Transit Talk with the General Manager

September 03, 2010
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. We are accepting questions now through the end of the chat. Thank you for joining us, as I know many of you are getting an early start on the holiday weekend.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

In the opening remarks of the August edition of Transit Talk with the General Manager, I outlined the temporary closure of the 12th and I light rail station for upgrades to the boarding platform and other amenities.

I'm happy to report that we are on schedule to re-open the station on Tuesday, September 7. Thank you for your patience during the closure. Please be aware that minor construction work will continue through late September.

As growth in the economy continues to stall in 2010, RT is constantly searching for revenue generating opportunities to help offset weak tax receipts affecting the operating budget.

Effective Friday, October 1, 2010, RT will expand the Park-Pay-and-Ride program and will impose a $1 per day parking fee at the Meadowview, Florin and Power Inn light rail station park-and-ride lots.

Parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You may pay each day either by cash (exact change is required), credit card or debit card. You may also pay by mobile phone by calling 1-888-450-PARK (7275) for an additional 35-cent service charge.

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); or at key sales outlets.

RT staff will be available at the three new park-pay-and-ride lots to demonstrate the parking payment kiosks, answer questions and sell monthly parking passes on the following dates in September and October:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Meadowview Light Rail Station

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Florin Light Rail Station

Thursday, September 23, 2010 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Power Inn Light Rail Station

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 Thursday, September 30, 2010 Friday, October 1, 2010 Monday, October 2, 2010

6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Meadowview, Florin and Power Inn light rail stations

For more information about the Park-Pay-and-Ride program, visit Let's begin today's question and answer session.

Auburn, CA:  Arer there any plans for a Light Rail expansion in the direction of Roseville, Rocklin, or Auburn or possibly a commuter/epress route to those cities?

Reply:  RT's long range plans include an extension of the light rail system to Roseville. This extension is scheduled for implementation in 2020. In the late 90s, RT was in discussions with Placer County and the City of Roseville in an effort to generate interest in moving forward with this extension. The elected officials in those communities, at that time, were not interested in assisting in funding this extension. The communities in South Sacramento, Folsom and Natomas have moved forward in partnership with RT to provide light rail service to those communities. We look forward to a day when Roseville and Western Placer County want a light rail extension to those communities.

Sacramento, CA:  The 12th and I light rail station will be open for Tuesday morning service correct?

Reply:  Yes. The final construction feature (hand rails on the mini-high platform) is being installed today. Although construction will be complete, the new metal benches don't arrive until mid-September. They will be installed as soon as they arrive. The improvements should be nice for riders using this station. The awnings, mini-high platform and lighting will be nice improvements for our riders.

South Sacramento, CA:  I've heard that you going through a full review of the routes after the service cuts? Is this true? If so, what routes--and areas--are you planning to review for possible restoration of service? And do you have a possible timetable for this?

Reply:  You heard correctly. Yes, RT is in the process of selecting a consulting firm to do a Comprehensive Operational Analysis. It will examine all existing routes, but more importantly it will look at all geographic areas, to determine where new routes may be needed. The idea is to look at the current service, where service is needed, and determine how best to improve the level of service for the Sacramento area. The timetable for the COA is from now until September of 2011, so that we can begin implementing some low-cost service improvements in January of 2012, assuming that our funding improves.

folsom, CA:  What happened to the maintenance crew that maintains the landscaping at the light rail stations. Glenn Station specifically is a mess!!!

Reply:  With the recent budget cuts, our maintenance crews have been reduced. We will continue to maintain the stations, however at lower frequency than in the past, and our primary focus remains on providing transit service. We hope to restore the level of maintenance as our funding levels return to normal levels. Maintenance and cleaning will continue at a reduced level for the remainder of this fiscal year.

Sacramento, CA:  Why does it take so little time to discontinue a route and takes 2-3 years to get one back?

