Transit Talk with the General Manager

June 05, 2009
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Since the opening session of "Transit Talk with the General Manager" in October 2008, we have received nearly 28,000 hits to the online chat pages, including our live chat page and the archives. This is great news -- it shows a tremendous amount of interest in using this type of interactive communication as a way to receive information concerning RT.

Remember, the chat starts at noon but we accept questions beginning at 10 a.m. through the end of the session at 1 p.m.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for joining us for Transit Talk with the General Manager -- we have some serious issues to discuss this afternoon.

As you may know, RT will hold a public hearing to discuss proposed service changes on Monday, June 8. Faced with a grim outlook, the proposed service changes are the result of declining revenue sources due to the struggling state economy.

Declining local sales tax revenue and the elimination of State Transit Assistance funds by the state of California have left a $9 million hole in the projected Fiscal Year 2010 budget. RT staff and the RT Board of Directors are doing everything possible to contain and reduce operating costs to meet the continuing revenue shortfall challenges.

The proposed service changes may include reduction, realignment or discontinuation of the following bus routes: 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20, 24, 28, 34, 36, 37, 47, 54, 61, 62, 63, 65, 73, 74, 75, 82, 83, 94, 95, 106, 107, 140, 141, 142, 205, 249, 251 and 261.

Four scenarios for proposed service changes will be presented during the public hearing. Service changes are scheduled for adoption by the RT Board of Directors on Monday, June 22 and, if approved, would be implemented on Sunday, September 6.

Service changes comments may be submitted in writing to the Planning Department at P.O. Box 2110, Sacramento, CA 95812-2110 or by e-mail to and must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, June 8.

To view the staff report on the RT Web site, click on the "Public Hearing on Proposed Service Changes" icon on the home page.

At the June 8 RT Board meeting, RT staff will request approval to set a public hearing for June 22 to discuss fare increases. RT staff may propose increasing the cost of the Basic single fare from $2.25 to $2.50; Discount single fare from $1.10 to $1.25; Basic daily pass from $6 to $6.50; and Discount daily pass from $3 to $3.25. Options may also include eliminating the Lifetime Pass or increasing the age requirement. If approved by the RT Board of Directors on June 22, fare increases would be implemented on Tuesday, September 1, 2009.

Sacramento, CA:  Why are you planning to only raise the prices of individual tickets and not the monthly passes?

Reply:  Since our last fare increase in January 2009 we experienced a significant decline in sales of monthly passes and stickers and an increase in sales of prepaid tickets. With the implementation of employee furloughs, we have seen a shift to individual rides and daily passes. Consequently, we are proposing an increase in the cash fares and no increase in the monthly pass program. Our hope is that we will rebalance the relationship between the price of the cash fares and the price of the monthly passes.

Sacramento, CA:  Do you know what service cuts would be made in January, on top of the ones being looked at for September?

Reply:  We have only proposed a broad strategy at this point, but it would involve such possibilities as limiting bus and light rail service specific hours of the day such as 6:00 am to 8:00 pm; or eliminating all bus service on weekends; or eliminating all school trippers. The reason for such a broad brush approach is that in the current proposal (for September) we have proposed to cut the least productive route segments and times of day. There will remain no routes that could truly be called "low productivity" after September 1.

Sacramento, CA:  We had temperatures few days ago going into the 90s. The A/C was not working on some of RTs old Light rail cars. Does RT do routine maintenance on them prior to the begining of summer?

Reply:  The vehicles have daily checks each night as they come out of service. The inspections include AC systems. In addition, the vehicles have regular maintenance on a scheduled basis. There are additional reasons why the AC might not have been working. The system might not have been activated, the set points could have been wrong and it may have been broken. We make every attempt to keep the passengers comfortable on our trains and buses. It is very helpful, if you note a problem and report it to our Customer Advocacy Department (321-2877). Please include the vehicle number. We appreciate the extra help when patrons report problems.

Mcclellan, CA:  Recently one of your police officers gave us a class on how to ride RT safely. During the class he said that people on the light rail could not be kicked off if they break rules like taking up more than one seat, eating and leaving their trash and food on the seats, and playing loud music on their cell phones. If this is true why do you even have these rules if they can't be enforced?

