Transit Talk with the General Manager

June 02, 2017
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:

Welcome to the June Transit Talk with the General Manager!

It is hard to believe that we are half way into 2017. SacRT continues to work hard to make the necessary changes to enhance our fiscal stability, put customers first, maintain a safe and secure transportation system, ascertain the full scope of the region's mobility needs, and develop a short-range plan to grow ridership.

This month, RT introduces system-wide "Paid Fare Zones," which are areas where waiting passengers must have proof of fare and board a light rail vehicle within two train cycles, or they will be asked to leave the station or be cited. The pilot program launched in April 2015 and proved to be very effective at improving station security and cleanliness while preventing loitering.

We are also very excited to announce that the Connect Card will officially launch this month on Thursday, June 15. The month of June also marks the start of the RT Ticket and Pass Exchange, which makes it a perfect time to switch to a Connect Card. Connect Card benefits include more ways to pay - online or at retail outlets; card registration for added security; a free 90-minute transfer; Daily Best Fare; and one card to ride all participating transit providers. To learn more about the Connect Card and to register your card online, visit Select Raley's/Bel Air Markets will start selling the Connect Card at their Customer Service Centers in place of paper SacRT fare media (monthly paper passes and ticket books). Visit to find a Raley's/Bel Air Market location near you.

The 13th Street light rail station will be temporarily closed from 7 p.m. on June 9 until start of light rail service on Monday, June 12 in order to replace a 30-year-old switch at the station. Because all three lines operate through the 13th Street Station, service will be temporarily disrupted on the BlueLine, Gold Line and Green Line during the closure. Buses will transport passengers between stations. Click SacRT's "Rider Alert" link on the SacRT website for details. This is a very important repair that is critical to the entire light rail system, and we thank you for your patience while the crews replace the switch.

Now let's get to your questions!

Folsom, CA:  I know that operating a transit system is an incomprehensibly complicated undertaking. There are difficulties and restrictions about which riders such as I have no clue. Help me understand. Be transparent. How many of each of the four batches of cars are out of service? Are some out permanently? What's the status of the refurbished cars? What is the demand like at various stops during peak commute times? When common sense says that things aren't adding up, give us the specific information to make sense of it - not just repairs, end of service life, get used to it (as in the statement on

Reply:  Let me start by saying that we have actually made some progress over the past several weeks. Of the 17 trains serving the Blue and Gold lines, we are down to between 4 and 6 3-car trains on any given day which is still not acceptable but a definite improvement. To the specifics of your questions, we have a fleet of 36 Siemens cars, 40 CAF cars and 21 UTDC cars. The UTDC cars are the rebuilt cars. We have a peak vehicle requirement of 69 vehicles each week day. Setting aside the UTDC cars for a moment, the 76 remaining vehicles provide 7 spare vehicles or a spare ratio of about 10%. On any given day we have vehicles out of service for a variety of reasons from normal preventative maintenance to the repair of vehicles with various types of mechanical problems. What has really harmed us over the past few years is parts obsolescence that comes with the age of our vehicles. Parts that were readily available in the past are taking a long time to receive and we are having parts fail that we have never have had to replace before. As an example, we currently have 5 Siemens cars out of service with a very specific problem with the friction braking system. All 5 cars are out of service awaiting parts. In some cases the part we need has never been an issue in the past for us so we have not stocked it. The manufacturer has to actually make the part for us because it is so old that they no longer stock it. The good news is that once we obtain the parts the cars will be back in service quickly, but I believe that this illustrates the problem that we are having. With respect to the UTDC cars, we have 21 of these and they have all been rebuilt. Of the 21, we only have about 4 in regular service and they are operating on the Blue line at this time. When the UTDC cars are in service they operate at a maximum of 3 cars in a train, these vehicles are longer with a 3 car UTDC train providing a capacity somewhere between a 3 and 4 car Siemens or CAF train. As with any major rebuild project, we are finding unexpected issues as the cars are placed in service. Our current, and most significant pproblem is with traction motors. We are working through the problems and expect to have several more UTDC trains in service over the next month or so. So, to your point we are making progress and you will not have to live with 3 car trains (except UTDC trains) forever. We have made some improvement over the past few weeks and do expect things to continue to improve

Sacramento, CA:  Why don't fare checkers correct unlawful behavior such as eating, loud music and putting feet on seats?

