Transit Talk with the General Manager

October 01, 2010
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Friday, October 1 marks the second anniversary of "Transit Talk with the General Manager." Thank you for your interest and participation over the past two years. Your questions and concerns are important to us, and will help RT improve transit for the region. We will be live from noon to 1 p.m. today but are accepting questions now.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Today marks the second anniversary of Transit Talk with the General Manager. The online chat started as a way to communicate directly with RT passengers. I always welcome your ideas and feedback, and we appreciate all of the comments and suggestions we have received over the past two years. Thank you to everyone who has participated.

Today is also the first day of the Park-Pay-and-Ride program at the Meadowview, Florin and Power Inn light rail stations. RT implemented the first phase of the parking fee program at the Watt/I-80, Watt/I-80 West and Roseville Road light rail stations on January 1, 2010, as part of RT's budget re-balancing strategy.

Everything appears to be operating smoothly today. I greeted passengers and answered questions this morning at the Meadowview and Florin stations. I will be spending more time on the bus and light rail system this month as part of my "Ride with the GM" activity -- another way to encourage open communication with our customers. Check the RT website throughout October for dates and times.

I look forward to Transit Talk with the General Manager each month, and I hope you find it to be helpful and worthwhile. Encourage your co-workers, friends and family to join the conversation. Now, let's get started.

Sacramento, CA:  I ride the 1 line to ARC, the bus is on time but it's alway full, sometimes it's so full I have to wait for the one after. Any plans on getting some bendy bus to RT? With the recent cut back on service perhaps you can trade some some of the surplus bus with other bus company?

Reply:  We are aware of the crowding on Route 1 to ARC, especially this time of year when there is a lot of activity at the college. RT's current bus maintenance facility, which was built over 30 years ago, was not built to handle articulated buses, but our new facility at McClellan will be able to handle them when construction is complete. We do not currently have any plans to sell surplus buses. Not only do we hope to be able to restore service in the future, but transit agencies across the country are also having service cuts, so there is not as much demand.

Sacramento, CA:  Not so much a question, as a plea/beg: could you please have the pre-ride passes NOT expire?? You know, like the Post Office now has with first class stamps. It's so inconvenient to exchange otherwise valid passes for your riders and your staff. BTW thanks for doing this, it's the first time I saw it.

Reply:  Late next year we will implement "Smart Card" passes and discontinue the use of prepaid tickets and passes. The Smart Cards will not expire. They have a value attached to them like a gift card and you will be able to increase the value by adding money to your card. These cards are an electronic media and contain an electronic chip. Seattle, Boston, Atlanta and other large metro cities have Smart Cards. We are currently out to bid to purchase this system.

Folsom, CA:  Hello Mr. Wiley, I read the transcript from last months chat regarding trash around the Glenn light rail station. My question is related to the area around the train tracks specifically on the gold line (since I ride that line). Is it the responsibility of Sac RT or some other city or county organization to clean up the area around the tracks up and down the train line? There is a significant amount of litter/garbage paralleling the tracks in some areas of Rancho Cordova that could use a good clean up. Thanks.

Reply:  RT maintains the rail right-of-way and is responsible for keeping it clean. With our recent budget cuts, the staff taking care of these areas was reduced by about 30 percent. The reductions have impacted the appearance of the system. We continue to address these areas with a limited staff.

Sacramento, CA:  First thank you for having this forum for us to ask questions. I wanted to know how often do you personally ride the meadowview line per month (and times of day/night) and what your experiences have been? If possible, I would like to ride with you on your next tour of the meadowview line.

Reply:  I ride the Gold Line more frequently than I ride the Blue Line. However, today I rode the Blue Line to Meadowview twice. I don't ride the Blue Line on a prescheduled basis. Now for the good news. This month I will be riding the entire system multiple days each week for most of each day. This is all part of a new program we are launching called "Ride with the GM." My ride schedule will be posted on our website a week prior to my ride. So, you will have the opportunity to know where and when I will be riding. See you on the train.

Sacramento, CA:  It seems the "Gump" officers check the law abiding rider while most of the evasive riders laugh while getting off at the other end of the train. A 15 minute wait for the next train beats an expensive fine any day. How does RT enforce potential ticket evaders who jump off the light rail the moment ticket officers are spotted?

Reply:  We often conduct fare blitzes. Staff (PD Officers, Fare Officers, and Security Guards) are stationed at each door while other officers board the train. All of the passengers exiting are checked for fares. Those without fares are given tickets. This is typically done every couple of weeks. Wednesday, September 22 was the last full blitz at Florin Station.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT be out at the Meadowview Light Rail station selling parking passes next month?