Reply:  The issue of restoring service is tied directly to RT's financial status. We reduced service this past June to balance our budget in the current fiscal year, which runs through June 2011. Due to a very poor economy we do not expect to have revenues grow to the point where we can add service until fiscal year 2013. If we see some improvement in the economy we could start our service restoration sooner.

sacramento, CA:  Hello Mike, concerning the older buses that have the two protruding aluminum bar handles on the interior of the rear exit doors: why do those rear doors sometimes close on people while they are still in the process of exiting? Twice in my 4.5-year history of riding RT daily, I have been exiting behind a mom with toddler. That rear door starts closing and I have reached out barely in time to stop the thing from further closing on the toddler. This happened most recently about 2 weeks ago, while exiting from Line 86 downtown. I can't imagine that the driver is triggering the door to close prematurely. Is it some sort of auto-close feature or triggered by a sensor? At the most recent incident, even though I stopped the door from further closing, the toddler got all scared and started screaming at the top of its lungs.....not a fun way to start a workday. Thanks, D. Von Aspern

Reply:  David, great to hear from you. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. The doors on these buses have an auto-close timer as well as a driver override I'm not sure if we can extend the time that the door is open. We will look into it and see what we can change. Thanks again.

Sacramento, CA:  I was informed that RT will be operating Light Rail until 11 p.m doing the Folsom Live concert. Does RT pay for the extra hours or the City of Folsom?

Reply:  RT has a partnership with all of the jurisdictions that we serve. Our partnership with the City of Folsom includes supporting Folsom Live. In exchange for promoting RT's light rail service, RT provides extended hours of service at a very minimal cost. This additional service is very productive, with many new riders experiencing light rail service for the first time. Consequently, it is a very good promotional opportunity for RT as well.

Sacramento, CA:  Why do my children have to show id's even when they are with me when other teens don't. These teens do not seem to ride a lot, which is noticed by their questions before boarding. And even without passes, they still pay the discount fare?

Reply:  Operators ask passengers for proof of the discount fare if they determine that it is necessary. Operators need to check in some cases, because passengers may appear to be older or younger than they actually are.

Power Inn/Gerber, CA:  Dear Sir: the bus service to my area is very minimal. The reduction of service to Route 5 and the elimination of Route 4 has crippled and distressed me and many others like me. When these two service changes were made, they was no change made to Route 55 that would assist in mitigating the impact to the riders of the area. Would you please consider making changes before the winter to help us out. We are struggling, our normal commute prior to the service change was 10 hours now it has been extended to 11 1/2. Please help us.

Reply:  Thank you for that question. RT has received several questions about the Route 4 and Route 5, and we are examining how to improve the service. Unfortunately, the changes could not be implemented prior to next fiscal year due to a lack of funding. The difficulty is that we reduced the service levels across the entire system in June to reduce costs, in order to balance our budget.

Sacramento, CA:  What does light rail cost per mile to construct these days?

Reply:  It's around $65 million per mile. This of course is a rounded number with urban costs, such as in downtown Sacramento, at a higher cost and suburban costs being lower.

Sacramento, CA:  What is up with drivers and their "breaks?" So many of the drivers wait until 1 minute till departure or scheduled departure to even open up the buses to passengers. Then, they either take off FAST and passengers are not seated or they take their time getting settled and we end up leaving late.

Reply:  I think you are referring to the "rest and meal breaks". State law requires RT to provide rest and meal breaks for all bus operators. While the operators are on break, the buses are not available to board. The schedules are set to provide the rest and meal breaks and to allow sufficient time for passengers to board. It isn't clear from your comment whether this is the problem you noted. Please call 557-4545 and provide the details of the location and route where this is occurring With that information, we can look into the specifics of the problem you noted.

Sacramento, CA:  I have been a rider on RT for over 10 years. I bought several tickets back in March. I did not know there would be an expiration date on the tickets. I tried to exchange my tickets at the Customer Service Center and was told that I was 1 day too late. I would like to exchange my 30 one-way tickets for new ones. RT is not losing any money, I am however out $75.00 for the tickets I purchased in good faith from your company. What can I do to exchange these tickets?

Reply:  RT staff at the Customer Service and Sales Center are following RT policy. The exchange period for tickets with a June 30, 2010 expiration date was from June 1, 2010 through August 31, 2010. Expiration dates on tickets have been in place since RT transitioned to new fare vending machines in 2003. With the future implementation of the "Smart Card," there will no longer be a need for the pre-paid ticket program.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there any possibility at all of the Light Rail ever running again past 9:00 pm? It makes a lot more difficult to enjoy the Second Staurday and other midtown/downtown events. Would it be possible to atleast have limited service after 9?

