Transit Talk with the General Manager

May 05, 2023
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Welcome to the May 2023 edition of the Transit Talk Online Chat!

As May rolls in this week, I want to personally thank everyone who took part in the kickoff of our anniversary celebration in April. It was just 50 years ago in 1973 that the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) began operation, taking over for the City owned Sacramento Transit Authority. It's a rich history of service, innovation and perseverance, all of it amid growth booms, major recessions and even a pandemic. In short, a heck of a ride, and one we're extremely proud of.

Fifty years of hard work and dedication deserves to be celebrated by reflecting on all accomplishments and looking forward to all that's to come. But please know that it could not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of our nearly 5,200+ employees over these past five decades.

To honor our history and, most importantly, to?say "thank you" to all of you who we serve, we held pop-up events at light rail stations and transit centers throughout the month handing out commemorative swag and treats, and gave away over 50 Connect Cards to those that had a chance to play SacRT transit Trivia. However, the fun does not end there, we plan to continue celebrating our 50th anniversary throughout the year and plan to hold larger community events in the coming months to celebrate our Light Rail Modernization Project and showcase our new low-floor light rail trains.

In fact, the new trains are now undergoing rigorous testing in preparation for the public to ride them, which is expected to be in the summer of 2024. Although you may see them out on the tracks over the next year, please know that they are only on the track as part of the testing process. Here is an explanation of the phased testing:

Phase 1: Static Testing: This part of the testing involves a series of evaluations that check the function of every system on board, for example the computer programming; signals; lighting; electrical connections; and communications. Phase 2: Dynamic Testing: This part of the testing takes place out on the track, where staff assesses the braking and propulsion. Phase 3: Burn-in Testing: This part of the testing involves putting the new low-floor vehicles through 1,000 miles of on-the-track operation. This gives staff an opportunity to address any issues before the vehicle is placed in service. The reason for all these tests is to make sure the new low-floor light rail vehicles are safe and reliable before passengers get on board. Learn more about the project at

As we progress our Light Rail Modernization Project and other strategic initiatives over the next few years, we will need to continue hiring for a variety of positions. SacRT offers an extremely generous and competitive benefits package for medical, dental, paid sick leave, retirement, and even tuition reimbursement. Visit for more information.

In closing, I hope that you will take a moment to watch the SacRT Celebrates 50 Years of Service video message to the public by clicking this link, and remember to visit for a historic look back at our major milestones over the years.

Now let's get to your questions!

Sacramento, CA:  What are the planned SacRT June 2023 service adjustments?

Reply:  We do not have any planned service adjustments scheduled for June. The last service adjustments to effect April 2, 2023, to provide better connections and service to routes 72 and 86. SacRT's next service adjustment will be in September 2023.

Sacramento, CA:  Any plans to expand SMART Bus service to downtown to points east of Sac State including Howe/Fair Oaks?

Reply:  SacRT's SmaRT Ride operations are funded through a grant from the Sacramento Transportation Authority. At this point in time, we do not have additional funding to expand any of the zones.

Elk Grove , CA:  Hello Mr. Li: When will e-Tran and Regional Transit have the same fare prices?

Reply:  As you know, SacRT began operating the e-tran service in 2021, following an annexation agreement with the City of Elk Grove. As part of the agreement, SacRT committed to limited changes for a period of time, but we will strive to have consistent fares in the future.

Natomas, CA:  Yesterday, I was perusing the board agenda for Monday and came across the item that talks about Routes 68, 13, and 11. It is on the consent calendar. If that item is approved, when are we riders likely to see the service adjustments that the item was discussing, and what are the service adjustments that SacRT would look implement to implement? Would you be able to explain, here in the chat, the individual route adjustments for each of the three routes the agenda item focuses its discussion on? Thank you.

Reply:  Your question refers to agenda item 2.10, which nominates projects for LCTOP grant funding, including improvements to Routes 11, 13 and 68. In 2019, the SacRT Forward project aimed to redesign the bus network and improve spans of service and frequency on many bus routes, including Routes 11, 13, and 68. These routes were improved from having 60-minute headways, to having 30-minute headways, Monday through Friday, and they were improved to operate seven days a week, rather than weekdays only (Route 11 did not run on Sundays, and Route 13 did not run on the weekends at all, prior to SacRT Forward). Allocating LCTOP funds to these projects will continue to support the improvements that were made in 2019.