Reply:  RT employees can legally remove passengers for violating rules such as the ones you have mentioned. Police officers assigned to RT can only enforce violations of the law. However, eating, leaving trash and playing loud music are violations of law as well as RT rules. Based on Senate Bill 1561, RT is preparing to implement a new procedure to deal with chronic violators of certain laws governing passenger behavior in RT stations or on RT vehicles. This will allow us to remove those repeat violators for extended periods of time, based on their level and type of misbehavior. We expect to implement this new program by mid to late August 2009.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I read the story in the Bee this morning and think you could save money by not building hills near your light rail stations. It would make it easier for kids with little legs to walk when you eliminate their bus on the weekend.

Reply:  Thanks for the bit of humor. We all need to recognize that times are very difficult for all of us. Here at RT, we are working hard to solve the fiscal situation and at the same time minimize the impact on our riders. Thanks again for the opportunity to laugh.

Sacramento, CA:  I just read an article in the paper today. How deep are the cuts going to go? We need reliable transit in Sacramento. I am a senior and I depend on RT to get around town.

Reply:  Our budget situation is dire, to say the least. The state of California is taking away funds that were promised and committed to RT for years, including our Proposition 42 funds and the transfers of sales tax revenues for our operating costs. On top of that, State and local sales tax revenues that come to RT are also down on account of the economy. Still, the service reductions we have proposed for September are intended to eliminate non-productive segments of routes or trips at low-performing times of day, while maintaining as much network connectivity as possible. With that said, we anticipate that if the Board adopts our service reduction proposal, it will reduce our hours of bus service by about seven (7) percent overall. That is equal to our last two service reductions (2007 and 2008) combined.

Sacramento, CA, CA:  Mr. Wiley, why can a customer not pay the standard fee at the end of the drivers shift to take the bus back to the garage on 28th and N? Thanks

Reply:  Actually our operating rule allows a patron to ride the bus back to the garage, as long as the patron has paid the proper fare. There may be an occasion when an individual operator does not follow this rule. If that occurs, please make sure to notify our Customer Advocacy Department so that we can remind that operator of the rule.

Sacramento, CA:  Due to current fare rates, this summer we as a family have decided to reduce the number of trips on RT because it would cost us $16.50 round trip for three people. I'm disappointed since there are never any special discounts as there used to be in the past (especially in the summer.) Is there anything going to be anything to relieve some of that hefty cost.

Reply:  I regret that we don't have any plans at the moment to provide "family" type discounts on transit. As you may have read, RT is in severe financial difficulties, and we have proposed our second fare increase in six months for action by our Board of Directors. However, we are also proceeding with the implementation of a Region-wide electronic fare system, which RT is designing on behalf of Sacramento and at least seven nearby transit agencies. With this new fare system, we should be able to institute time-of-day pricing, family discounts, or similar promotional fare events. Please let us recover from the current economic mess first, however...

Sacramento, CA:  I just wanted to suggest that for any future new or refurbished lightrail trains that plastic or a coated metal type seat be used.

Reply:  When procuring new vehicles, RT considers the seating material very carefully. Plastic and coated seats are less comfortable than fabric. But as you implied, plastic and coated metal seats are very durable. The comfort of our passengers is a high criteria, so we use fabrics that are easily maintained.

Sacramento, CA:  After 20 years of light rail service, there are still a lot of problems with buses connecting to light rail trains. However, recently there have been fines for people who have kept the doors for riders who are even slightly late. Why aren't the buses connecting better with the trains so these cases of barely making trains aren't happening?

Reply:  Your question gets at the heart of what we're trying to do with our TransitAction Plan (see Part of what we will do with that plan is reorganize our service (not overnight, but gradually) so that buses do connect better with light rail for seamless transfers. Now, of course, some routes suffer from traffic congestion and so arrive late at the light rail station. But in other cases, the schedule simply does not facilitate the timely arrival of buses for these transfers. Some of the infrastructure we're highlighting in our TransitAction Plan is signal priority for buses, which would allow them to leave an intersection ahead of cars, thus maintaining their ability to meet the trains on time and to keep their schedules better. Another technology we're planning to use is "next bus" announcement, which will also tell you whether your bus is arriving on-time for the next train. It won't fix the problem of being late, but it will provide you with real-time information. The ultimate solution, also included in our TransitAction Plan, is to run our buses much more frequently. So that if you miss a bus there will be another one along in just a few minutes.