Reply:  Eating, loud music and putting feet on seats are all RT rules violations. Fare checkers certinly should be enforcing RT rules when they see them occurring. Your concerns will be addressed and shared with the Superintendent.

Sacramento, CA:  Who is responsible for enforcing the speed limit at light rail park and rides? Even RT buses exceed the posted limit.

Reply:  Regional Transit Police Services are responsible for enforcing speed limit violations at Park and Rides. Additionally, the local Police Department is responsible for enforcing laws within their jurisdictions. Speed violations are not enforcable in parking lots unless it reaches the threashold of reckless driving. A speeding Bus is however a rules violation. If you are able to provide us with a time and bus number we will address it with the operator.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there plans to make the Roseville Road light rail park and ride more pedestrian friendly? The walkway is single-file and vehicles regularly speed.

Reply:  We actually have not looked at making the Roseville Road park and ride lot more pedestrian friendly. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, we will take a look at it.

Sacramento, CA:  Why are seats missing in some of the trains?

Reply:  We are removing seats from all of our light rail vehicles to provide more room for our customers riding in wheelchairs.

Sacramento, CA:  Why do we sometimes have two-car light rail trains during the evening rush hour?

Reply:  Two car trains during rush hour is most frequently caused by a mechanical problem with the train that required our light rail controller to cut cars from that train to keep the train in service. Depending on the time and location, we are often unable to add new cars to that train before it completes trips during the commute hours. There has also been many comments over SacRT operating 3 car rather then 4 car trains during commute hours. This is a different issue for us. The age of our vehicles is causing us to experience an increase in mechanical problems which means less vehicles available for service. We have actually seen some improvement in this area over the past few weeks.

Sacramento , CA:  I am a older person with a bad hip and I ride the LR daily to work, however I can never get a seat on the handicap section because of all of the young people sitting there. Why can you not make it required to show some kind of proof to ride in that section?

Reply:  Thank you for raising this issue. Up until recently, RT had no authority to require people to move from the designated area even if they did not have basis to use it. California recently passed a law that strengthens our authority in this regard, but it is still difficult because personal privacy protections limit SacRT's ability to question people over the nature of their disability. Our operators still request that people move if they can but enforcement remains difficult. If you are riding a train with a Transit Agent, please feel free to ask the Transit Agent to assist.

Folsom, CA:  Have you considered banning bikes during commute times? If overcrowding is the new normal, it may be time to reconsider, though of course, this would only be a minor improvement.

Reply:  We have not considered banning bicycles at commute times. Bicycles are very helpful to many of our patrons and we don't want to hinder all of SacRT users. We do not have future plans to ban bikes, however we can make sure our Transit Agents help manage how they are stored while being transported on the trains.

Sacramento, CA:  Mr.Li, Thank you again for all your staff's work at RT. Since the light rail extension to Natomas and airport is not going to happen any time soon, what plans if any do you have to improve RTs bus service in this region, particulary North Natomas ? Even in your recent surveys, i didn't notice the Natomas region on the list. With more development being planned, the recently approved Greenbriar project and the city's focus on the airport corridor, we need a robust RT service for this community.

