Transit Talk with the General Manager

July 07, 2017
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:

Welcome to the July Transit Talk with the General Manager.

You most likely read about the recent tragedy that took place at the Watt/I-80 light rail station last week. First and foremost, all of us at SacRT extend our best wishes, thoughts and prayers to Deputy Alex Ladwig and his family. It is our understanding that while Deputy Ladwig's injuries are extensive, and he has a long road to recovery, he is doing well and his spirits are good!

The Watt/I-80 Station has been the focus of a major improvement effort over the past several months. Sacramento Police Lieutenant Lisa Hinz, Chief of Police for SacRT, recently instituted a three-pronged approach to reduce the station's criminal element, which included increased law enforcement, a station improvement plan and a coordination with business owners and community groups in the area. SacRT representatives and law enforcement officials met last week with leaders from the Watt Avenue Partnership and from Walk Sacramento to coordinate activities focused on improving pedestrian safety and security at the station.

Safety and Security is a top priority for both customers and employees at SacRT, and we have been working on several measures to address concerns. As of July 1, the Security Operations Center is running surveillance at light rail stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Increased patrols at the Watt/I-80 Station have been in effect for several weeks. Two transit agents have also been assigned to the Watt/I-80 Station on a permanent basis to maintain a uniformed presence.

Last month, SacRT extended its "Paid Fare Zones" to include the entire light rail system. The program designates station platforms as 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 and could be cited.

Lieutenant Hinz is in the process of developing a station improvement plan by way of a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) study that was recently initiated.

SacRT also began an adopt-a-station program in which each member of SacRT's executive team monitors three stations for safety and cleanliness.

We will not let last week's horrific attack on Deputy Ladwig stop us from continuing to be proactive in our efforts to transform the Watt/I-8- Station. Rather, we are even more dedicated to honoring his commitment to protect and serve our community.

Now let's get to your questions.

Sacramento, CA:  For more than two weeks there has been a wrecked car parked in two spots under the freeway at the Roseville Road light rail lot. Who maintains the lots, and who should we notify so it will be towed? What can we do to make the lots safer?

Reply:  I apologize for this and the car has been removed this morning. Our Regional Transit Policing Services Security Operations Center just went live 24/7. Please call us with any of your security concerns. We can be reached at 916 556-0150. You can also report crimes or issues on our smart phone application, Alert SacRT. It allows for a picture and direct texting with a direct reply from the staff at the Security Operations Center. We are actively hiring additional staff to make our parking lots safer and provide a greater presence within a month we will be in contract with the City of Sacramento Parking Enforcement who will assist us in patrolling our lots, capturing data as they enforce parking violations.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I am now in possession of three different smart cards throughout California. I have a "TAP" Card from Southern California, a "CLIPPER" Card from the Bay Area, and now a "CONNECT" Card from the 9-Transit Agency Sacramento Area. I have discovered one problem. Even after looking online, I cannot find the answer to my question. Here it is. What is the "phone number" to the Connect Card Customer Service Center, and do they have Saturday hours. Both "TAP" in Southern California and "CLIPPER" in the Bay Area have smart card customer service centers that are reachable six days a week via telephone. They are not transit agencies. They only exist because of their respective smart cards. Not everyone, I understand, has online access. Even requesting a one hour session in a public library, I found out, is getting pretty difficult to do. Luckily, I have a smartphone, but many people, surprisingly enough, do not. As a result, I ask the question again, and that is, what is the telephone number for the Connect Card Customer Service Center for things like checking your balance, reloading your Connect Card, and/or other things pertaining just to the Connect Card? For transit information, I agree, the person needs to call their respective transit agency and/or agencies for service within one area and/or service that crosses jurisdictional boundaries. Thank you.

Reply:  I'm glad you like the Connect Card! If you have questions and want to speak with a representative on Connect Card questions, please call 321-BUSS (2877). We have telephone representatives available Monday-Friday from 8:00-5:00.