Sacramento, CA:  With situation with RT losing funding left and right, why hasn't there been any push for more advertising on light rail cars (small ads inside and small banners on the sides of the cars) and advertising at the light rail stations themselves? Personally I wouldn't mind such ad placement as long as the ads aren't inappropriate.

Reply:  Great question. We solicited interest in advertising on the light rail vehicles and had no interest from vendors. In the stations, we recently awarded a contract to a vendor for advertising and soda machines. Both of these new services are going to generate revenue for RT. We are also working on some other new revenue generators that will be talked about in the near future. None of these fill our revenue gap caused by state funding reductions. They represent tens of thousands of dollars at best, and our state funding cuts have been in the tens of millions.

Sacramento, CA:  How did RT get in a $9 million hole in the next fiscal year?

Reply:  RT has withstood significant revenue losses over the last three years due to the state of California's raid of State Transportation Assistance (STA) (more than $70 million over the last five years) funds to backfill the General Fund in addition to reductions in regular revenues such as the Local Transportation Fund (LTF) and Measure A, due to declining sales tax receipts. The $9 million shortfall in FY 2010 is due to a combination of factors including the loss of STA revenue, reduced sales tax receipts, and lower than expected fare revenue.

Sacramento, CA:  How is route effectiveness measured currently? By number of riders per day?

Reply:  Route effectiveness is measured on several factors, including fare revenue and riders. The statistic we generally use is riders per revenue-hour, and percent farebox recovery. We take the average of the service type, such as Express, or Neighborhood Ride, and the routes that fall below 70 percent of that average are considered "low-performing." The same goes for fares, as a percentage of operating costs. Our current system average is that fares represent over 24 percent of the cost of operating a route.

CA:  Will there be a written summary of what happends at both meetings [6/8 & 6/22]?

Reply:  Yes, there will be not only a written record of the proceedings, they will also be videotaped and broadcast on Comcast Cable channel 14. The written record includes all spoken testimony as well as written materials provided to the Board, including reports from staff. All of these are made available through the RT Web site at

Sacramento, CA:  What is the current budget shortfall for the remainder of 2009?

Reply:  Based on ten months of actual revenues and expenditures, RT is currently projecting a shortfall of $8.6 million in revenues over expenditures that will be partially met with inflows of Federal stimulus dollars as well as emergency cost cutting measures such as furloughs, cut backs in employee benefits, and reductions in contract services.

Sacramento, CA:  When is the track modification between the Royal Oaks and Swanston stations going to be completed?

Reply:  Our schedule shows completion of the service related work by the end of August. The trains will begin to use the new tracks at that time. We will still have a bit of clean up and finish work that will run into the fall, but that shouldn't impact riders.

Arden Arcade, CA:  It cost RT money to provide parking spaces at their park-and-ride lots, but instead of charging for parking, RT is cutting service and raising fares. Will RT reconsider its position of subsidizing parking as opposed to subsidizing transit?

Reply:  The RT Board asked staff to return to them at the June 22, 2009 Board meeting with a proposal to begin a pilot parking fee program. This is an informational briefing for the Board to consider. In the past the Board was unwilling to begin a parking fee program. The RT Board will be weighing service cuts, fare increases and other revenue related items including parking fees as they move through the decisions necessary to balance RT's budget. These are very tough decisions and the RT Board will try to balance the decisions they make. Part of that process includes listening to our riders' views at our board meetings.

Sacramento, CA:  Does the Transit Master Plan have any provisions for increased security on the system?

Reply:  Yes, very much so. The pre-eminent issue identified by the public in comments to RT was increased security on the system. As a result, RT is planning a variety of initiatives, many of them to be implemented early, such as "i-Stops" and "i-Shelters", which provide Light Emitting Diodes (LED) for bus stop and shelter lighting on demand, signaling to bus drivers that someone is waiting at the stop, and increasing personal security. RT is also implementing new lighting standards at all light rail stations, to provide optimal visibility after dark. A Homeland Security grant is also providing funding to enhance station and vehicle cameras and monitoring. These are all in addition to the increased security personnel and K-9 patrols that have already been implemented.

