper Card, the Connect Card, so that you do not have an issue in the future.

Citrus Heights, CA:  More canceled service today. Missed my 93 trip, thank you. But your running the shuttle for the golden one tonight, right? Happy to see you have your priorities straight.

Reply:  I'm sorry to hear you missed your bus today. We try very hard to fill all our bus service. From time to time, we are unable to fill service. Our operators sometimes get sick, have trouble getting to work, our have other things come up, and sometimes, something may go wrong with the bus. For this reason, we have a dedicated number of operators who are set aside to cover for absent operators for planned and unplanned absences. Likewise, we keep a certain percentage of spare buses. But sometimes, we still miss our service. A lot of factors can affect our overall operator availability including injuries, medical, and family leave, but since we started running the Golden 1 service, our operator availability has actually been a little better, because the extra staff we need for Golden 1 events provides us with additional spare operators during their off days and off hours to back up the regular service.

Elk Grove, CA:  I am disappointed with the price increase in parking passes for those of us who use CRC. I can't believe it costs $5 PER MONTH for the mirror hangers; and if it does, why not have a permanent hanger with monthly stickers?

Reply:  RT increased the CRC Monthly Parking Permit by $5.00 because in our agreement with CRC the rate at which we have to reimburse CRC was raised by $5.00 per car that parks in the garage or lot. You can park at the Franklin lot with the $15.00 e-permit.

Sacramento, CA:  While light rail to SMF us still far off, are there plans for RT to provide bus service there that is more frequent than Yolobus?

Reply:  Please see my other response about the airport bus. Thanks!

Sacramento, CA:  The transit bill that just passed what does it do fort R t

Reply:  Please see my earlier response about the new state transportation funding bill, SB-1. Thanks!

Sacramento, CA:  Can the light rail operators hold a better communication with the ridership? Let us know why they are delayed, estimated delay time, and also when they know there is a train right behind them because they are delay, please say it out loud while approaching the station so some people don jam into the delayed train when an empty train is just a couple of minutes behind. Do you have any type of communication/customer service training for your light rail operators?

Reply:  This is an area where we can improve. We do have customer service training for all of our operators including light rail operators, but sometimes these jobs become both hectic and stressful and we do not always communicate with our customers as effectively as we should. It is an area we are working on.

Sacramento, CA:  Mr. Li, the evening commute on the Gold Line is getting unbearable as we ride like sardines all in just three overcrowded cars. You need to improve this service because it is at this point completely unacceptable for us daily commuters. Please tell us what is your SPECIFIC plan to improve the evening commute in the Gold Line to bring it up to an acceptable level. We work all day, pay for the service and should not be treated so poorly.

Reply:  Absolutely understand your concern and we have been working very hard to correct this problem. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get ahead of the on going maintenance issues we are experiencing. We are having a difficult time efficiencies technicians, we are having an increasing problem in finding replacement parts (1/3 of our fleet has or is about to reach the end of its 30 year useful life), and we are dealing with aging support equipment and facilities. We have specific plans in all of these areas for improvement and we will get back to four car trains in the future, it is just taking longer then we had hoped.

Closing Remarks:
Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, May 5.