Reply:  Actually, we are already planning how to restore service after 9:00 p.m. RT has drafted a recovery plan that projects our ability to fully restore the level of service we recently cut beginning in Fiscal Year 2013. However, the recovery plan depends on continued recovery in sales tax revenues. RT will not be sure of how well sales tax revenues are increasing for some months yet.

Sacramento, CA:  How long can drivers wait for the trains? I have been on buses and trains and have seen the buses leave at exactly the scheduled time, even though the train has not arrived.

Reply:  Bus operators are instructed to wait up to three minutes for connections. However, when we have a train running late we also communicate with connecting buses and ask them to hold a bit longer to allow the late train to arrive. If you have a specific problem with a bus route, please call 557-4545 and let our Customer Advocacy staff know the specifics. That will allow us to follow up to correct the behavior of the bus operator.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I have been a rider on RT for over 4 years and take the line from downtown to Zinfandel and back at least 3 times a week. I bought several tickets back in April but had a shift change at work and was unable to ride your wonderful commuter service. I had no idea that there would be an expiration date on the tickets. I finally was able to get my shift changed and tried my ticket on Tuesday, it didn’t work and that's when I realized there was an expiration date. I thought, no problem I'll just stop by and exchange when I get a chance. (No notices were posted on trains or line of limits). I took my tickets to exchange at your 16th street location and was told that there would be no exchange. Your agent said that I had 3 months since the expiration to turn them in, (only 2 if expired 6/30). I was not rude to the agent but she must have had many situations like this because she was quite rude to me without me even voicing any response. I would like to exchange my 26 one-way tickets for current tickets. You are not losing any money because I have already purchased tickets for service but could not use the line. I am however out $65.00 for those services I purchased in good faith from your organization. In these tough economic times I can't imagine that you would not honor paid for fares with a loyal customer. What can I do to exchange these tickets?

Reply:  As I noted in an earlier response, RT staff at the Customer Service and Sales Center are following RT policy. I apologize that the RT employee did not provide you with excellent customer service. RT began to promote the ticket exchange program in May 2010 and actually started the program on June 1. Ticket exchange information has been communicated to customers through signage on buses and trains, signage at light rail stations and key transfer locations, postings on the RT website, articles in the Next Stop News passenger newsletter, and announcements on Facebook. All of this information was displayed through September 1.

Rocklin, CA:  I heard rumors about electronic signs at light rail stations that will tell us when trains will arrive and also tell us about service problems. Is this true?

Reply:  Yes it is true. The RT board recently awarded a contract for LED message signs for light rail stations. The new message signs will begin being installed this fall. They will provide real-time, next train information, service disruption information, RT service information and advertising.

Rocklin, CA:  Is RT planning more layoffs?

Reply:  Not at this time.

Sacramento, CA:  I still do not understand why teenagers are getting on with discount fares when they don't show passes. I thought that in order to prove that they are students and get the discount fare, they had to have an RT ID. A school ID didn't even work for my children and one was only 12.

Reply:  Students are eligible to purchase single fares and daily passes with their valid school ID. If you are having problems with one of our operators not accepting your child's student ID, please call 557-4545.

Power Inn/Gerber, CA:  I recently submitted a question to which you replied. I indicated that my area is crippled with the service changes you made and you said that changes could not be considered until the new fiscal year. Okay-but another question came in about the lite rail running after 9 and the riders inability to attend 2nd Sat, you stated that you are already planning a change. The changes I am requesting to my area are to get us to and from work, hospital or other needed services, not entertainment. Why the disparaging treatment. Our request for changes are a necessity, not a matter of convenience.

Reply:  We are not proposing any service improvements, bus or rail, at this time. We are not capable of adding service until our financial situation improves, which we are currently projecting in Fiscal Year 2013. Our Comprehensive Operational Analysis, which will include extensive public participation, will establish our priorities for service recovery. Please make sure that you participate in that process and make us fully aware of your service needs.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT be providing bus shuttle service from the Matherfield light rail station to the airshow event this year?

Reply:  No, the California Capital Airshow Board has elected to not provide a transit option to this year's event. RT will continue to operate light rail service on a regular weekend schedule on Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12, but Airshow organizers will not provide shuttle service from the Mather Field/Mills light rail station to the event. Hopefully, the Airshow organizers will recognize the need for transit service to this regional event, and we can provide a transit connection next year. Due to Airshow traffic and detours, RT will not be able to operate service on Route 75.

