Transit Talk with the General Manager

May 04, 2018
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:

Welcome to the May 2018 Edition of Transit Talk with the GM!

I am very pleased to announce that SacRT recently received wonderful news regarding funding. SacRT will be the recipient of two state grants worth over $84 million! The two state grant awards will help to purchase 20 new low-floor light rail vehicles to replace others that are more than 30 years old. The state grant funding will also be used to modify several light rail stations to accommodate the low-floor style of the new light rail vehicles, which are easier to navigate for people with disabilities as well as for those with bicycles, strollers and luggage.

This funding also paves the way for double tracking on the Gold Line between the Sunrise and Historic Folsom light rail stations, which will allow increased frequency of light rail service to and from Folsom. The single tracking that is currently in place restricts light rail trains to 30 minute service frequencies, but double tracking will allow for 15 minute service. The project also calls for signal improvements. The grant award requires SacRT to implement three express trips between Folsom and downtown Sacramento during peak commute hours in an effort to decrease commute times on the Gold Line. We anticipate the double tracking project will be complete by 2021.

In other Folsom service related breaking news, beginning on Sunday, June 17, SacRT will expand light rail service hours to and from Folsom stations until 11:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9:30 p.m. on Sundays. Currently, Folsom service ends at about 7 p.m. Light rail trains will continue to serve Folsom stations every 30 minutes until the double tracking project is complete in 2021.

Last month I mentioned SacRT Forward, which is a 15-month long process to redesign SacRT's transit system with an objective to improve mobility, connectivity and ridership. The SacRT Forward plan will rethink the purpose and design of SacRT's entire transit network, including a "blank slate" look at how to position transit competitively in today's diverse communities. The ultimate goal is to provide service to destinations where people want to go.

We hope to hear from you. If you haven't participated in one of the SacRT Forward "pop up" workshops or gone online for the virtual workshop, there is still time. Visit for a list of "pop up" workshop times and locations or to take part in the virtual workshop. You can also find a list of workshops in SacRT's passenger newsletter Next Stop News.

Lastly, I'd like to remind everyone that SacRT is seeking public comment on SacRT's Fiscal Year 2019 Operating and Capital Budget. A public hearing will be held at the regularly scheduled board meeting on Monday, May 14, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. in the SacRT auditorium. The SacRT Board of Directors will consider adopting the proposed budget during its regular meeting on Monday, June 11, 2018. To review the preliminary budget, visit or call 916-556-0449 to request a printed copy.

Now let's get to your questions.

Sacramento, CA:  Sacramento Airport recently released numbers showing they have reached record high passenger traffic - new flights to Vancouver, Cabo, New Orleans, Orlando, St. Louis, Boston, etc. and I have even heard rumors about upcoming nonstop flights to Europe. Obviously, the light rail connection is still a ways off - any chance of getting RT bus service to SMF to complement the Yolobus service to increase frequency and connectivity?

Reply:  We certainly understand the need and agree with your assessment that as passenger traffic increases at the airport, the lack of transit service to the airport becomes a more significant problem. This is true for both the customers of the airport and the employees that work there. We are constantly looking for ways to fund this service and actually have an application for funding under consideration at the present time. We will continue pursuing funding for this service and hope to be able to make this happen in the future. As a general comment, transit funding is very limited and tends to be granted to us for very specific projects. We really need an increase in flexible local funding to be able to fund some of the more general transit needs within our service area without having to apply for funding on a project specific basis.

Sacramento, CA:  A few months back there was a comment on here about adding verbal announcements on light rail regarding bus transfer stations, connection to other transit providers or even to relevant points of interest. Has there been any progress on making that happen?

Reply:  No, it is still on our list but we haven't reprogrammed the announcements yet. The system that we use on the trains for making the automated on board announcements is very old and antiquated While it should be a simple matter to add messages, it is actually very involved. We are working on it but it will take a while longer.

Folsom, CA:  Good Morning/Afternoon: I do have some clarification questions regarding the Father’s Day (June 17th) start of expanded span of service hours on the Gold Line to Folsom. 1). What time will the last eastbound train depart from Sacramento Valley Station, and will it be at a different time on weekdays versus weekends/holidays? 2.) What time will the last westbound Gold Line train depart Historic Folsom Station, and will it be at a different time on weekdays versus weekends/holidays? 3.) Will weekend “mornings” be addressed with the June 17th changes on the Gold Line? Currently, depending on whether it is a Saturday or a Sunday, “morning” trains beginning at Sacramento Valley Station do not always go to Historic Folsom. They end at Sunrise and turn back towards Sacramento Valley Station. Will the weekend/holiday “morning” Gold Line trains, starting on June 17th always travel to and from Historic Folsom? If they will, then great. Mission accomplished!! If not, could you explain why some weekend “morning” trains will continue to go to/from Sunrise, and not Folsom? It seems to make sense from a “consistency” basis, if you agree with this logic, to operate all Gold Line trains to/from Folsom. People love consistency. Thank you.