Reply:  We have a big list of things we'd like to do in North Natomas. Seven day service on Route 11 is one priority. Bus service west of I-5 is another major priority. What we are able to do is another matter. We are no different than any other infrastructure or public service such as water or sewer or fire protection in that it costs money for us to expand into new areas. The increase in population from a new development may increase local sales tax, which helps us, but it probably won't increase our revenues from gas and diesel tax, which is a big part of state and especially Federal revenues we receive. So new growth development does not pay for itself just because it is built and people move in unless special funding sources are set up. With respect to North Natomas, the City of Sacramento was very progressive in arranging local funding for transit, which currently pays for the North Natomas Flyer buses (which are operated by RT). However, it's important to keep in mind that the North Natomas community is still not fully built. With respect to Greenbriar, there are arrangements for funding a light rail station there in the future, although nothing for bus service. Given the distance of the development from Downtown Sacramento and the rest of the RT network, this may be an appropriate level of service for quite some time.

folsom, CA:  Is there a reason why all the light rail stations don't have the red zone?

Reply:  I believe you are referring to the Paid Fare Zone. Paid Fare Zones will be implemented system wide soon. However, not all stations may have the "red lines." When a passenger is at a light rail station, they will be required to have valid fare, and board one of the next two arriving trains in their direction of travel. Violators of this could be cited. This is intended to cut down on loitering in the stations, and increase safety and security.

folsom, CA:  regarding the connect card, if you purchase your monthly pass at your state agency how will you get a connect card and how will it work

Reply:  State Agencies will have the opportunity to join the Corporate Accounts program for Connect Card. The employer will distribute cards to their employees. Once an employee has their Connect Card they will have the option to continue to purchase fares directly from their employer or online from their own private account at the subsidized rate.

Sacramento, CA:  Two questions: (1) Early this week I learned that the big book of transit routes is no longer available. Why? You could double or triple the price and I would still buy one. Instead I bought a route map for 25 cents; RT should have charged $1.50 for it! (2) When trees and vines on private property hang over a bus stop, who trims them? They droop very low over the bus stop on northbound 65th Street at 18th Avenue. Thank you.

Reply:  It was decided to end printed publication of the SacRT Bus and Light Rail Timetable book due to increasing production costs and declining sales. In addition, often times the book was outdated soon after publication because of additional route or schedule changes. The entire book is available on where you can print the whole book if you like for just the section you need. As you noted, the system maps are still printed and available for purchase. If an operator cannot see a bus stop sign, SacRT Facilities staff will trim the tree or vine. I will pass on the information you provided to the Facilities Department. Thank you.

sac, CA:  why do you have guards at certain stations when some stations need a guard??

Reply:  Guard placement is determined based upon many factors, such as, safety needs, customer service and volume of riders. We assess the the needs of the system based upon the above stated factors and move guards to locations that have the greatest needs. Unfortunately, there aren't enough funds available to staff all stations with guards, transit Agents and/or transit officers.

sac, CA:  regarding the paid free zones I still see passengers come on the train with no pass or ticket. that is a problem for people that have to buy a ticket or a pass and these guards let them go

Reply:  We are actively hiring more Transit Agents to help us address this very issue. We currently have 12 new Transit Agents in training and are hiring 12 more which will increase our Transit Agents and Officer to almost 60. This will aid us in insuring that all riders have fare or are cited when they do not.

Sacramento, CA:  Considering the mention of the 90 minute transfer on the Connect Card, how can a rider know the transfer is still active? I checked the Connect Card's site after seeing that fact mentioned on bus ad the other day, but no mention of it currently.

Reply:  Connect Card holders can view the remaining time on their transfer on the bus by asking the bus operator to display the card information on the riders connect card. Once tapped the card will display the expiration time of the transfer. On light rail the same information can be found by pressing the card info button and tapping your card to the reader.

Sacramento , CA:  I have submitted three request since May 4th to your Facilities Department about installing some benches and have received no response. I work for an agency that helps with the disabled and senior citizens. The agency is located at 3111 Fulton ave, 95821. We have been trying to request benches be placed on both sides of street for our clients to sit when waiting for the bus. Bus stops are located at Fulton Ave and Carson, bus stop numbers 1523 and 1564, can you tell me if this can be done?

