Transit Talk with the General Manager

January 05, 2018
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:

Happy New Year! Welcome to the January 2018 GM Chat. This year will bring many exciting new innovations to SacRT!

New Year, new price! SacRT has significantly reduced the Student Monthly pass price. Take advantage of a 65 percent savings for grades K through 12 and purchase a monthly pass for only $20 ($10 for each semi-monthly pass). Monthly passes are good for unlimited travel on bus and light rail in the SacRT service area.

We first mentioned Re-Imagine Watt/I-80 during our October 2017 GM Chat. Since that time, a series of community outreach meetings have taken place resulting in excellent feedback. Join SacRT at the North Highlands Community Center on Wednesday, January 10, for a public open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. to find out where we are today with our evaluation of potential changes to the Watt/I-80 Transit Center.

Beginning on Monday, January 8, riders will be able to reach Delta Shores, the popular new shopping center located off Interstate 5 a few miles from the Franklin light rail station. This will be the first service expansion of SacRT bus service since 2015. With the new extension, SacRT buses will travel non-stop from the Franklin Station to Delta Shores, which is located on Cosumnes River Boulevard. The extension will provide connectivity for residents to easily reach shopping, jobs and dining destinations.

In the February/March time period, SacRT will introduce microtransit. Similar to Uber and Lyft, microtransit is an innovative trend in transit that will allow passengers to request in real-time, on-demand (door-to-door) bus service using a smartphone app. The new bus service will debut in Citrus Heights and provide added convenience to our customers and feed to our existing light rail transportation backbone. We believe this type of service could be the future for SacRT's neighborhood bus service as it meets the needs of passengers who currently use other ride-hailing apps, only it will be more affordable.

The Route Optimization Study (ROS), which will begin this month, is an extremely important undertaking for SacRT. The ROS will evaluate existing service conditions as well as current travel patterns to determine service design improvements. The goal is to provide frequent service on bus routes that are traveling to destinations where people want to go. The changes could unleash the region's economic potential by connecting more transit services to more people traveling to jobs, educational institutions, and many major attractions all within a quarter-mile of our bus and light rail stops. Our number one priority is to significantly improve mobility and connectivity in the Sacramento region. The study should take approximately one year to complete.

Lastly, I invite you all to march with friends, family and members of the community at the 37th annual Capitol March for the Dream on Monday, January 15. Marchers will depart around 8:30 a.m. from City College to the Sacramento Convention Center where the Diversity Expo will take place. While you are there, make a point to stop by SacRT's booth and take a tour of SacRT's historic "Old Blue" bus. Special service buses will take marchers back to City College at no cost.

Now let's get to your questions.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Recently I read in an Email I received that the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Sacramento Regional Transit District received grant funding to collaboratively work together on a major Route Optimization Study. It appears that our bus routes will be changing for the better and that routes will be better designed to fit today’s travel patterns. How will the Council of Governments be involved with Regional Transit, and could you see the first round of major service changes taking shape from this two years from this month - New Years Day 2020 - or thereabout?

Reply:  I'm glad you heard about our Route Optimization. We're very excited to get to work. Our colleagues at SACOG have been terrific partners in helping identify grants and funding sources and we look forward to working with them more during the Route Optimization to utilize some of their technical expertise, particularly in travel demand modeling, demographics, data analysis, etc. SACOG also does a fantastic job facilitating a lot of our multi-agency efforts, where we collaborate with the other transit agencies in the region on planning, funding, interoperability of service and fares, etc. They will definitely be a big part of this project's success.

Sacramento, CA:  Am I remembering correctly that RT was going to replace the entire bus fleet last year? It seemed like there were going to be three waves of deployment but seems like it stopped in the middle of the second one. If the replacement program was halted, why? If so, what are the plans to ensure the bus fleet is functional and up-to-date?

Reply:  Actually, about half of SacRT's big bus fleet was up for replacement in the 2015/2016 time frame and those buses were replaced as planned. The next group of buses are not due for replacement until 2020. Our replacement schedule is based on a 12 year life for a full size, 40', bus.

Sacramento, CA:  The on-time performance of the 51 during commute hours has deteriorated over the last six months. There are often multiple buses in a row and then large gaps in service. This is easily visible on the bus tracker online. While I'm sure transit renewal is going to be amazing, that is well over a year from implementation. What is RT going to do to keep its customers by being on-time? Is there a role dispatch can play in looking at the bus tracker and working with drivers to get them back on schedule? I'm tired of complaining about this issue to customer advocacy for specific incidents and seeing zero changes/improvement.