Reply:  Thanks for the question. I'm glad you're excited about the new Folsom service, which will take effect on Sunday, June 17th. 1. The departure times of the last eastbound trains from Sac Valley won't change. They will still be 10:49 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and 8:49 p.m. on Sundays and Holidays. 2. The last westbound departures from Folsom will be at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and 9:30 p.m. on Sundays and Holidays. 3. There won't be any changes to morning Folsom service at this time.

Sacramento, CA:  What other areas of the Sacramento region are being considered for the new microtransit program? Glad to hear (and not too surprised) that it has been successful so far.

Reply:  SacRT successfully launched phase 2 of the SmaRT Ride on-demand microtransit on April 23rd, expanding to include Antelope and Orangevale and increasing the service hours from 7am-7pm to 6am-9pm. We have plans to implement ten additional microtransit service areas in the near future. We plan to roll out these services quarterly with the next SmaRT rides being launched along the Franklin Boulevard historic business district this summer and the downtown core in the fall.

Sacramento, CA:  RT gives out a lot of "freebies" to people attending events at Golden 1 Center. I understand that it is a nice way to introduce a lot of folks who might never use public transit otherwise to RT, but are there any plans to offer any similar incentive to any other events/event venues? There are other areas where people might consider taking transit to avoid traffic/parking if it was presented as an option in conjunction with publications about local events (such as SN&R, Sacramento365, SacMag and Downtown Grid).

Reply:  RT tries to offer its free ride days and events to different groups throughout the community. For example we recently offered free rides for Museum Day, MLK day, the Women's March, Running for Rhett, small business Saturday and Capital Beer Fest among others. We will also be offering free shuttle rides from the parking lot to the First Festival in Natomas this weekend. Please follow our social media feeds for future updates on free ride days and events.

Sacramento, CA:  Why is it some bus drivers have the passengers swipe their single ride, daily or monthly fare and some don't? Where's the consistency and what does swiping do for RT that manual entries don't?

Reply:  The rule is that any pre-paid paper fare media is swiped through the magnetic stripe reader on the fare box. There are primarily two reasons for doing this. First, it is a way to make sure that the paper media is valid and not counterfeit We do have a problem with counterfeit fare media. Secondly, swiping the media is a more reliable way to register use then having the operator push a button. Operators do a great job in registering fare, but there is still a chance for mistake compared to simply swiping the card through the reader.

Sacramento, CA:  Good Afternoon: I have a question on receiving alerts on my mobile device. It seems like alerts are rail related. Has RT ever had any alerts on the bus side, other than predetermined route detours because of special events? For example, has there ever been a non-RT related major accident along the regular route alignment of a bus route that would cause an undetermined detour to be put into place? I don’t receive those kind of alerts. Will RT please make its best effort possible to put alerts into place like the example I have given in this post? Thank you.

Reply:  We have a Security Operations Center (SOC) that is staffed 24/7. They monitor video system wide for Sac RT as well as dispatch police officers and transit agents to calls for service. The SOC send all Alert Sac RT notification out, in conjunction with the Sac RT employees who deliver train and bus service. Sac RT Bus also has a notification system to alert customers. We have a number of tools for our bus riders as well. If you ride the same bus every day, you can subscribe to automated notices about its arrival time by going to our RT Tracker page and creating an account. RT Tracker - Create Account If you're catching a random bus, you can also get real-time info on its arrival time in a couple ways: RT Tracker - Real-Time Map Mobile Site - RT Tracker - Real-Time Arrivals Unplanned outages on the bus system are also posted online: Bus service cancellations (desktop): Bus service cancellations (mobile):

Sacramento, CA:  I was reading through the route-by-route analysis that the firm responsible for assisting RT with the ROS prepared that you posted on the website, with particular interest in routes 2, 6, and 62, as they are close to where I live. All three of these routes suffer from similar issues of lack of frequency, lack of connectivity and the fact that large portions of the routes pass through wealthier and/or spread-out neighborhoods (Land Park/Pocket). Has RT thought about making these routes into loops rather than nearly straight lines using Broadway/Sutterville/Fruitridge to connect them?