Sacramento, CA:  How many police officers are patrolling the system at one time? I feel like I don't see them very often?

Reply:  There are 32 police officers and deputies assigned to RT. At any given time, there may be as many as 20 or as few as two actually working. Some of those officers are in plain clothes. It is important to remember, however, that police officers in every jurisdiction through which RT travels are primarily responsible for all RT-related calls.

Sacramento, CA:  I agree w/the person at McClellan about loud music and some operators do nothing about it [HS'lrs are the worst offenders]. I even asked some folks to please turn their music down.

Reply:  Thank you for your help. We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience on our system. Some passengers occasionally need a reminder of what constitutes acceptable behavior.

Sacramento, CA:  im a student at Sac City College. im used of already having my transit pass on my i.d card, but .Im attending the summer session & they said for students to purchase our transit stickers directly from regional transit for the summer only. what cost am i looking to pay for the month of june & july?

Reply:  I'm glad you asked. We have been trying to work with the various schools to implement either a year-round pass or a summer pass, but it has been slow going. This summer, the monthly pass will be $100 per month for standard fare.

Sacramento, CA:  Could you please make bus shelters no smokiing zones?

Reply:  Most bus shelters have been designated as non-smoking areas. They are posted with no smoking signs. The RT Board of Directors established this policy two years ago. Our enforcement is very limited, but the signs allow us an opportunity to ask smokers to please move or put out their cigarettes. If you have been at a stop that does not have the non-smoking signs, please call 321-2877 and indicate the location. For reference it is very helpful, if you have the bus stop number located on the rear of the bus stop sign.

Sacramento, CA:  Will the discount pass for college students remain [Sac States/Los Rios]? Or possibly in increase that they pay?

Reply:  The discount pass for college students at Sacramento State and Los Rios Community Colleges will remain in place as long as agreements exist with RT. The Los Rios Community College agreement will remain unchanged until 2012. RT and Sacramento State are currently completing negotiations for a three-year agreement to continue the discount pass for students through 2012. Students at Sacramento State recently voted to increase the amount of transit fees they will pay per semester by $7.50 to $15.00.

Sacramento, CA:  Hi Mike, What's RT's Light Rail policy on boarding wheelchairs? Twice in the last 3 days I was on the second part of the ramp when the operator closed the door & departed... Not the first time this has occured.. Thanks,

Reply:  We really want all of our passengers to be prepared to board the train when the train arrives at the station, It is possible that a train can arrive late and the operator is working hard to expedite the station stop to assist in getting the service back on time. Consequently, the operator could leave a station even though a passenger is on the ramp and not on the mini-high platform. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Sacramento, CA:  Can College Students qualify for the discount student stickers of $50?

Reply:  No. RT's Student discount monthly pass rate of $50 is limited to students under the age of 19 pursuing a high school diploma.

CA:  I'm concerned that I will not be able to make it to staff meetings once per month if routes 74 & 75 are cut. What are the chances 74,75 & 82 will be realigned? Will the "free" rides on spare the air be eliminated too due to budget?

Reply:  I would love to say that RT was actually providing "free" rides on spare the air days, but we are not. We actually applied for grant funds last year to provide for spare the air days but were turned down. In fact, the 74 and 75 are not planned to be cut on weekdays, and we are discussing options for realigning the 82. We will know more after the Board hearing on June 8.

Sacramento, CA:  Howdy Mlke, Re: Light Rail I use a powerchair to travel. I bought a LR ticket & was left on the access ramp, next train has no room for me. Approximately thirty minutes of my ticket time is gone before I even board a train.. What do we do? Appreciate the confab..

Reply:  Howdy! There is space for three wheelchairs in the front car of each train. On some occasions the train operator is able to accommodate four wheelchairs. Unfortunately, the buses and trains have limited capacity for wheelchairs. For most trips, two hours should be adequate to complete a one-way trip.

Roseville, CA:  There are some RT installed speed bumps at the Watt West Station to slow the traffic coming into the Roseville Rd Station However they are ignored by most of the drivers who speed on through this area which has pedestrians coming from and to the trains. Can RT make these speed bumps higher in order to slow traffic or perhaps put cameras in this area to alleviate this problem?