Citrus Heights, CA:  What is the timeline of station improvements in and around the Watt/I-80 Station. I use Routes 1 and 93 from Citrus Heights to the station frequently. What all has to get done at the station itself, including, but not limited to the elevator over there?

Reply:  We have already done a few things. First, we have significantly increased our security presence including both police officers and armed security guards. Secondly, we have significantly increased the level of cleaning at this station. Thirdly, we have designed security gates to close the stair wells after service hours to keep people out of the station when light rail is not in operation. The gates should be installed early next week. We have a funded project to replace the elevators This will take us 6 to 8 months to complete, requiring the design and replacement of the elevator cabs and all related equipment. We are also planning on removing unused bicycle lockers, adding additional security cameras, and adding lighting to this station. We expect these improvements to be made over the next month. Finally, we have conducted a security review of the station, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, which will be completed next week. This review will help us with other, more long term improvements to the station.

Folsom, CA:  Is any progress being made between SacRT and city officials with the City of Folsom on later evening train service past 7pm. We appreciate what you all are doing when there is a Golden 1 Center event, yet, service needs to be consistently going past 7pm, and this is where I think Folsom City Officials need to have a better working relationship with SacRT. We should not exclusively be getting late evening service being dependent upon special events like Folsom Live or Golden 1 Center being the only things that matter. It needs to be everyday, where it regularly occurs.

Reply:  I'm glad you're interested in light rail to Folsom! It's a request we get a lot. The service we run to Folsom is actually subject to our contract with the City of Folsom, where they pay for the level of service that they receive. Just like RT, the City of Folsom has limited funds for transit, so they have to balance light rail service with their local bus service.

Sacramento, CA:  Mr. Henry Li, Sacramento Regional Light Rail System General Manager: I have an injury which makes picking up objects, especially heavy ones, above my waist, very problematic. If I obtained a doctor's note explaining my injury/need for accommodation can SacRT Light Rail allow me to use the front handicap ramp entrance to bring my bicycle on board?

Reply:  Unfortunately, we do not allow bicycles to board via the mini high ramp, and can not make a special exception in your case. The reason for this is that passengers with bicycles will often occupy the area reserved for passengers with disabilities and refuse to move when asked to do so by the operator. This results in the area not being available for passengers who need this area, particularly passengers in wheelchairs, because it is occupied by a passenger with a bicycle. We have tried to provide exceptions in the past to passengers who need the ramp, but we find that other riders do not understand the limitations and many riders with bicycles will try and use the ramp which causes other problems for us. As SacRT replaces light rail vehicles in the future, we will begin a conversion to a low floor fleet eliminating this problem in the future.

Folsom, CA:  Why does Light Rail have Stop Request Buttons in the cars? Aren't they required to stop at every station?

Reply:  You are correct, light rail trains currently stop at all stations. However, not long ago, we did have a stop by request only operating procedure at the Watt West station on the Blue Line, and the stop request button was used at this station. Having this feature provides us flexibility in the future should we want or need to implement stop by request only service at a future date.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  This morning I boarded my train at Sunrise for downtown. Second car had two homeless people, which I usually ignore, except one was reeking of stink, making the car unfit for habitation. I moved to another car. This one was quiet and most of us commuters read our books quietly - - UNTIL crazy guy gets on and rants and banters for 10 stops. I text my SacRT Alert app but nothing happens. HERE's my question: Why can't every ride have ticket takers that would kick off the stink and the crazies? It's always one bad apple that ruins the ride for 100 other law-abiding citizens, and prevents others from trying light rail. Perhaps it would be helpful for there to be a designated security person at the terminus of every line to sweep the cars clean of stinky people - - - This person could be assigned to the terminus station and not the train, for instance. Thanks.