Sacramento , CA:  Hello, Will the lightrail be adding an additional cart to the gold lines? Especially for early morning commute during week days. Pre-covid there were three carts and now there are only two carts. With state workers coming back into the office, the lightrail is more crowded.

Reply:  Thank you for your question and for riding our system. We continue to monitor ridership on our light rail lines. With recent steady growth in ridership, we plan to add a third car to our heaviest am and pm peak hour trips. We are closely monitoring our ridership levels and will continue making adjustments to train lengths, as necessary.

Sacramento , CA:  Mr. Li: Why are train operators blowing the horn excessively at 35th St. and R St.

Reply:  A few months ago, a big-rig truck made an illegal turn and knocked down the overhead cantilever at Stockton and 34th Streets. We are working to expedite the repairs and have coordinated with the City of Sacramento on street improvements to prevent additional illegal turns. Until the cantilever can be reinstalled, SacRT is required by the Public Utilities Commission to blow the horn as the train crosses this intersection.

Folsom, CA:  What timeframe is planned for construction of the passing and double track in and around the stations within Folsom City limits? Another rider told me that the estimate timeframe was September 3, 2023 to April 6, 2024 with weather permitting. Does this information appear mostly to completely accurate, or do you have more accurate information than what I was provided by another rider that lives in Folsom, but works in Sacramento? I appreciate the ability to check-in here to obtain the most accurate information possible, especially with a sensitive project like this one in our city and community.

Reply:  Thank you for the question and we are excited to add an additional passing track that will enable 15-minute service frequency to Folsom area stations. As part of the project, the light rail system from Iron Point Station through Historic Folsom Station will be shut down for the major construction. During the shut down, bus bridges (shuttle buses) will be in place to provide service to Glenn/Robert G. Holderness Station and Historic Folsom Station. We anticipate that construction from the middle of September 2023 through April 2024, depending on weather. We will be sharing more information on our website at as we get closer to this project starting.

CA:  What is the full occupancy capacity of the old light rail car setup (4-cars) vs. the incoming fleet (I'm hearing the stations will only support 3-cars). Is there going to be a reduced overall maximum capacity? And if yes, how does SacRT plan to navigate high occupancy loads such as employers ending telework and high-demand downtown events with Sacramento region population growth. Thanks

Reply:  Our CAF fleet, which only operates as a 3-car train, carry a maximum load of approximately 240 passengers per car for a total of 720 passengers. Therefore, there will be a an approximate 5% loss of passenger capacity, as this fleet is replaced with the new S700 fleet. SacRT is considering a number of options to increase train capacity to meet ridership demands, as more employees return to the office. One of the options under consideration is to add extra trains during AM and PM peak hour service. In order to provide adequate service for high-demand downtown events, SacRT returned to providing longer trains and additional service trains to and from light rail stations servicing the downtown events, and will continue to do so, based on event attendance and expected ridership.

Sacramento, CA:  Late last month, local television outlets broke the news about Sacramento County Airport System and Department of Transportation breaking ground on the long anticipated Elkhorn Boulevard extension project. From what I saw, the project, once completed, will extend Elkhorn Boulevard to Airport Boulevard on the Sacramento International Airport property. Will SacRT have any involvement after project completion to extend an existing bus route or create a new bus route that would serve the airport, metro air business park, along with the population growth happening in the Natomas community? As both an airport employee and traveler that prefers Sacramento versus Bay Area airports, I would definitely take advantage of riding such a route, if one were to be created and existed after the road project is completed.

Reply:  Thank you for the question and we value our partnership with the Sacramento County Airport System. In SacRT’s Short Range Transit Plan, there are plans for additional service connections to the Airport. To implement these planned expansions of services, SacRT’s is seeking additional stable operating funding. SacRT continues to coordinate with our partner agencies and seek ways to improve our relationships and service. SacRT has also been involved in introductory conversations about partnering with Sacramento International Airport to increase service frequency to the Airport during construction of their parking facilities, taking place in late 2023-2025. Furthermore, SacRT is attempting to identify temporary parking areas, adjacent to the airport, that our services can serve as a "park & ride" lot.

Citrus heights, CA:  So, I’ve been keeping track of the buses on the app and noticed the special wrapped 50th anniversary bus, number 2229, was not always in service during days in April in some bus routes. Instead they were normal non 50th anniversary wrap buses. Why was that?

Reply:  Unfortunately the 50th Anniversary Bus had a maintenance issue and is in the shop, the good news is it is a new bus and under warranty and we hope to have it back soon!

