Transit Talk with the General Manager

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

Welcome to November's Session of Transit Talk with the General Manager!

As I mentioned last month, SacRT and WALKSacramento have begun a community-wide outreach effort to seek input on ways to improve safety and accessibility at the Watt/I-80 Station. The goal is to develop a series of recommendations to improve accessibility for people traveling by foot, bike, and mobility device. There is also discussion concerning ways to provide a same-level transfer that could result in changes to existing bus routes.

Last month, we had our first community meeting followed by a walking assessment of the station. Both events were successful, and we received a lot of interest and excellent feedback. We greatly value the community's input and encourage everyone interested in re-imagining the Watt/I-80 Station to take the brief survey online at, and automatically be entered into a prize drawing to win a $50 give card. In addition, we plan to hold a public workshop later this month. The survey will be open until Sunday, December 31. For details about the project and upcoming community events, visit and click the "Re-Imagine Watt/I-80" link.

In honor of those who serve our country, SacRT is inviting military service men and women to ride SacRT buses and light rail trains for free on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11. While free rides will be extended to veterans, active military and reservists, SacRT has decided to also offer the complimentary service to military family members as a way to thank all those who have sacrificed for our country. To ride free on Saturday, November 11, active military must show their Active Military Access Card (CAC). Retired military and family members are asked to present their Uniformed Service Identification Card.

Don't forget that the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink, located at 7th and K streets opens today. This popular spot has a fantastic lineup of special events for the season. SacRT kicks off the November events with the Princess and Superhero Day tomorrow from noon until 2 p.m. You can expect special visits from costumed princesses and superheroes, face painting and more! Ride light rail to the rink, show your valid ticket or pass and receive $2 off admission.

Now let's get to your questions.

Sacramento, CA:  Why does SacRT have so many ways to pay for bus fare? It is confusing. any chance it will be streamlined or simplified in the near future?

Reply:  SacRT is going through a lot of exciting change right now in regards to fare payment. Connect Card and the Mobile App provide users with simpler and easier ways to pay for their bus fare. Our goal is to make these options more available to our riders, increase their use and ultimately begin streamlining our fare structure to simplify the options available to riders and the overall ease of use.

Sacramento, CA:  your website is not super helpful. any plans to clean that up? a trip planner would be helpful.

Reply:  We are in the process of developing a new website that will be more modern and user friendly. However, we do have a trip planner on the current website

North Highlands, CA:  Some Emails I received talked about Watt/I-80 as a focused topic in today’s monthly chat. As far as that “reimagine” project is concerned, and tying it together with your agency’s route optimization study, 1) do you and your staff foresee a major service change coming to the bus routes and bus service at that station, and 2) do you foresee Watt/I-80 as a natural starting point to begin the route optimization study, even though you will more than likely take a more wholistic approach at the entire bus route network?

Reply:  We're resolved to make Watt/I-80 a better station for our customers and we've already received some great input from riders during our walk audit of the station last weekend and we had great turnout and feedback at our community meeting on October 24th. Look for a follow-up meeting after the Thanksgiving holiday. The stairs, the elevator, lighting, noise, cleanliness, and access to the station from the neighborhood were all discussed. We also had some bigger picture suggestions such as completely relocating some or all of our transit activities from that station. Our staff and partners with Walk Sacramento will be following up with more info and analysis on all these options.

Sacramento, CA:  In 2014, I asked Rosemary Covington a question about real time train info and was told the system would be operational in the fall. Which fall was Rosemary referring to?

Reply:  I am hopeful that real time train arrival information is something that we will be able to implement within the next year. This is a project that has been difficult for us and we have tried several different ways of doing this without success. I am optimistic that our current approach will work. We are currently installing equipment on each of the 97 light rail vehicles in our fleet that will allow each vehicle to report its location. Our remaining work requires the development of the software tools that we need to take the location information and report it in a meaningful way to our message signs in the light rail stations and the web.

Sacramento, CA:  I have taken the Light Rail for over eight years. I live in Folsom, work the typical 8-5 for the State in Mid-Town Sacramento. Huge number of LR customers ride from the suburbs to the city in the morning to work, then from the city back to the suburbs after work. During this “rush hour”. In the morning, I often see only three full cars going into the city with four empty cars leaving the city. Same after work, only three or less full cars leaving the city and four empty cars going into the city. Does Light Rail have a program in place to manage this, to make sure the maximum number of cars are going into the city 7-8AM and leaving the city 5-6PM?