Reply:  Thank you for the feedback. We are quickly hiring more Transit Agents and adding them to the trains. Our Security Operations Center (SOC) received an alert at 728 am regarding the smelly passengers. The SOC replied back within 2 minutes of the alert, requesting the train number. It is our desire to be very responsive to our riders and available for these issues. Another way to contact us is to call into our SOC at 916 556-0150. We recently have staffed the center 24/7. We are doing many things to make the trains safer and free of unruly riders. Regional Transit Policing Officers ride the trains, we are creating a robust Transit Agent Program to ride the trains and be available at many of our stations and our SOC is now open 24 hours a day. The SOC received multiple complaints regarding the yelling subject and an Officer was dispatched.

Sacramento , CA:  Hi,what about more restrooms for the disabled, I take meds n I have issues where a restroom can be a very important thing while traveling in the city on rt.thx.

Reply:  We have never had public restrooms. I think you'll find that public restrooms are fairly uncommon for transit, except for train stations and other large or heavily-used passenger facilities. Even in San Francisco, there are lots of BART and Muni stations, even at busy locations, that do not have public restrooms. One reason is the cost of cleaning and maintaining public restrooms, which can obviously be a focal point for problem activity. We have only a handful of stations with over 1,500 passengers per day. In bigger cities, major stations may see that number of customers in an hour, and the station may be active for almost the entire day and night, so it starts to make more sense to clean and maintain restrooms.

Folsom, CA:  If we load a Monthly pass on our Connect Cards, do we still have to tap on each trip?

Reply:  Yes we are asking that you tap your monthly pass each time prior to boarding light rail or at the time of boarding when entering a bus. Tapping your connect card will activate your monthly pass and make it simpler for transit agents to inspect your Connect Card while on the train. You will find Connect Card tap devices near platform ramps and as you enter stations at our busier locations. Bus tap devices are located to the passengers left hand side as you enter the bus.

Sacramento, CA:  Henry...I'm disappointed in Regional Transit's lack of public involvement using social we know social media can be a valuable tool in providing direct feedback to a company...given RT's plight this is highly important...having worked with Donna DeMartino and San Joaquin RTD their heavy use of social media has helped them keep their needs relevant to the public...I've been here in Sacramento now for five years and because of their social media it is so easy for me to advocate for their needs...RT needs to be more aggressive with this...RT has only 23 Instagram posts vs San Joaquin RTD's 500...their effective use of different forms of media are why their marketing department is highly successful and winning awards industry wide...I believe that building strong transit systems requires a collaborative effort consisting of transit districts...the riding public...stakeholders...and elected officials...together we need to work together to change RT's face to the region...I'm currently pursuing an MS in transportation management to do service development work in bettering our transit systems...I have reached out to Wendy Williams...RT's Director of Marketing to work with RT to help better position itself...I'm putting this out there that I'm willing to help RT in anyway I can free of charge...Wendy had my direct contact information..I might suggest that you all reach out to Donna DeMartino at RTD and Kelvin Cao...RTD's new customer engagement analyst...the new energy that he has brought to RTD is beyond amazing ( accept my responsibility for failing Regional Transit in better getting its needs is a new day and together we can all do this...I will always be #SanJoaquinRTDproud but in the last five years in highly honored to be #SacramentoProud (Justin Mendoza)

Reply:  Thank you so much for reaching out to our team. We agree that building strong public involvement and support for transit must be a multi-pronged approach. Our team is dedicated to a complete transformation that includes customer service, improved reliability and frequency, and of course, excellent communication. Please have patience as we work to transform our service. We are committed, but our resources are stretched and our needs are great. Please continue to reach out to Ms. Williams. I know she was encouraged by your words.

Sacramento, CA:  Why not implement transfers again for a paid fare? Wouldn't it make ridership more attractive?

Reply:  RT currently offers free transfers for 90 minutes with a Single Fare purchase on Connect Card and the Mobile App. This provides a better option then a single use transfer and does not have the problems with counterfeiting and misuse that comes with a paper transfer.