Reply:  No. Monday, October 4 will be the last day for onsite sales at Meadowview, Florin and Power Inn light rail stations. The parking passes are available at sales outlets, the RT Customer Service and Sales Center, at 1225 R Street, online at the RT website, by telephone and through major employers, through their transit coordinators. Call 321-2877 if you have a question about where to buy the parking passes.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there any changes coming for January 2011 in regards to service changes (i.e. bus, light rail) ?

Reply:  No, there are no major changes. However, there may be some minor schedule adjustments to improve connections.

Elk Grove, CA:  How has the economic downturn affected the schedule for the south line extension to Elk Grove?

Reply:  Actually our first priority, before extending light rail to Elk Grove, is just to complete the extension to Cosumnes River College. Construction on the CRC project is planned to be funded to a great extent by the Federal Transit Administration, but unfortunately, they have suspended the project due to concern about RT's funding levels, so in this way, the economic downturn has had a major impact on this extension project. Although the economy is still bad and doesn't look to be improving dramatically, we are hopeful that with financial conditions at least stabilized, the project will be back on track soon, perhaps before the close of the year.

Sacramento, CA:  I saw your answer about the passes, and going electronic. I happen to buy discount passes through my work. Do you know how businesses will offer discounted electronic passes? Or maybe I should ask them ;-)

Reply:  The details of how employers will offer discounts are still being worked out. This level of detail will likely be available in the next six to nine months. So, I don't have an answer for you at this point, other than to say that we will maintain that opportunity.

Sacramento, CA:  I have some concerns about buses leaving before they pick up train passengers. In the last 3 days I have seen buses leave the station on time just as light rail trains arrive on time twice. Can something be done to make these connections actually connect and allow light rail passengers to connect to their buses properly?

Reply:  A lot of times our routes have imporant connections at multiple places, such as Route 81 on Florin Road, which connects with light rail at both Florin light rail station and at the 65th Street light rail station. We try our best to schedule connections so they will be safe (i.e., so people are not rushing across streets and/or tracks) as well as convenient, but a lot of times we can't make the connections perfect everywhere. If you would like to send in the specific transfer you're making from what bus to what train, at what time of day, our Customer Advocacy team (557-4545) can forward that to our Scheduling department for investigation.

Folsom, CA:  Does RT have plan or timetable to expand paid parking lots to all RT lots? I see that today, 2 additional lots in the South area and Power Inn station will now be paid parking.

Reply:  As you noted, we began charging at Meadowview, Florin and Power Inn light rail stations this morning. In addition, we have been charging for parking at Watt I-80, Watt I-80 West and Roseville Road light rail stations since January. In addition to these three locations, the RT Board of Directors authorized staff to implement at four additional park and ride lots, including Marconi/Arcade, Swanston, Arden/Del Paso, and 47th Avenue. We are also exploring with the City of Folsom staff, the City of Rancho Cordova staff and the County of Sacramento staff, to add other lots.

Folsom, CA:  Hello Mr. Wiley, has Sac RT considered a system that will allow for faster response to potential volatile situations that happen on the light rail? The example I have is of two people arguing on light rail for a number of stops until it finally turned into a punching/shoving match. We knew it was going to happen but I don’t think anyone knew what to do about it besides get out of the way. It would be nice to be able to text someone at RT about the situation. For example, you could text, I’m on this train number heading towards this stop, these are the individuals fighting/harassing/drunk. Thanks.

Reply:  Thank you for the question. I will give you two answers: one for the present and another for the future. Currently, there are several ways to contact RT personnel while riding on light rail.. You can contact the operator via the intercom or Passenger Emergency Button. You can also contact any uniformed employee, police officer or security officer who happens to be on that train. The RT Customer Advocacy Department fields phone calls from passengers wanting to report problems they have experienced so that RT can address them but that is not an efficient way to report a problem occurring at the time. In an emergency situation we still recommend dialing 911 or, better yet, the 7 digit emergency telephone number for the jurisdiction (city-county) you are in, from your cell phone. RT already has several cameras on every train. We have the ability to monitor the cameras in a few trains now. We hope to have the rest of the fleet completed by early next year. Personnel in our Video Control Center, who currently monitor the cameras in our stations, will also be monitoring the train cameras. So, as you can see, RT has a current procedure to deal with problems as well as a plan to enhance security on the trains in the future.