Reply:  It is our standing practice to reduce train length to two cars for non-commute hours (mid-day, evenings and weekends. However, there are only specific locations on the light rail system where we can take vehicles out of service and store them. So, you may see longer trains in service until they reach one of these locations where vehicles can be removed. Also, commute periods are directional so lightly used trains need to operate in the non-commute direction so that they are properly positioned for the commute direction trips.

Sacramento, CA:  Back in 2013 I asked about more frequent service on Route 38 to serve the DMV on Broadway and was promised additional service in 2015. Did I miss something? It’s 2017, when will RT be improving service on Route 38?

Reply:  Back in 2012, when we did our TransitRenewal project, headway improvements on Route 38 was one of our recommendations, although it was for Year 4 of the plan. Unfortunately, we didn't end up with sufficient revenue to implement beyond the first year of that plan, and have been in essentially a zero-growth mode for bus service since that time, with the South Line extension being our one big expansion project over the last five years.

Sacramento , CA:  What is going on with watt ave elevators? Why are they not being fixed?

Reply:  The Watt elevators are beyond any repair that would improve their reliability, they need to be completely replaced. We have budgeted for their replacement which is about $800,000. Before proceeding, we have reached out to the community to discuss options for the Watt I-80 station to improve its overall condition considering safety, security and cleanliness. There are options being considered that would eliminate the need for the elevators, the most significant would be to route the buses to the lower level and build a transfer facility for bus to bus and bus to train connections. We are still in the public outreach phase of this discussion, and do not want to commit to the funding for elevator replacement until we are certain that the elevators are still required.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I am writing to ask if you have ever thought about running a shuttle near Sunrise Mall during the holidays. All of the stores are so far away, and it would be nice to have a ride from store to store! This would be very popular I think.

Reply:  SacRT's mission and focus is more about providing mobility around the community, for example people going to the mall itself. As far as mobility around the mall site, that's probably more naturally a service that the mall might want to consider, for the private benefit of their customers, but that wouldn't really be a public transit service. A shuttle of this type would need to operate on private property, versus public streets, which also adds to the difficulty of offering it as a service.

Natomas, CA:  I'm excited about the future plan for the Green Line rail to the airport. My only concern is the dangers of the light rail platform safety because it allows alot of people coming and going through Natomas. What are your plans to insure the safety?

Reply:  Thank you for your question. We are constantly implementing safety measures to make our system safe for riders and the community. We contract and have our own regional Transit Police Department of 28 officers. We have 67 Transit Agents and Officers, we have a very high quality camera system as well as a Security Operations Center that monitors the camera feed 24/7. Also, we recently have been using PA's at Light Rail Stations to stop bad behavior immediately let people know that they aren't alone on the platforms and provide information to riders. Safety is an utmost concern for us and we will work diligently in Natomas to make the system safe, just like what we are doing now.

Citrus Heights , CA:  What is RT doing about safety on the light rail trains and platforms. Other cities like Metro Rail in Houston have a vast majority of transit agents and police at all dangerous platforms to comfort passengers.

Reply:  Thank you for your question. We have recently fully staffed our Transit Agent program. We currently have a police force of 28 police officers, 60 transit agents and 7 transit officers. Effective November 12th there will be 47 Transit Agents and Officers riding trains and 20 Transit Agents working between several stations on platforms. We are also actively installing Police Observations Devices at 8 stations. We are constantly assessing safety and how we can improve it. We recently have added a PA system at Light Rail stations. We have a Security Operations Center that monitor live cameras feed 24/7 and use the PA system to correct bad behavior, communicate with lone passengers and provide an additional layer of safety.

Orangevale, CA:  Hi Henry, back in 2012 I asked a question regarding implementing additional service on Route 24 and I was told that “substantial changes” would be occurring in 2013 as a part of the second phase of Transit Renewal. Whatever happened to Transit Renewal? When will Route 24 be changed?