Sacramento, CA:  A few years back I remember a bus coming out to the community relating to a "Transit Action Plan". Surveys were taken and the previous General Manager often referred to this as the districts guide to the future. What happened to the data from the TMP? How is the new study, called "Route Optimization" different from the TMP and will the next General Manager look at the Route Optimization plan, decide it is out of date and start a new study? How many studies will take place before some substantial changes take place?

Reply:  The TMP was very useful and developed a lot of useful information that will be considered as we undertake our new route optimization study. The reason we are doing a new study is that the TMP was conducted before the recession. It seems that travel patterns may have changed as this region has recovered from the recession. The TMP may no longer be relevant for this reason. Substantial increases in service require increases in funding.

sacramento, CA:  I bought a Connect Card and have liked it. I went to the Coop to reload it and they did not have the process information on that yet. That is the plan, right?

Reply:  We are glad to hear that you like the Connect Card. Currently there are 14 Raley's and Bel-Air locations where you can reload your Connect Card as well as RT's customer service center and the Connect Card website. We are actively reaching out to new retailers and sales outlets and will continue to expand the Connect Card sales network. The Coop is one of the locations that we plan on reaching out to in the near future.

Laguna, CA:  Since last Friday, the traffic signals on 9th and 10th streets crossing the light rail tracks have been "stuck" in the mornings around 7:30 to 8:00. They stay red for automotive traffic, only turning green briefly for the pedestrian lights, even if there currently no light rail traffic. This has caused significant back up of automotive traffic, particularly on 10th street where traffic piles up all the way down past R and S street. Is this something you can address? If the City of Sacramento needs to address this, I'd much prefer you contacted them since you carry more weight than a random faceless commuter that city employees don't care about. Thanks.

Reply:  Thank you for bringing this to my attention. We are not aware of any problems with the traffic signals at 9th and 10th Streets, but we will contact the City so that they can check them for proper operation.

Sac, CA:  I read rt received grant to improve bus service line 25 would you comment

Reply:  In 2015, we improved headways on part of Route 25 (on Fair Oaks Blvd) with support from a a program under the state Cap and Trade greenhouse reduction program known as the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program. This helped make bus service more frequent to/from and throughout Carmichael.

Laguna, CA:  "Unfortunately, we do not allow bicycles to board via the mini high ramp, and can not make a special exception in your case." I'm sorry, but this is a completely unfair and insensitive response. Many people, for whatever reason, cannot hoist a bike up the stairs and making people wait until eternity when you guys finally find the will to spend money on new light rail cars is practically unjust. If you can't be bothered to buy more modern cars that can help people like this individual, the least you can do is relax the rules a bit to make it easier on these individuals.

Reply:  I wish we could, we actually did relax the rules for a time, we also tried special permitting. Neither worked and we ended up passing riders in wheelchairs because the space was blocked by bicycles.

Sacramento, CA:  Considering the green/ev/vw car sharing initiative in Sacramento, have we considering selling the light rail assets to vw or volvo or Uber and letting them bring us into the future?

Reply:  Car sharing and ride sharing services occupy a very different part of the transportation market from public transportation services. We do not believe there is an interest in this.

Sacramento , CA:  As a follow-up to my previous question about privatizing light rail, please explain the sand under the seats by the bike hooks. Lastly I'm well off but I ride with poor people everyday. I must say that over the past 2 years of ridership, I have not seen the kind of rate reductions and excellent service that should come about with all of this IoT technology available

Reply:  The sand under the seats is used as a friction modifier for braking purposes. The steel wheels on steel rail can slide when braking under certain conditions. The sand helps to create friction assisting with braking efficiency.

Folsom , CA:  I usually buy my monthly pass at my state agency, I asked them about the connect card and they have no idea what I was talking about. How will this work if I buy it there

Reply:  We are currently working on transitioning state agencies from paper fare media to Connect Card. State employees will have access to fares online at the state subsidized price once your employer has joined the Connect Card program. Have your employer to contact the Connect Card customer service team at 916-557-4545 for more information about the program.

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