Reply:  Two years ago we added the stop signs and rumple strips in an effort to slow down drivers at the pedestrian crossings. We continue to monitor the location for driver behaviors. As you noted, some people ignore the stops signs. We considered speed bumps at time when we installed the rumple strips. Because of your question, we will take another look.

Sacramento, CA:  Where can I find the specific changes that will be made to routes 30 and 31. Some seniors I know can't seem to find them. They were hoping there would be no layover at Carlson and H Street and the bus would continue on to CSUS. That way they wouldn't have to wait or walk the rest of the way.

Reply:  The change to routes 30 and 31 will be reflected in the schedule that will be posted on our web site this Monday. The schedule has been adjusted to remove the layover at Carlson and H streets.

Sacramento, CA:  Drivers on route 72 have a 20-minute break as soon as they arrive at Watt/Manlove station every 1 1/2 hours. There seems to be a problem with this as they often park the bus 15-20 yards away from their stop even when they arrive late, which makes riders (including those who use the ramp/lift on the bus) scramble to cover the remaining distance to the light rail area (if on time the bus arrives a couple minutes before the trains arrive. This has been a problem for only a couple years, can anything be done about it?

Reply:  I will ask our Transportation Department to take a look at this situation. Operators should be stopping for the convenience of our customers.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the determining factor or factors for terminating a particular bus route?

Reply:  The RT Board has adopted a standard for routes that do not achieve 70 percent of their group average in passengers per hour or farebox recovery. That means, for example, that an express route achieving 60 percent of all express routes' passengers per hour would be a candidate for termination. However, this is not the only factor considered, as such a route may also be improved by realignment, changing service hours, or some other means. Once these service improvements have been implemented, however, if the performance has not improved staff will likely recommend elimination of the route.

Sacramento, CA:  Hmm I haven't noticed the signs designated "non smoking". I will make an effort to look & report back. Is there an email to use or do we have to call? [have dial up so emailing is easier & faster.. 'I and others have asked smokers not to light up under the sheltered area / under tree w/shade....Thx

Reply:  Contact by e-mail is, or

Natomas, CA:  What about Transit Hub in Natomas, Elk Grove, Rancho with frequent service?

Reply:  These are great suggestions. During our TransitAction Plan development, RT heard a lot about better locations for transit hubs, transfer facilities, and better amenities. All of these will be examined in our implementation of the TransitAction Plan. Our first step will be to use a Caltrans Planning Grant to study services in Natomas, Arden-Arcade, and Rancho Cordova as part of our TransitAction Plan implementation.

Granite Bay, CA:  Mike I take light rail from Old Folsom to downtown. Why is it that light rail users are not allowed to use the parking structure at the station? There is a six hour limit for parking. Before the structure was built riders could park at the parking lot. My family and I used light rail every day and eat dinner in Old Folsom at least three times a week. I would think that free parking at the structure would help the local businesses get more riders' money.

Reply:  Folsom changed their policy aeveral months ago. The parking garage is open on the top floor for RT riders.

Sacramento, CA:  The LiteRail station at 65th street has two ticket stations and covers/benches on the inbound train side of the tracks and nothing on the outbound side. While it would be great to have covers and benches for convenience the ticket station being only on one side is a safety issue. I often see students, bus riders and SMUD personnel racing to get their ticket validated while the train is coming since they cannot do it on the outbound side. Can this be fixed soon?

Reply:  Adding fare vending machines at light rail stations throughout the system is a priority as capital funds become available. Passengers need to use caution when a train is arriving, and it is important to remember that trains approach the station from each direction.

Sacramento, CA:  Hola: Are there there any Fed "clean air" vehicle "stimulus" grants that RT can apply for since most buses use CNG gasoline?

Reply:  There is a Federal grant program called "TIGGER" that could be used for "clean air" buses, but since RT uses CNG (not gasoline) buses, which are even cleaner than the 2010 clean air standards, RT has chosen to pursue a grant for solar panels on our McClellan Bus Maintenance facility. Also, RT has a relatively new fleet at this point, so is not in position to acquire many new vehicles for some years yet.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation today. I encourage you to submit your service changes comments or attend the public hearing on Monday, June 8.