Sacramento , CA:  Hello, last month I asked about the bus stop icons in Google Maps showing up as light rail stations. A month later, and it's still not fixed. Are there any updates on this?

Reply:  Our IT Team has reached out to Google to assist, we are waiting on their end, but we are following up to get this issue resolved.

Sacramento , CA:  I would like to know how bus drivers and light rail fare inspectors are communicated to regarding free ride flyers by RT management. Most times when I board with a free ride flyers I have to explain what it is. Shouldn't have to do that.

Reply:  Thank you for riding and taking advantage of our free ride opportunities to connect with community events. Bus Drivers and Fare Inspectors are notified of any free ride flyers through the departments daily bulletin. In that bulletin is a detailed description of the flyer along with the flyer itself.

East sacramento, CA:  How come most of the smart ride vehicles were just sitting in the yard off of 29th and N? Can’t they be all utilized to meet the demand of smart ride when it’s busy? There were several instances where I could not book a ride for two hours because the app told me it was too busy.

Reply:  We only have a specific number of vehicles and drivers used for each of the zones for SmaRT Ride. The additional vehicles siting in the yard are electric with range issues or are not needed for the daily service based on the service hours and number of vehicles budgeted for service.

North Highlands, CA:  Happy Cinco de Mayo Henry and SacRT Team. Would you please be able to discuss a bit about the Watt/I-80 Station project? I want to learn more about the project timeline (breaking ground to estimated project completion) along with the AT&T utility relocation, planned service disruptions during the construction project, and any night and weekend outreach activities the community and the riders can get involved while the project is ongoing? Thank you for looking into this.

Reply:  Improvements to the Watt/I-80 Transit Center include strategies to improve visibility, natural surveillance by redesigning the stairwell structures to be more open and accessible, add lighting, constructing a new plaza area, and investing in site maintenance. It also includes improvements to Watt Avenue and bus stop plazas to enhance pedestrian, bicycle, and drop-off access, upgrades to the existing operator restroom and breakroom, a new east stairwell, removal of old stairwells, additional lighting, and bus signage. The construction contract will be executed by December 2023 with two years for construction. AT&T relocation is in the design, and will require minor modifications and is not expected to impact this project. Bus and Light Rail service is not expected to be disrupted during construction and bus stops will be temporarily relocated during bus plaza construction. Once a construction contract is in place, we will have a better idea of construction sequencing and possible disruptions.

Sacramento, CA:  What happens to all the train sets that are parked in the maintenance facility ? Do they just end up being scrapped or can SacRT repurpose or sell them ?

Reply:  Many of our legacy fleet vehicles are eligible for decommissioning, due to approaching the end of their useful life. Those eligible vehicles will be disposed of through the agency’s procurement process, which requires that they be placed for sale.

Antelope, CA:  So, are the new light rail vehicles only doing the dynamics testing at night?

Reply:  Correct, at this time, we have one train that is doing dynamic testing with more going through the static testing phase.

Sacramento, CA:  Please forgive me if this question has already been asked, but I was wondering if there is a way to check in advance whether the bike racks on a bus are full or not. I would like to use the bus frequently with my bike, since my nearest bus stop is quite far on foot. However, if I ride my bike to a bus stop only to find that the bike racks are full, I must wait for the next bus, which could take another 30 minutes to an hour. Furthermore, I cannot be sure if the bike racks on the next bus will be empty or not. This has made it challenging for me to use the bus, and I would greatly appreciate any advice or suggestions you may have. Thank you for your time.

Reply:  Thank you for riding and using your bicycle to connect to our service. We current do not have a system for tracking bike rack usage. We are looking into technology to track how many bikes were transported and for how long.

CA:  How did the district make a determination of which light rail line will receive the new light rail cars? I'm curious if this was approached with DEI and equity in mind as the blue line is historically significantly more diverse and serves a much larger and underprivileged community than say the Gold Line to Folsom.

Reply:  The first funding we were able to receive for the Light Rail Modernization project, which includes the new trains, station conversions and adding a passing track to provide 15-minute service to Folsom area stations was from the Solutions for Congested Corridor grant program. It was specific to alleviating traffic off of US 50. The light rail vehicles per the grant, are required to be used on the Gold Line. With the new FTA funding which was just announced today, we will be able to purchase eight new low-floor trains for Blue Line use and we having been applying for funding to convert Blue Line station platforms.

Closing Remarks:
Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will take place on Friday, June 2, 2023.