Reply:  Thank you for bringing this to my attention, and I will see what we can do to accelerate this. The benches are provided by a contractor and it is my understanding that we have requested that they install a bench at this location.

Laguna, CA:  " What has really harmed us over the past few years is parts obsolescence that comes with the age of our vehicles. Parts that were readily available in the past are taking a long time to receive and we are having parts fail that we have never have had to replace before." - Sounds like you could use some new vehicles. Can you help me understand why public agencies like Sac RT continue to put endless amounts of time and money into older vehicles that require large maintenance costs and downtime rather than newer vehicles that have lower maintenance costs and downtime? I know lower upfront costs is a popular desire, but it is almost always more expensive over the long run, especially for complex systems like light rail vehicles.

Reply:  I agree with you, we would be in a much better position if we replaced these vehicles as they reach the end of their useful life. The problem that we have is coming up with the $160,000,000 that it will take to replace the 36 cars that are our oldest While we work on funding, we have no choice but to do all that we can to keep the old vehicles safe and usable.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT be participating in the newly announced Verizon partnership with the city?

Reply:  RT does not have any roll in the Verizon partnership with the City of Sacramento.

Sacramento , CA:  When will the bus stop on 7th at G St be replaced? It was taken out for construction of the new parking lot and extension of G St. Now that it's done, will it come back? The buses are still announcing it as a stop.

Reply:  Let me check into it. I am not aware of anything preventing the stop from being reinstalled.

Natomas, CA:  Since the official date is June 15, will the Natomas Flyer participate by allowing their patrons use their Connect Card since it is Sacramento RT bus drivers and Sacramento RT buses that are being used for this service?

Reply:  We are currently finalizing an agreement with the North Natomas Flyer, and expect that they will be on board with Connect Card by the June 15 launch.

Sacramento, CA:  Will I be able to exchange paper prepaid fare media for the value turned in, and have Staff place that exact amount onto an electronic Connect Card so long as it occurs on and or after June 15th? If not, why is the exchange from prepaid paper media to electronic Connect Card so difficult to do? It should be a pretty easy request to follow through with and become a more "customer focused" and "customer friendly" organization to begin with. This shouldn't be rocket science. At least I would hope not.

Reply:  Paper Tickets can not be exchanged for Connect Card value unfortunately. The primary issue is accounting concerns. With paper tickets, RT is unable to determine when the tickets are used so the fare revenue associated with them is recognized at the time of sale. Connect Card will also us to improve our accounting practices and recognize fare revenue as it is earned. Transferring paper tickets to Connect Card will require RT to reverse previously recorded fare revenue. At this time, RT is suggesting that you go ahead and pick up your Connect Card when you exchange your paper tickets so that you are ready to go once you have used up your prepaid tickets.

Sacramento, CA:  Are we supposed to tap our Connect Card when we get off of a bus?

Reply:  At this time there is no benefit to tap off when you exit the bus. In fact, RT will soon be removing the rear tap devices in order to avoid customer confusion and will re-install them in the future if needed.

Laguna, CA:  Will the Morrison Creek Station still be opening this year?

Reply:  It is uncertain whether or not the Morrison Creek Station will be opening this year. We do have a Federal obligation to open the station this year, but it does not make much sense until the area around the station starts to develop. We will be discussing this issue both internally and with the Federal Transit Administration to determine our next steps.

