Transit Talk with the General Manager

December 04, 2009
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be live today from noon to 1 p.m. Don't forget we begin taking questions at 10 a.m. through the end of the session. Log on early to make sure your question is answered.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

It’s the last chat session before the new year and it has definitely been an interesting and challenging one for RT. Tight budgets brought on by declining sales tax revenue and the complete elimination of State Transit Assistance funds forced us to make some tough decisions, most notably the fare and service changes implemented in September.

RT worked hard to streamline operations, identify additional revenue sources and keep expansion projects on schedule in the face of these challenging times. I’m proud of all our employees and riders for doing so much over the past 12 months to keep RT running smoothly, and for making transit in the Sacramento region a viable option for travel.

Some of the 2009 highlights include:

  • Adoption of the TransitAction Plan, the 25-year Transit Master Plan that will shape the future of transit in the Sacramento region through 2035.

  • In June of 2009, RT achieved a record level of annual ridership, having served more than 34 million passengers from June 2008 to June 2009.

  • The launch of the Rancho CordoVan, a new shuttle serving the Rancho Cordova area during peak commute times.

  • RT establishing the first Season of Civil Rights to build awareness about the significance that transit played in the American Civil Rights Movement.

  • The implementation of the Transit Alert notification system for Community Bus Services that allows Neighborhood Ride passengers to receive an e-mail or text message notification when their bus is delayed.

  • The launch of the new exclusion policy that gives RT authority to ban riders who repeatedly violate transit laws. Remember “You Must Abide to Ride.”
  • RT took its first foray into social networking by launching a Facebook page. Become a Facebook fan of RT by searching for "Sacramento Regional Transit District" at

  • The groundbreaking of the Green Line to the River District, the first phase of the Downtown Natomas Airport light rail extension, which will extend light rail 1.1 miles north to Richards Boulevard and 7th Street by January 2011.

Thank you to everyone for all your support in 2009 and I’m looking forward to reaching more positive milestones in 2010. Let's start the chat.

Sacramento, CA:  Do you know why the ice rink was moved this year away from the light rail and now there is a carnival near the area?

Reply:  Due to conflicts in construction schedules with the K Street Streetscape project and renovation of St. Rose of Lima Park, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP) is taking one year off from producing the ice rink at St. Rose of Lima Park. The DSP plans to resume the holiday tradition in 2010.

Sacramento, CA:  I applaud your opening the Green Line from the Courthouse to Richards Blvd., but in terms of ridership I don’t see a big increase their for a few years until they build up Richards Blvd and extend Light Rail into Natomas.. Have you considered extending the Amtrack Line into the middle of the Railyards for a Station, and then to Old Sacramento and a Station in close proximity to the Railroad museum close to bike trail in Old Sacramento. The Railyards are the Downtown Sacramento of tomorrow, and it would seem that future Merchants and the Developer of the Railyards would chip in to have the Light Rail go there, and second the ridership for Railyards and Old Sacramento would increase ten fold, especially during Events in Old Sacramento, and workers downtown using the Light Rail to go to Railyards for shopping and lunch. Plus great marketing of go from Old Sacramento to Historic Folsom on same train.

Reply:  That's a really great idea. It has been discussed in passing, but I think we have focused on completing one project at a time. It is certainly possible that rail service could be extended some day into Old Sacramento, but it would require coordination between Amtrak, Union Pacific Railroad, Caltrans, and other players. It is a dialogue that RT would have little voice in. There is a plan to provide a streetcar connection between the Railyards and Old Sacramento, but not much planning has been completed on that as yet. As the Railyards is developed, an additional light rail station will be constructed along the Green Line just north of the existing Union Pacific underpass.

Folsom, CA:  Any update on when we might expect EXPRESS service to/from Folsom to begin?

Reply:  Depending on the availability of funds, we're hoping to initiate limited stop service to Folsom in Fiscal Year 2011 - that is, after July 1 of 2010. We're in the process of upgrading the signal system to make this possible. The design for this work is nearing completion and we should be in construction in the spring of 2010.