Reply:  The results of our TransitRenewal project back in 2012, with respect to Route 24, were that the service really needs to operate in both directions, not just a one-way loop, and that it really should connect directly with light rail in Folsom as well. Unfortunately, that costs a lot more money than what we run today, and as mentioned earlier, our revenue situation in the years following the project was not what it needed to be to enact all the recommendations. The Route Optimization process will take a fresh look at this and other findings from the past.

Citrus Heights , CA:  Can we see improvement/remodeled light rail stations? Alot of light rail stations look outdated and unsafe for people that come from out of town.

Reply:  Actually, this past year has seen a number of improvements to popular stations, including a large new shelter, landscaping, and signage at 7th & Capitol, upgraded lighting and signage at 9th & K and 8th & K, new benches, landscaping, and art at 16th Street, and we're working right now on new overhead shelters over the mini-high ramps at 29th Street. We've also been rolling out more video cameras for better security, more fare payment options such as Connect Card, new credit-card capable ticket machines, and upgraded credit card capabilities on our old fare vending machines.

Sacramento, CA:  The prior RT web app had a feature where you can type the bus number and it would display the time the bus was coming. Is there any plans to bring that feature back to any of the RT apps? If it currently exists, which app has it?

Reply:  The real-time bus tracker is available at Please type that address into your web browser and you can pin it to the homescreen of your smartphone. You can also receive real-time bus arrival info by texting "SacRT" and your bus stop number to 41411.

Folsom, CA:  The light rail trains look very outdated compared to other cities rail cars. With the gas taxes coming and more people will be taking the rail and buses, will there be any improvement on light rail cars and equipment?

Reply:  We do need to replace many of the light rail vehicles in our fleet. Light rail vehicles are very expensive and we have had a difficult time in putting a funding plan together to begin the much needed replacement. As a part of replacing vehicles, we will also start a conversion to a low floor fleet which will improve accessibility for everyone. The new funding provided by the increase in gas tax is primarily focused on road repair. There is a small portion that is available to public transit and we are looking at this as a partial source of funding for light rail vehicle replacement.

North Highlands, CA:  Why all the fluff and diversion regarding Watt I-80? Your Police Chief told me you are closing it. Have you considered not lying to the public and saving a little money in the process/

Reply:  Let me assure you that we are not engaged in "fluff or diversion" The issues of safety, security and cleanliness are serious at the Watt I80 station and improvements need to be made. There are a number of things that we can do including moving the bus connections from the upper level on Watt Avenue to the lower level at either Watt I80 or Roseville Road. These are still all options being considered and community feedback is really important to us in developing a course of action. Based upon community input, we will develop one or more recommendations that will be presented to the RT Board for a final decision.

Sacramento, CA:  Good Afternoon Henry, back in 2010 I asked the last general manager if there was a study in place for more effective light rail routes that would lower the need for bus routes, which would ultimately save RT money. The answer was that the RT board of directors had just adopted the TransitAction Plan, and was starting a Comprehensive Operational Analysis that would help RT to re-design its service in a way that reflects how Sacramento has grown over the last 20 years. How is the COA going?

Reply:  It's nice to see so many questions about our service. For readers who may not be aware, in 2012 we finished a comprehensive operational analysis which we entitled TransitRenewal, which gave a five-year plan for how best to restore transit service that had been cut from 2008 to 2010. In many ways, the Route Optimization that we are beginning will be like TransitRenewal, but a lot has changed since 2012! And we also want to take a bigger picture look with the Route Optimization than we did with TransitRenewal. There are emerging technologies and new travel patterns and demographic changes that the entire industry is grappling with. So we think the time is right to take a "blank slate" approach to our service offerings. TransitAction is our long-range plan and one of the deliverables of our Route Optimization will actually be an update to the relevant sections in TransitAction.

Citrus Heights , CA:  Light rails in other states have low level platforms that allows wheelchairs to roll right into the light rail cars. Will we see improvments like that soon?

Reply:  We certainly hope so. SacRT's light rail system pre-dates the availability of low floor light rail vehicles. Our opportunity to change will start with the replacement of the our first 36 light rail vehicles, the majority of which reached the end of their 30 year useful life this year. In addition to purchasing replacement vehicles, we also need to modify many of our older stations, raising the platform to at least 8 inches above the top of rail to work with a modern low floor light rail vehicle. All of this will take at least 5 years from the time that we identify the necessary funding, which we are actively working on.

Closing Remarks:
Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, December 1.