Reply:  While the Route 51 can be a challenging route to drive, past experience has shown us that the running times tend to be adequate, and that reliability of the route depends mostly on driver training and daily supervision. We will have new drivers on all our routes starting Sunday, as part of our quarterly rotation (where the operators get to bid their work for the next 3-4 months). Driver rotations are always an important time to redouble our training and supervision efforts, and I will ask our Transportation department to pay particular attention to Route 51, both our road supervisors and our dispatchers in the office, who do make extensive use of the real-time tracker system to monitor the entire system.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the procedure for medical emergencies on light rail? If a passenger has one, will the train stop right away?

Reply:  There are emergency buttons on the trains that can be pushed to notify the train operator in case of an emergency. The operator will then stop at the next station. This is the safest places to deboard passengers and provides the easiest access for first responders. In addition, most trains also have Transit Agents who ride the trains and who can assist in an emergency.

Sacramento, CA:  Some ticket checkers scan my Connect card, and some do not. Why?

Reply:  They all should be scanning your connect card ideally. Sometimes it is hard for a fare checker to scan cards if it is a full train.

Sacramento, CA:  Hello Mr. Li, Is it possible for the green line to extend to CRC?

Reply:  The Blue Line currently serves Cosumnes River College. You can transfer from the Green Line at most downtown stations or at 13th Street.

folsom, CA:  Is there funding available to replace the light rail trains in the coming years?

Reply:  Replacement of our oldest light rail vehicles is SacRT's number one funding priority and we are actively applying for grants that are possible funding opportunities for the replacement of these vehicles. So far we have not been successful, but are aggressively pursuing all funding options.

South Sacramento, CA:  On the ROS, will there be any communication with stakeholders regarding recommendations? If so, when would it start?

Reply:  Yes, public involvement and outreach will be a major part of the ROS. The study will begin this month and is expected to continue for about 12 months. We will share updates as they occur.

Sacramento, CA:  Last month, it was announced in the local news media that the Discovery Museum located on Auburn Boulevard, along the frequently used Route 1, will soon be packing up and moving into new headquarters called “The Powerhouse Scoence Center” located on Jiboom Street between Richards Boulevard and J Street. From a transit standpoint, does this concern Regional Transit? “Concern” in a way and/or a manner that it is moving from a highly frequented route to a Street/Location that does not have bus service? The closest that I see on your system map is Route 15, but unfortunately, that route bypasses the new location because it uses Interstate Five between Richards and J, rather than Jiboom Street. Once the “Powerhouse Science Center” is fully open and operational, would it be out of the question to align Route 15 on Jiboom Street, and remove it from Interstate Five? Thank you.

Reply:  We are excited about the new Powershouse Science Center which will be a catalyst for development along the riverfront and in the Railyards. We may be able to adjust Route 15 or Route 11 to serve the new location. That's something we'll look at in our Route Optimization Thanks for the great suggestion!

Sacramento, CA:  Two unrelated questions: 1) How long before a changed vehicle license number shows up on a parking permit for the park and ride lots? Sometimes my car is in the shop so I'm suddenly parking a rental there. 2) Why does the Union Pacific crossing in the Power Inn Light Rail station keep dinging noisily, and why is it RT's problem to solve? Repairs don't seem to last very long, but the dinging carries quite far.

Reply:  1-Your license plate should be changed right away, if you log into your account and change or add a plate. The current plate list is downloaded just before enforcement is started. If you purchased in person at customer service and call or walk in to change the plate number, it will take 1-2 business days for the plate to be added. 2- Not sure what you are referring to with respect to the Power Inn Light Rail station. The crossing at Power Inn is grade separated but we will have it checked to see if there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Laguna, CA:  Are you optimistic about the potential for autonomous vehicles to offset the need for additional capital investments in transit?

Reply:  Autonomous vehicle technology is developing rapidly but still and emerging technology. We are not sure how it will impact transit. We are very interested in the development of autonomous transit vehicles and we are currently working on a project with CSUS and the City of Sacramento to provide an autonomous vehicle connection between CSUS and our 65th Street Light Rail Station. We also see autonomous vehicles as a viable solution to first/last mile trips in support of high capacity/high frequency transit lines. On the negative side, autonomous vehicles are not really a solution for traffic congestion. A significant expansion of autonomous vehicles in place of a robust transit system would likely increase congestion and individual travel times. Interesting times!

Closing Remarks:

Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, February 2, 2018.