Rocklin, CA:  When will the new Green Line extension be opening and what kind of ridership is expected?

Reply:  Great question! Unfortunately, it won't go all the way out to Rocklin. However, the first segment of the Green Line, out to Township 9, will open in late January of 2011. Because of its proximity to the new Highway Patrol headquarters, City offices on 3rd Street, and the Greyhound bus station that will open in two years on 4th Street, ridership is likely to exceed 2,000 passengers per day. With the development of Township 9 and other redevelopment of the River District, ridership will continue to grow.

Sacramento, CA:  Just wanted to thank you for installing bells at the Watt/Manlove Lightrail station, to announce incoming trains. For several months after the overpass was installed there were no sounds and the trains just "suddenly" appeared. I feel much safer now!

Reply:  Thanks for the positive comment.

Sacramento, CA:  are there any more lots being planned for the Park Pay and Ride program?

Reply:  We will expand the Park-Pay-and-Ride program to the park-and-ride lots at Meadowview, Florin and Power Inn light rail stations beginning on October 1. In addition, the program will be expanded to Swanston, Marconi, 47th Ave. and Arden/Del Paso stations later this Fiscal Year. Our marketing team has started the outreach process to prepare the public for this implementation.

Sacramento, CA:  I ride frequently, but not regularly. Is there ever going to be any kind of discount for me? I read that students can get discounts, even if they do not ride regularly. But what about those of us who are always paying full fare ( and I have for 25 years.)

Reply:  With the future implementation of the smart card, RT staff plans to re-evaluate the current fare structure and determine what improvements can be made. There could be discussion about distance-based fares and other options that will benefit passengers. It's also important to remember that the fare revenue we collect covers approximately 30 percent of our operating cost. Consequently, all of our riders are subsidized to some extent. Thank you for riding RT and your continued support throughout the years.

Sacramento, CA:  How many "rest and meal" breaks do drivers get? The drivers on the 72 route get one every 45 minutes and still most do not open the bus until the last minute and take off when passengers are still standing. Shouldn't we be able to get on once the temperature hits 90 or below 55?

Reply:  Please contact Customer Service at 557-4545. It doesn't sound like what you are seeing is the results of rest and meal breaks. Customer Service will look into the cause of the problem you noted. Thanks.

Sacramento, CA:  Has RT ever thought about losing the honor system on the light rail? Checking for passes ever so often cannot possibly demonstrate the loss of money because of free riders.

Reply:  We have explored moving to a gated system. Many of the stations would be impossible to convert to gated stations because of the design and locations of the stations. Stations located in streets and on sidewalks would be very difficult and expensive to convert. On the point of "checking passes every so often," the rate of fare checking is close to 12 plus percent on a regular basis. This level of fare checking shows that our fare evasion rate is less than 2 percent. Additionally, every new light rail system that has been implemented in North America since 1978 has implemented the same honor system. RT is in the process of developing an electronic fare card system - one that can operate in an "open" system such as the light rail. This will help to reduce the fare evasion that exists today. I expect the new electronic fare cards to be in use in 2012.


Reply:  Joey, Thank you for your very kind comments about our operators. Yes, we will be looking very closely at expanding our Neighborhood Ride service to all areas of Sacramento, including Carmichael.

Sacramento, CA:  Is the Park-Pay-Ride program limited to park and ride lots within the City of Sacramento limits only? It appears that this is where the program is heading and seems unfair.

Reply:  Staff is working with Sacramento County, and the cities of Folsom and Rancho Cordova to evaluate implementing the program in those jurisdictions. We expect to provide a report to the RT Board of Directors regarding this possible expansion by the end of 2010.

Sacramento, CA:  Will there ever be more trains in the morning so that the people in Folsom and Sunrise will not be the only ones seated? Ever since the lines were extended, it is hard to get a seat for the handicapped. Most people do not look up and when I ask, I get dirty looks.

Reply:  We are planning to add limited-stop-express trains serving the Gold Line in Fiscal Year 2012. This should increase our capacity. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we cannot force customers to relinquish their seats. All our operators can do is make the request. If you experience an operator not making the request, please call 557-4545.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation in today's session of Transit Talk with the General Manager. Next month's session will be held on Friday, October 1, from noon to 1 p.m.