Transit Talk with the General Manager

May 07, 2010
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be live at noon. We are accepting questions now through the end of the chat at 1 p.m.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

On Monday, May 3, RT launched "NextTrip" - a new automated bus schedule system - providing customers with an additional communication tool to quickly access schedule information using a touch-tone phone.

Call 321-BUSS (2877) and enter your bus route and four-digit stop identification number when prompted. Stop identification numbers are displayed at every RT bus stop throughout the system. An announcement of when the next three buses are scheduled to arrive will follow without needing to wait for the next available Customer Service Representative. In addition, the NextTrip system allows customers to check bus schedules for different times and dates.

RT also began selling $100 Basic monthly passes online at Most major credit and debit cards are accepted for online purchases, and orders usually ship first-class mail within one to two business days. Shipping and handling charges will apply.

NextTrip and online pass sales are the first of many passenger information and technology projects being developed to provide convenience and improve customer service.

Other projects scheduled to be completed this year include the expansion of RT's Transit Alert system to include light rail, the installation of electronic passenger information signs at a majority of the light rail stations, and the implementation of a "real-time" GPS tracking system for major bus routes.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT be participating in National Train Day at the California Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento on Saturday?

Reply:  We've helped promote the event and our light rail service is an easy walk to the Museum.

Sacramento, CA:  Have there been any updates on tax reciept projections? I've been hearing talk of a slight uptick in the area but don't really know if it's true.

Reply:  There are conflicting projections coming out of the agencies who manage and watch the receipts. It appears there has been some improvements. We are working with the Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA), the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) and Sacramento County to determine what the appropriate projects are for the year. Currently, SACOG is projecting a decrease of 14.4% for next year, while STA may be projecting sales tax to remain flat. We'll have a better idea by the end of June.

Sacramento, CA:  Did you see the article on RT safety in the Sacramento Bee? What's your take on the crime on the trains. It seems like the bee didn't believe people riding without tickets was the biggest problem.

Reply:  Crime on the RT system is minimal compared with crime in other public places. RT security staff are focused on providing a safe place for our patrons. All of our vehicles and stations are equipped with high resolution cameras; many of which are monitored in real time. All cameras are continuously recording and the recordings are used to catch criminals. Unlike in other public places, RT catches and prosecutes criminals using the RT video data systems. Often the public hears about crimes on our system, because we catch the criminals. We also report the number of crimes occurring each month in our monthly performance report, which you can find on our website. We will continue to work on providing the safest possible system by adding security systems and improvements. The Sacramento Bee is very focused on negative reporting and generally exaggerates. Crime on our system, including fare evasion is very low!

Sacramento, CA:  Will you ever sell discount monthly passes online?

Reply:  Yes. We are slowly implementing the online sales process. This month we began selling the Basic monthly pass online in addition to selling the monthly parking pass. Over the course of the next year we plan to fully implement online sales of all our fare media. This is a better way to provide convenience and customer support. Look for the smart card implementation beginning at the end of this year. This will allow riders to use a pre-paid fare card and add money to it online as needed. It should make it simpler for all of our riders to pay their fares. Customers will be able to do this on in via the telephone, at a sales outlet, or RT's Customer Service and Sales Center.

Sacramento, CA:  After conducting a thorough review of the service reductions that will be made in June, I'm not entirely convinced that any of them will get RT out of its long-term financial situation. I believe that while part of the problems RT is facing do stem from the present economy, some of the blame for this situation should go to RT itself. Had RT not budgeted so much money on expansions of the system that it knew it had no capability to fund, and instead concentrated on keeping the levels of its current service acceptable, the drastic actions that are about to be taken probably would not be necessary. I therefore pose the following: 1) How confident is RT that this "recovery plan" will indeed work, and allow RT to emerge from its economic woes with minimal damage? 2) What will happen if this plan does not produce the expected results? 3) Can you provide me with the best reason why I should continue supporting RT during its implementation of this plan?

Reply:  1. RT is confident that the recovery plan will work, because it is based on a worst case scenario of sales tax revenue growth over the next three years. In fact, the budget we have prepared eliminates our current deficit by June 30, 2011, and it provides for the accumulation of a reserve fund in future years. 2. If the current plan does not produce the expected results (it would take a completely unpredictable loss of sales tax revenue, we have assumed a reduction of 14.4% next fiscal year), RT will be forced to find cost reductions from administrative resources. 3. You should continue to support RT for a very simple and selfish reason, if you commute just 10 miles each way, RT is saving you over $2,000 per year in commuting costs. If you would otherwise park downtown, the cost saving is even greater.

Sacramento, CA:  Has anything happened on the Southline Phase 2 funding front? That’s the line I would like to see expand.

Reply:  The funding picture for the South Line Phase 2 (Blue Line to Cosumnes River College) project has been clouded due to the current economic environment and the resultant availability of State and Local funding. That funding picture has recently become more clear and we are currently solidifying a plan that we expect will advance the project in the near future. We expect to begin carrying passengers by December 31, 2014. Thank you for your interest in the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College, we agree that this project will be an important addition to our system.

Sacramento, CA:  A few board meetings ago Paratransit service efficiency was discussed. What is RT doing now to save money on this service while giving the users a quality, dependable service?

Reply:  RT has initiated a review with Paratransit, Inc., to look at how trips are scheduled and provided for paratransit services. Our goal is to reduce the cost of support activities, such as scheduling or eligibility determinations. In addition, we are looking at how trips can be combined, so that the number of trips provided each hour can increase. If we can provide more trips each hour at the same overall cost, it reduces the cost per trip.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the Green Line be up and running? This was a question in the announcement email I received.