Sacramento, CA:  When a Light Rail train pulls into a Station obviously a rider without a ticket can see an Inspector on the Platform, and will leave the Train as soon as the Inspector gets on. Have you thought of putting Inspectors/Police outside each train exit door to check tickets of departing riders? That way an Inspector(s) could get on train and check for tickets and if an unticketed rider tries to get off they would also be inspected. I believe the rules are that you must have your ticket with you upon boarding or exiting.

Reply:  We periodically do fare blitzes. During a fare blitz, we have inspectors and police officers at every door. They check everyone disembarking, everyone on the train, and everyone at the station. This form of fare enforcement is very helpful and effective in encouraging all of our patrons to pay a proper fare.

Sacramento, CA:  I know you used to allow advertising inside and outside buses/Light Rail, have you ever considered allowing advertising by Merchants on the bus(es)/Light Rail trains that go by their establishment. For instance the Bus 30 goes down J Street so Merchants along that Route could advertise on Bus 30. Or Light Rail goes to Folsom and Merchants on that Line could put advertisements on the Light Rail to Folsom. It would generate revenue for RT, and also target a focus group that are in the vicinity of businesses that they may not go to simply because they are unaware they are there.

Reply:  RT has contracted with Clear Channel Outdoor to sell interior and exterior bus advertisements. Buses are assigned to a different route each day, which would make it difficult to coordinate route-specific advertising. There was some interest in light rail vehicle advertising last year, but it would have only generated minimal revenue. We are exploring audio advertising on vehicles that could announce commercials when the vehicles (bus or light rail train) enter the geographic proximity of an advertising subscriber business. We continue to seek revenue-generating opportunities.

Sacramento, CA:  I read in the Sacramento Bee today that the Kings are wondering why fans are not coming to games, and it occured to me that there are buses that go to Truxell in the vicinity of Arco Arena, but not in front of it. Have you considered having a Neighborhood Shuttle go down Arena Blvd.? There are a lot of new Apartment buildings in the last few years. Have you also considered trying to work out some kind of agreement with Arco to allow buses to go right into the parking lot and let people off close to the front entrance. This would be a boon for RT as more people would ride the buses to offest paying parking at Arco, and also if the Shuttle goes to the front door it's more convieniant time wise. The Shuttle idea could also be used for other areas that don't currently have a bus route to increase ridership at a lower and less risky alternative to adding a full bus route.

Reply:  Your suggestions are very well taken. If we had the resources right now, we could consider providing the service you propose. We are currently working on developing a service improvement plan for all of North Natomas as this area is high on our priority list for service expansion when additional funding becomes available. We are currently updating our plans for the Green Line to the Airport light rail extension, which will pass "by the front door" of Arco Arena in the future, hopefully by 2014. Also, we are looking at bus services that would support the light rail along Truxel, and that could justifiably include neighborhood shuttles to provide better neighborhood connectivity as well.

Sacramento, CA:  How does RT enforce parking in their lots to ensure that RT riders alone are parking there? I went to Power Inn Light Rail the other day and the Lot was full, but noticed that their were people parking their to go to one of the Courts, Child Support, or a State Franchise building to avoid paying for parking at those buildings. There was a sign up saying parking is for RT customers only, but I don't see how you could monitor who is or isn't parking there unless you have an Attendant, and actually see them park and not use RT but walk someplace.

Reply:  Our security guards enforce the policy. They inform people at the Power Inn Station that they are not allowed to park at the station if they are going to the court house. With the recent state budget cuts, though, RT has less guard coverage. In January, RT is implementing a citation program that the RT board approved. This program allows RT Staff to issue citations for parking violations.

Sacramento, CA:  I’m interested in the video surveillance cameras RT uses on the system. What stations have the cameras, and what type of criminals have they helped prosecute/convict? Are there cameras on the trains themselves?

Reply:  All light rail stations, light rail vehicles, and buses are equipped with surveillance cameras. Video from our surveillance system has assisted in identifying and convicting suspects in a variety of crimes. However, the greatest value from our cameras comes from their ability to discourage and prevent crime on the transit system.

Sacramento, CA:  I often take the Watt I-80 Light Rail and notice between Swanson & Marconi in the Light Rail yard are smaller white Light Rail trains. Are these going to be used on the new Green Line?