Sacramento, CA:  Two part question. Where/how do people get a stack of daily passes from what appears to be RT bus passes? and if they are being sold near ticket booths for $2-5 are you concerned about your competition?

Reply:  Although we try to keep close tabs on all daily passes, sometimes they are lost or stolen. When we receive reports of RT passes being sold by individuals, RT police or transit officers respond to investigate and take enforcement action where possible.

Sacramento, CA:  Route 72 seems to have a lot of issues with connecting to light rail. On weekdays, the 72 arriving at Watt/Manlove often parks far away from the actual stop to the point that it would be likely for people to miss the connecting trains (this has been going on for the last few years.) On weekends, due to the change in light rail frequency to every half hour, the 72 will arrive at Mather/Mills station with less than a minute before the light rail trains arrive and will not drop passengers off closer to the area to pick up the light rail and send passengers scrambling to the light rail (which causes quite a bit of people having to wait for another half hour to get their light rail.) Can anything be done to make sure people make their connections?

Reply:  I will forward your comments to our Customer Advocacy department who will investigate these matters with our Transportation and Scheduling departments. If you would like a follow-up, please contact Customer Advocacy (557-4545) directly to provide your contact information.

Sacramento, CA:  How were the new paid parking lots chosen?

Reply:  Before I answer the question, I just want to clarify that the RT Board of Directors made the decision to implement the pay for parking program as a result of the budgetary issues that RT has been and continues to face. The Board made the decision based on recommendations from RT staff. When determining the locations, RT looked at the parking lots which had significant activity as well as which lots could generate enough revenue to pay for the implementation costs. In addition, RT had to consider ownership of the parking lots. Some of the lots are not owned by RT and therefore RT currently does not have the authority to charge for parking. At this point the Board has limited the implementation to those locations within the boundary of the City of Sacramento.

Folsom, CA:  Does RT have a maintenance plan to clean the Light Rail seats. Many seats are badly stained.

Reply:  The trains are cleaned every night. When seats are sufficiently stained, the covers are replaced.

Sacramento, CA:  Hi. Have you applied for any of the $775 million under the Federal Transit Administration’s State of Good Repair program? If you get some, how will you use it? Thanks

Reply:  RT did apply for that capital grant program. We sought funding for repairs at our McClellan facility which is to be used for bus repair and maintenance. Unfortunately, we were not selected to receive the grant. However, we continue to pursue similar funding for our maintenance facilities as well as passenger facilities. We will continue to pursue all available funding.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT get electronic signs at the stations like BART?

Reply:  Yes. The first 24 arrive on October 11. These signs will be installed over the next two months. Similar to BART, the signs will display train arrival times and alert information. This is the first phase of the sign project. The next 12 signs will arrive in the January-February time frame and will begin being installed shortly after that. By the first of the year I hope to be able to use these signs to provide service disruption information.

Sacramento, CA:  If I am an employee of Regional Transit and I am a co-owner of a private company, can my company compete for contract work with Regional Transit?

Reply:  You may or may not be able to complete for RT contracts. If you are in a job, where part of your job includes participating in the procurement process, you would not be able to participate in related procurements. Before bidding, employees should contact RT Legal Counsel and ask for an official opinion related to the procurement in question.

Sacramento, CA:  Hello, I was assaulted and robbed at a lite rail station downtown during daytime. I was under the impression that the security cameras were closed circuit and were monitoring the stations for the safety of the patrons. Detective later told me that the camera was not even working. So no monitoring or help and not even photos of the assailants for the police to try and apprehend. Is security of patrons a priority with RT? I saw some of the stations being landscaped yet, the security camera wasn't even working. Please advise. Thank you

Reply:  I'm sorry to hear that you were assaulted and robbed. Every light rail station has at least one video camera (many have multiple cameras) to assist us in keeping our passengers and employees safe. Unfortunately, maintenance of our video surveillance system is an ongoing challenge especially with limited personnel. The vast majority of the cameras are functioning properly on a daily basis and when we discover that a camera is not working we get it fixed as soon as possible.

Sacramento, CA:  Concerning the new PARK and PAY program. If you pay and have to leave and then have to come back, will you have to pay again if someone parks in your spot?

Reply:  If you leave and someone parks in your space, you will need to park in another space and pay the $1 fee. If you have a monthly parking pass, you can park in any available space for the discounted price of $15.