Sacramento, CA:  Good Afternoon, I filled out a customer survey not to long ago and I also viewed on the news not to long ago of how RT ridership is low. I would like to give an example of one of the many reasons I believe why. I have made a few complaints in the past about Route 15 and the afternoon/lunch time drivers that have this route. Today, June 2nd, there has two female bus drivers that pulled up at 11:30 at 8th and O for Watt/I-80. They stayed on the bus until the shift changed for the male bus driver to take over. All three RT bus drivers stayed on the bus with the door open talking. The new bus driver blocked the entrance way for riders to get on the bus. I asked the bus driver, if we can get on the bus and when are you leaving. The bus driver responded back to me “ in one more minute”. The RT drivers proceed to talk and laugh until I got my cell phone out and took a picture of the call box and the main driver standing in the doorway, then the conversation abruptly ended. The callbox number in the window is #1504. The bus number itself is 1537 And the bus did not leave 8th and O until 11:47am when it is scheduled to depart at 11:44am. The to RT female drivers (one with sunglasses and one with a hat) looked away and down in an attempt to hide their faces of me taking a picture. It is bad that there is only two buses that are scheduled every hour on Bus Route 15. Its really bad that the majority of the time the buses run late with an exception of three current bus drivers. What can you do about this? If anything, what will you do about this? It appears to be a norm/attitudes with a lot of RT bus drivers of many routes.

Reply:  I will have one of our road supervisors check in on Route 15 to make sure our operators are adhering to the schedule. Thanks for taking the time to report this. Having a safe, prompt, and courteous ride for our customers is our top priority, so we will take this seriously and see what we can do to ensure great customer service on your route.

folsom, CA:  will RT ever have the Folsom train every 15 minutes instead of 30

Reply:  Working with Folsom, the Gold Line was designed and consturcted such that the service into Folsom operates on 5 miles of single track. This means that trains can not pass each other as they operate into and out of the City of Folsom. This limits service frequency to 30 minutes. We do have a project to add passing sidings so that we could improve the service frequency, but we do not have a timeline for completing this project. Our service into Folsom is operated under contract with the City of Folsom so they would need to agree to both the improvements to the system to be able to operate more frequent service as well as the extra cost to operate this service.

Laguna, CA:  "The problem that we have is coming up with the $160,000,000 that it will take to replace the 36 cars that are our oldest" - Ever consider a loan? The rest of us have to take loans to afford things that we need (homes, cars, etc) maybe it's time public agencies, who are better able to manage loans, do the same.

Reply:  Thank you for that suggestion. In fact, RT, like many public agencies, does use a line of credit (loans) to pay for large capital expenses. However, $160 million is an incredibly large sum of money. Borrowing, and paying back principal and interest on this would be too financially burdensome for RT with our current funding levels.

sac, CA:  will the employer start the connect card next month if you buy the monthly pass or tickets at your employee agency

Reply:  Employers are eligible to join the Connect Card corporate accounts program beginning June 15th. We do not anticipate that all employers will transition immediately to Connect Card however. While RT is encouraging employers to make the transition, it will be up to each employer to decide when they are ready.

Sacramento, CA:  Will routes like Route 51 shift their Downtown Sacramento layover from 7th & G to the Sacramento Valley Station? It would be nice to have more bus service there than just Route 30. Route 51 would provide frequent service from Sac Valley to South Sacramento while Route 30 would continue to go to East Sacramento Destinations. Thank you.

Reply:  Yes, we are actually planning on relocating several of our buses to terminate at the Sacramento Valley Station. As you probably know, there are plans for the City to pay to realign our station tracks and boarding platform and build a bus terminal. This ties in with redevelopment plans for the surrounding area and the rehab of the historic train station. We have been planning on moving Routes 2, 6, and 51, and perhaps others to use the new station once it's built. So the terminal for those routes would change from 8th & G Street to the Sacramento Valley Station.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the time line for streetcar service to begin and where will they be stored at? When can we realistically expect to see new vehicles to replace the current fleet?

Reply:  Streetcar is likely 3 to 5 years away from revenue service and is dependent upon Federal funding being approved for the project. New vehicles for the light rail fleet are also conditioned on receiving additional funding and are likely 4 to 7 years away.