Reply:  The cars you noticed are the former Valley Transit Authority (VTA) cars from Santa Clara County. These cars are in need of refurbishing and some upgrades. We received Federal Economic Stimulus funds to complete this work. We will be starting these upgrades this spring. Once complete, these vehicles will not be able to couple with our existing vehicles. Consequently, we will most likely utilize them for our planned limited stop express service. We plan on operating this type of service on all three of our existing corridors. When we extend the Green Line further north beyond Township 9, we will need to acquire additional vehicles. We hope to purchase sleek modern low-floor trams for this service.

Sacramento, CA:  How often are the light rail cars cleaned? Are the seats ever vacuumed?

Reply:  They are cleaned every night. The interior is vacuumed and scrubbed. The exterior is also cleaned nightly. The rail cars are also serviced and inspected for safety related service items.

Sacramento, CA:  Will buses ever be equipped with GPS devices to help RT to be able to provide real time location updates?

Reply:  The buses are all equipped with GPS devices. The GPS device provides the connection used to instigate the automatic announcements you hear on our vehicle. The problem for us is that the buses do not have a electronic connection with our dispatch systems. We are testing a cell phone based digital connection on a limited number of buses. The test will run through the next 12 months. In the meantime, we have requested grant funding to outfit the fleet with these connections. Our Community Bus fleet and light rail fleet are already live with real time GPS. We are testing the features that allow us to update this information to Google Maps and for real-time passenger information. You should see this available soon if you turn on the transit layer in Google Maps.

Sacramento, CA:  Why did RT chose only three light rail stations in the north area for the park-pay-and-ride pilot program? Why not one station in each area of the city? I feel RT is discriminating against passengers who live in the north area and it's not fair passengers living in other areas ride for free for the next 4-6 months.

Reply:  The Regional Transit Board of Directors discussed this issue over an eight month period. One of the options discussed extensively was charging for parking at all of our light rail stations. We also discussed starting a pilot program at locations other than the ones selected. After discussing the impact on communities and our lack of experience in charging for parking, the Board of Directors chose to implement the pilot program that will start on January 1, 2010. The three stations from Roseville Road to Watt/I-80 had the unique feature of having the freeways surrounding the stations. The impacts on surrounding neighborhoods are minimal. This makes them ideal for a pilot to determine the impact of charging. Our decision to choose the three stations adjacent to one another made implementation and management of the pilot much easier. It was not our goal to punish or single out a segment of our riders.

Sacramento, CA:  Has there been a decision whether or not to close the 7th and Capitol station? When will the new Rose of Lima Station open?

Reply:  There are currently no plans to close the 7th and Capitol Station when the St. Rose of Lima Park light rail station at 7th and K streets is moved to 7th Street (south of K Street). The City of Sacramento plans to complete the new station later this month.

Sacramento, CA:  Can you explain the park-pay-and-ride program? I want to make sure I know what needs to be done if I am going to use the affected stations.

Reply:  Due to the loss of State Transit Assistance funds and a decrease in local sales tax revenue, RT will impose a $1 per day parking fee at the Watt/I-80, Watt/I-80 West and Roseville Road light rail stations as part of its pilot Park-Pay-and-Ride program effective Friday, January 1, 2010. Parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can pay for your parking either by cash, credit card or debit card. Exact change is required if you are paying by cash. You do not need to return to your car after paying your parking fee. You may also pay by mobile phone. Monthly parking passes are available for purchase online at; RT's Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street (adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station); Bel Air markets located at 1039 Sunrise Avenue (Roseville), 4005 Manzanita Avenue (Carmichael) and 7901 Walerga Road (Antelope); or by calling 916-321-2849. Monthly passes will go on sale beginning Thursday, December 10, 2009.

Sacramento, CA:  Has the expansion project to extend light rail south to Consumnes River College secured its funding?

Reply:  That is actually a complicated question, but I will try to simplify the answer. From the perspective of the local funding, yes we have secured the funding. However, we also need the Federal funding - specifically, Federal New Starts Program funding - to start construction on the project. We are in the process of documenting our financial and operational capacity for the Federal Transit Administration, so they can award us the authority to enter Final Design. That step will begin the process for us to finally secure the federal portion of our funding. A negotiation process lasting several months will follow, culminating in what is called a "Full Funding Grant Agreement." That agreement basically lays out the schedule under which the federal government will provide its share of the project cost. We are hopeful that the negotiations will be complete in the summer of 2010.