Reply:  Phase 1 of the Green Line, which will extend service to 7th and Richards, is currently under construction with utility relocation work being performed on 7th Street. We expect construction to last through December 2010, with revenue operations beginning in January 2011.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there any way to turn down the volume of the beeping noise when the doors open on the new light rail cars? It's really loud in my opinion, especially when I'm standing by the doors.

Reply:  The volume requirements are set by the federal regulations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Periodically we measure the volume (decibel level) and adjust the individual volumes when they deviate.

Sacramento, CA:  What kind of construction is going on at a few of the light rail stations down at 13 and 16th streets? Seems like they’re just digging up the ground.

Reply:  I'm glad you noticed. We are remodeling both of these stations using federal grants to improve our passenger experience. You may also notice additional cameras and our new message signs being installed this summer at most of our light rail stations.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I want to take my family to the State Fair this year, but your bus service at night is going to end so early this year. Are you going to provide service later at night during the State Fair?

Reply:  Unfortunately, at a projected additional cost of $117,000, our budget does not allow us to operate this service unless another organization elects to pay for it.

Folsom, CA:  Haven't seen any Security personnel at Hazel, Iron Point, Glen or Sutter. Have they been pulled out?

Reply:  Our security guard service has been adjusted recently to reduce cost. However, guard service has not been eliminated at these stations. We are using all of our guard services more effectively.

Sacramento, CA:  Who do you see riding the Green Line when it opens. Not much is going on down at Richards and 7th street right now or will be in a year or so.

Reply:  Actually, there is quite a bit of activity planned for the 7th and Richards area. The Highway Patrol headquarters, with over 1,000 employees, relocated across the street to north 7th Street. The Greyhound terminal is relocating to 4th Street at Richards. And the Sacramento City Planning offices and some police services are at 300 Richards Boulevard. For the first time in over 23 years, since we started light rail service, the service will be in place prior to the intense development represented by Township 9. This will give us the opportunity to develop good travel behavior as the development takes shape. These activities will support some travel, and the use of the Green Line as a downtown circulator, starting at the 13th Street station, will provide more opportunities to attract riders.

Sacramento, CA:  Whatever happened to the layoffs of up to 300 people?Is this still taking place?I haven't seen a significant reduction in personal,especially at the administration level.

Reply:  The staff reductions are being processed in three phases. The first round of layoffs included approximately 60 employees and occurred last month. Most of these were from the management and administrative groups. The next group are primarily drivers and mechanics and will take place with the RT Board approved service reductions on June 20, 2010. The final group, composed of additional administrative employees, will occur by September, 2010. I expect that the final number of employee reductions will total approximately 200.

Sacramento, CA:  Why does my light rail ticket have an expiration date?

Reply:  RT first started issuing tickets and passes with expiration dates when the electronic fare vending machines were put in place at light rail stations. This allows RT to periodically review fares and make adjustments as necessary. The fare vending machines will not accept expired tickets. Passengers who currently have pre-paid tickets with a June 30, 2010 expiration date can exchange these tickets for new fare media from June 1 through August 31, 2010, at RT's Customer Service and Sales Center (located at 1225 R Street, adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station). RT staff will also conduct on-site ticket exchanges at light rail stations in downtown Sacramento. Locations and dates will be announced soon.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the new bus book be out with the service reductions planned for this June?

Reply:  The new bus and light rail timetable book and system map will be available for purchase in mid-June at RT's Customer Service and Sales Center (located at 1225 R Street, adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station). The timetable book and system map will be going to print soon and we'll announce the exact date soon. An electronic version of the timetable book is available online and will also be updated in June.

sacreamento, CA:  bus 9 and 10 are going to be cut ? we need those routes.. alot of people in this area rely on them ..

Reply:  Unfortunately, Routes 9 and 10 will be discontinued. I understand many people depend on these routes for transportation but the reductions in sales tax revenues have forced RT to make hard decisions to balance our budget. As an alternative, Routes 1 and 82 serve American River College at Orange Grove Avenue and College Oak Drive. For service to Mercy San Juan Hospital, Route 25 serves Coyle Avenue. For Service to Del Campo High School, Route 25 also serves Madison Avenue at Dewey Drive. Please call 321-BUSS if you would like help in planning a trip using the routes that will still be in service after the June reductions.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  What is up with the excessive trash at light rail stations and bu stops?does anybody take care of this?Who do I contact about this?It seems that nobody takes care of the system.

Reply:  Trash is picked up on a scheduled basis and when we are notified or discover a problem. The public can call 321-BUSS (2877) and either talk with the call center or the customer advocacy staff to identify the problem. Although we want to keep our stations and bus stops clean, this was one of the areas reduced during our recent staff reductions.

Sacramento, CA:  What were some of the issues discussed at the Green Line Open House yesterday at City Hall?

Reply:  There was a lot of discussion about when the Green Line would cross the river, with particular interest in how long it would take to get to the Airport. People seem to be getting impatient. Another popular subject was Township 9 itself. People are excited about the prospect of having a riverfront development, just across from the American River Parkway. The city's plans to re-create a city grid in the River District will enable a pedestrian and transit-friendly development pattern in that area. We also answered questions about the low-floor light rail cars. People were interested to see that our platform designs were intended to work for both our current light rail cars and any new, low-floor light rail or tram cars that we would acquire in the future for the Green Line.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation in the chat today. Join us for next month's session on Friday, June 4, from noon to 1 p.m.