Sacramento, CA:  I just wanted to give you a head's up. The system map contained in one of the kiosks on the inbound side of Power Inn Light Rail Station has been outdated since the service changes in June. I think it was just an oversight as the one of the other side has been changed.

Reply:  Thank you for the alert. We'll have a new map printed and installed as soon as possible.

sacramento, CA:  hi-a few yrs back smud had the misfortune to mistime the natural gas market and locked in I believe, $12-$10/mil(?) btu for a few years forward just before the market cratered and stabilized at present spot ~$4/mil(?) btu : I'm wondering in general terms how Sac RT obtains the natural gas it requires? Thank you

Reply:  RT buys natural gas as part of a consortium sponsored by the state of California. We buy five years of futures and because of the buying power of the group, we achieve very favorable pricing. Our total pricing, including our cost to compress the gas, has been running a little under 60 cents/therm.

Auburn, CA:  Will the "smart cards" you mentioned earlier be able to be used when riding other connecting transit agencies like Roseville Transit or Placer County Transit?

Reply:  The eight agencies making up the consortium include Roseville and Placer County Transit. They still need to come up with their share of the costs, but our hope is that they will be part of the initial roll out of the new smart card. You should contact them and express your interest.

Folsom, CA:  The tracks between Ironpoint and Sunrise cause the excessive shaking to the cars. Is this due to misalignment of the tracks or are the wheels in need of replacement.

Reply:  The track in the area you mentioned is going to be reground in the next few months to eliminate the car shifting on the track. Rail grinding is necessary to make sure that the profile of the wheels matches the profile of the rail. You should see a big improvement in the ride after this is accomplished.

Sacramento, CA:  Would it be possible to have hand sanitizer available on light rail and buses? This would be especially helpful during flu seasons and would give the impression that the light rail and buses are clean.

Reply:  RT uses a hospital grade cleaning agent on our trains and buses to address this issue. We switched to a more powerful disinfectant approximately one year ago to address concerns about the H1N1 virus.

Sacramento, CA:  Is Yolo Bus in the 8-agency group for smart cards?

Reply:  Yes, Yolo is one of the eight transit operators.

Folsom, CA:  Thank you for this opportunity to ask questions. Thanks to all of RT for doing their best in these difficult economic times

Reply:  We appreciate your support.

Sacramento, CA:  I think the Q about hand sanitizers meant, will dispensers be available on buses and trains.

Reply:  Not at this point. Instead, we are focusing our limited resources on keeping the system clean.

Sacramento, CA:  Mike, thanks for this great Q/A session, I only heard about this today from Very impressive.

Reply:  Thanks for joining in.

Sacramento, CA:  I wanted to thank you for time to chat with the us. It is much appreciated as most CEO's do not care what people think. It shows you are in touch with the people.

Reply:  Thank you.

Sacramento, CA:  Is it possible to take a tour of your facility on N Stret

Reply:  Sure, just contact Alane Masui at 556-0121.

Sacramento, CA:  Will the construction occuring on the R Street corridor have any affect on the hours of operation at RT's Customer Service and Sales Center?

Reply:  Business hours at the RT Customer Service and Sales Center will not be affected by the construction on the R Street Corridor. The operating hours remain 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Detours however are affecting access to the station. Vehicle traffic on R Street will be restricted to one-way for the duration of the project. Customers are advised to enter R Street via 11th Street or ride light rail to the 13th Street light rail station. For more information on the construction project, visit

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT buses eventually get GPS so we can see where they are in real time on smart phones? Right now I know the University buses in Davis have this, it's pretty convenient.

Reply:  We recently received a grant to install GPS devices on the RT bus fleet. By next summer our fleet will be outfitted with the new equipment. When that is complete, we will be able to display the locations of our buses. The RT rail fleet is equipped with GPS devices. Over the next few months, we will begin displaying actual rail vehicle locations.

Sacramento, CA:  What is RT's policy regarding Prop 215 riders (w/ proper documentation) who medicate with medicinal cannabis on or near stations/terminals?

Reply:  RT prohibits all smoking in buildings, vehicles and covered facilities. Police officers contracted from the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento Sheriff's Department will investigate complaints of suspected marijuana use anywhere on the transit system. They will take enforcement action where appropriate.

Sacramento, CA:  I like the recent station improvements at 12th, 13th & 16th Streets. Will there be more? If so, when and where?

Reply:  The 29th Street station is our next station rehab. We hope to begin this coming spring.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation in the second anniversary of Transit Talk with the General Manager. Next month's session will be held on Friday, November 5, from noon to 1 p.m.