Sacramento, CA:  The soda machine at Watt Manlove gave me the wrong soda last week. Are these maintained by RT or the service company? I don't want this to happen to someone else.

Reply:  Thank you for buying a soda. Coca-Cola maintains the machines. There is a phone number on each machine for service problems. We will forward your complaint to the vendor and ask that they pay particular attention to this. RT receives a share of every sale, so we appreciate everyone buying sodas from the vending machines. Thank you.

Sacramento, CA:  Will you ever bring back transfers?

Reply:  There are currently no plans to reinstate transfers The next major fare change will be the implementation of the Connect Card, a universal fare card that is proposed to be usable on all local transit systems. This card will allow us to consider a number of fare options.

Sacramento, CA:  Do you have set times when you start going from 4 Light Rail trains to 2 trains in the afternoon? Around 6:00 P.M. everyday there are usually a 2 light rail train going to Watt I-80 and both of them are standing room only everyday. Sometimes there are 4 combined trains and when they get to Marconi they disconnect 2 connecting light Rail trains and go forward with only 2 connected light rail trains.

Reply:  The first two car train leaving downtown to Watt/I-80 departs the St. Rose of Lima Park Station (ninth and K street) at 5:59 p.m. Every train after that is a two car train headed in that direction. The Marconi Station is near our light rail maintenance facility and is one of the locations utilized to make these adjustments to the train consists.

Sacramento, CA:  When are you planning on telling folks in Natomas that you're going to put light rail tracks right down their main street (Truxel)?

Reply:  That's a really good question. We have consistently maintained that the Truxel Road alignment is our selected alignment. The Truxel Road alignment was first approved by the City of Sacramento in the South Natomas Community Plan in 1994. As part of our current outreach process on the Green Line to the Airport, we are preparing for a public design charrette in April of 2010. That is a multi-day, many people/many meetings kind of event where people come together to find out what is being planned and how they can influence how it will work and how it will look. To prepare for this event, we will be holding multiple meetings with people and businesses in South and North Natomas. This will include a preparation meeting on December 10, from 5:30 to 7:30, at the Sheraton Grand (you're welcome to attend!). The process will also involve one-on-one meetings with business and civic leaders in Natomas, and an open house in late January.

Sacramento, CA:  What percentage of people do you think will stop using the lot, or riding the train all together due to these parking fees?

Reply:  We expect a small deflection in the 10 to 15 percent range. Our history, with fares, has shown that within a month or two the ridership returns. The RT Board authorized a pilot parking program to allow us to find out what the impact will be on ridership and parking lot use. The pilot parking program begins on the 1st of January in the three park and ride lots (Watt/I-80, Watt West, and Roseville Road Light Rail Stations). In July, we will be reporting to the RT Board on our experience with this pilot program. As a reminder, patrons can purchase a monthly parking pass for $15/month or pay the daily rate of $1.

Sacramento, CA:  Have their been any developments with the state regarding the STA which were found to have been illegally diverted over the past two years?

Reply:  There has been no formal agreement outlining the terms on how transit agencies will be repaid for the raid on STA (State Transit Assistance) funds. However, RT is involved with the CTA (California Transit Association), which is working on the terms and conditions for future payments. I am personally serving on the sub-committee of CTA that is negotiating the resolution of this issue. RT is anticipating that repayment could begin as soon as July 1, 2010.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Special note: Due to the New Year's Day holiday falling on the first Friday of the month, the January chat session will be pushed back to the second Friday of the month to January 8, 2010. I look forward to hearing from you then.

Sacramento, CA:  If the 7th & Capitol Station is going to remain operational; it could use a facelift. Sidewalk and bench area still has not been cleaned and the yellow warning strip is peeling.

Reply:  The station is pressure washed twice a week, late at night. It is cleaned daily during operating hours. I've dispatched a station maintenance employee to check the station and clean it, based upon your comment. Many of our stations are getting older and are in need of face lifts. We've prioritized this work and have completed a couple of station remodeling projects with more planned. Over the next year, we plan to complete face lifts on 13th Street, 16th Street, 12th & I Street and 29th Street Light Rail Stations. We've also been working with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to reconfigure and enhance the University/65th Street Station.