Sacramento, CA:  It regards to the question regarding Bus 15, I notice things like this tend to happen more on the weekend, when buses are hourly. Drivers tend to do things as if they no we are unable to call customer service because they are closed. Sometimes we need busses more on the weekend when we are off work as it is, but we get what we get, drivers should be kind & considerate to other peoples schedule as well, even when we arrive the recommended time of at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.

Reply:  We definitely need more bus service on the weekends. That is a matter of getting more local funding for transit. With respect to operator behavior, our road supervisors work seven days a week. As a customer, you can't speak with a live operator on the weekend, but if you see inappropriate behavior, you can submit a report to RT's Customer Advocacy Department on weekends, the same as weekdays, via the internet: RT Customer Advocacy Complaint form:

Sacramento, CA:  Why do Los Rios students have to wait a day after there bus pass expires to get a new one for the next semester? Why can't these passes be distributed the day of expiration? I also want to know why the discounted daily bus pass can not be used for college students with proof of ID?

Reply:  I apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused, but Los Rios is responsible for determining when they distribute fare media. As for discounted daily passes, RT's fare structure limits discounted student fares to students enrolled in K-12 programs. Therefore, college students are not eligible to use discounted daily passes at this time.

Laguna, CA:  Are there any published details on your short-range plan to grow ridership? If not, can you provide a quick summary of it?

Reply:  Our Route Optimization study will be taking a strategic look at what we can do with our system to improve ridership, now and in the future. Routes and schedules are not the only thing, however. Some of the other initiatives we are doing include rehabbing our light rail fleet to improve our peak-hour capacity, revamping our operator attendance program to improve reliability of our bus system, and starting this month, on June 15th, we will be adding a feature to the Connect Card so riders can make unlimited rides during 90 minutes using the basic single fare. This will largely rectify one of the major complaints we've heard over the years from our riders, that is, that since 2009, if you want to ride multiple trains/buses, you have to buy a day pass. With the launch of the Connect Card, we are now able to offer what will essentially be free transfers to anyone with a Connect Card. This is actually a better deal than we used to have back in 2009, because back then, riders had to actually pay a small fee for their transfer, whereas the Connect Card transfers will be free--ride as much as you want for 90 minutes for the single-ride rate. This pricing is already available on our mobile fare platform and is part of our goal of migrating as much of our ridership as possible to electronic fare types, which saves us money on cash handling and makes it easier for our riders, so they don't have to carry cash or exact change.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  What role should RT play and/or have in regards to Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin service? These are two important California Intercity Rail Corridors that I use somewhat frequently. It was brought to my attention that some of your board members serve on these Intercity rail corridor governing bodies, but the business items of these services, particularly any service and schedule changes they are contemplating, are never heard of or talked about at the RT Meetings, which I do have access to watch on Cable Channel 14 in Sacramento County. What can you and your staff tell the "Transit Talk" participants today that is going on there and how it impacts RT service and patronage as well? Thank you.

Reply:  The RT Board appoints several members to sit on both the Boards of the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services. Written reports of what transpires at both meetings are provided to the RT Board and are available to the public as a part of the agenda items for our Board meetings. If you have specific concerns over any aspect of the service provided by either of these services it is most expedient for you to contact them directly. If you have any concerns over RT's direct connections to either of these services please let me know and we will try and address them.

Sacramento , CA:  Will RT operators operate the streetcar or will the non profit use Yolobus or independent operators

Reply:  The initial plan is for RT to operate and maintain the streetcar system under contract with the City of Sacramento and West Sacramento who are the owners of the system.

Sacramento, CA:  What happened with communication? That & Customer service were approving right around the time when rates/fees were changing. It seems to be going down again. Also, yesterday I did see 7 transit cops in one car, perception does not look very good

Reply:  We are sorry that you feel communication and customer service have declined. Our intention is for RT to be a customer oriented organization We are always identifying way to improve. Regarding the transit agents, we have just hired new transit agents, and it is possible this was part of a group training. If you continue to see a problem of this, please contact customer advocacy at

Closing Remarks:
Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, July 7.