Reply:  We've looked a lot at these three routes. You're right that there is not a tremendous amount of off-peak demand on Routes 2 and 6. Route 62 tends to be a higher-ridership route and illustrates the value of a route having a diversity of destinations on it. It is heavily used in the northbound direction in the morning to take workers into Downtown, students to McClatchy HS, and even a lot of students to Sac State via a transfer to Route 30. As the day progresses, Sac City College ends up being a big source of ridership, which importantly helps fill capacity that would otherwise be unused in reverse-commute directions and times. These have long been radial routes, meaning that they are primarily oriented toward taking riders directly into and out of downtown. To go east/west from these neighborhoods, riders have to take a connecting bus. We have looked at having these routes be L-shaped, so they go from Downtown Sacramento, south through Land Park, etc., then east to light rail. That's one possibility. We generally try to avoid loops. The problem with loops is they tend to be slow and indirect. Speed and directness really matters, both for cost containment, and for attracting riders.

Sacramento, CA:  Will Bus 11 ever be extended for use on Sunday/Holidays?

Reply:  SacRT is in the middle of a route optimization effort to reimagine our bus network, SacRT Forward. Recommendations on the new bus redesign should be released sometime by the end of the year. That report will help guide our decision regarding bus service and frequency. At the current moment, there are not plans to extend bus 11 for Sunday/Holiday use, but SacRT Forward will certainly examine the worthiness of that proposal.

Sacramento , CA:  Hello Mr. Li, What is the status of the construction at 65th street which would require the movement of the bus stops?

Reply:  SacRT has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with a developer for the property. Plans for the site call for a construction of transit oriented student housing. Before the development moves forward, infrastructure work will be done to relocated the bus transfers to 67th Street. A stoplight at 67th and Folsom will be installed. There currently is not a timeline for construction but we hope the work begins very soon.

Rio Linda, CA:  Last month, in Transit Talk, you talked about airport bus service. With the recent announcements of Frontier making a return to SMF, and Southwest recently announcing Sacramento and three other California airports that will provide nonstop service to the Hawaiian Islands, among other things, will RT be able to serve the airport soon, especially in gearing up for the busy holiday travel season, later this year? I sure could use something better than the hourly bus service that exists today on another transit service.

Reply:  SacRT understands the value of serving the airport and is doing everything we can to identify funding sources to provide new service. The airport is experiencing tremendous success and is an important gateway to the region. We have been talking with Airport leadership about additional service and hope to be able to find a solution that improves the existing service.

Sacramento , CA:  When will light rail have these new low floor trains in service?

Reply:  We are at least two years away from having new cars in service. The manufacturing time for a light rail vehicle once an order is placed is about two years. To speed things up we are trying to include our vehicles on another transit systems bid. This will reduce the lead time before an order can be placed with a manufacturer The good news is that we have been notified that we will be receiving funding for about 13 new vehicles. Of course this is just a small part of our overall need, but it is a good beginning.

CARMICHAEL, CA:  First,living just barely outside its service area,are there any further plans in the works for the Northeast SmaRTRide after its recent expansion?Second,was a 2008-model bus(not set to be retired for a few more years)parked at the light rail yard yesterday for maintenance or photo op purposes?Third,it would be more accurate if productivity standards were actually revised downward(15 BPH for weekday service,10 BPH for weekend/neighborhood shuttle routes);the aborted 2016 changes would have been rather draconian and would have impacted too many routes.

Reply:  We actually have plans to add SmaRT Ride service in Carmichael. It's a part of our service area where we've struggled to provide fixed-route service that attracts a lot of riders and meets the needs of residents, and we think it might be a great fit for SmaRT Ride! We are hoping to fund this with grant money from the Sacramento Transportation Authority and expect to hear about that in the coming months. At the moment, however, we don't have any specific plans to expand the Citrus Heights/Orangevale/Antelope SmaRT Ride. Our productivity standards are something we have been discussing with our consultants as part of our SacRT Forward project. Please note, however, that productivity standards are just one indicator we use to benchmark our system. When we do service changes, there are a lot of other factors we look at!

Folsom , CA:  Does the train really need to come to Folsom so late?

Reply:  SacRT is committed to providing excellent service to our riders, and we feel that this new late night service to Folsom will do just that. This will open up opportunities for improved mobility for the region. While the current travel patterns to and from Folsom may work for 8 to 5 commuters, late night service will make transit available to those who work in the hospitality industry, or other non-traditional work schedules. It will also allow riders to use transit as an option for dining, shopping and entertainment into the evening hours. We look forward to celebrating this new service with our riders in the near future!

Sacramento, CA:  What is the status of switching from “scheduled” time arrivals on the rail side of things to “real time” arrivals? I like the tracker you have already had in place with the bus side of things.

Reply:  Barring any unforeseen circumstances we should have this available late this summer.

Closing Remarks:

Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, June 1, 2018.