Transit Talk with the General Manager

February 04, 2011
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Thank you for logging on. Questions are now being accepted for Transit Talk with the General Manager. The session will go live at noon - I look forward to your participation.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

A special thank you to everyone who participated alongside RT employees in the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Celebration on January 17. Approximately 10,000 people walked to remember the contributions made by the leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement to our country and to support continued change.

The size of the crowd was almost overwhelming when the march converged at the Sacramento Convention Center, where I had the chance to present prizes to RT's "I Am the Dream and the Dream is Now" poetry contest winners.

RT's "Season of Civil Rights ... It All Started on a Bus" campaign will conclude at the end of this month. For more information about campaign activities, visit

Changing focus, RT is now accepting nominations from the public for the TransitAction Awards honoring transit excellence in our region. The awards will be presented during the 3rd annual State of RT Breakfast on Friday, April 1, 2011, at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento. The awards recognize efforts in support of transit and honor selected nominees that have made a significant and positive impact on public transit in our region.

Nominations for the TransitAction Awards are being accepted and can be submitted for the following five categories:

" Business of the Year " Organization/Agency of the Year " Transit Oriented Development of the Year " Elected Official of the Year " Individual/Transit Advocate of the Year

All nominations must be submitted by Friday, February 25. For more information about the TransitAction Awards and how to register for the State of RT Breakfast ,visit

Sacramento, CA:  When will the new signs at the light rail stations start to display train times?

Reply:  We are in the final testing phases of the sign messaging program. In the next few weeks, we will begin displaying the next train information from the scheduled data and notifications of disruptions. In the spring, the scheduled train data will be replaced with GPS based actual next train arrival times. In addition we will also use these signs to display information regarding major service disruptions and other information. I am very excited about the new passenger information systems we are adding and upgrading over the coming months. All of which are being accomplished with very limited funds and reduced staff levels.

Sacramento, CA:  I used to live in the bay area and rode BART all the time. I see your new signs and love the idea. Will your signs announce the number of cars in an approaching train?

Reply:  The first roll out of sign information will include the scheduled arrival times of the trains and service disruption information. As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, this spring we will replace scheduled data with real time next train info. I like the idea of including the number of cars in the train. I will have my technical team look into including this. Thanks for the idea.

Sacramento, CA:  RE: RT Alert - Service Disruptions: Please explain what sort of service disruptions are posted on the site. I've come across bus breakdowns causing an entire route to be cancelled but nowhere was it listed as a disruption of service. For those of us who have internet service on our cell phones, this would be nice to have breakdowns or route cancellations listed. Will RT ever have text alerts like they did when the neighborhood rides were running? On another note: I would like to commend the driver of Bus 28 that leaves the Sunrise Terminal at 6:58am for waiting an additional 2-3 minutes for the people who transfer from Bus 1. Thank you!

Reply:  RT Alert on is currently used to post major service disruptions and route detours. Sporadic mechanical breakdowns and random route cancellations are usually not posted. RT is working on expanding the Transit Alert system currently used for our Neighborhood Ride routes to first include light rail disruptions and then the bus system as a whole. This will help to provide information regarding all of our service. The new electronic message signs located at light rail stations will also soon display disruption information when needed.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the status of the light rail vehicle that caught fire in December last year?

Reply:  The vehicle is out of service at this time. The parts to repair the electrical components that overheated are still on order. The vehicle should be back in service in the March-April time frame.

Roseville, CA:  I would like to see an extension of the Blue line from Watt-I 80 North to Roseville and beyond. Does RT envision expansion in this direction?

Reply:  We've included an extension of rail service to Roseville/Rocklin in our long-range TransitAction Plan. The success of the Folsom line suggests that a line to Roseville would be extremely successful as well. In the past we have approached both the City of Roseville and Placer County over expanding the system into Placer County. However, to date there has been very little political support from those communities to make this a priority.

Sacramento, CA:  Will there be any connection between RT and high speed rail in Sacramento?

Reply:  High Speed Rail is planned to have a stop at the Sacramento Valley Station in downtown Sacramento, where there is a connection to light rail.

Sacramento, CA:  Is the money RT gets from the State secure? I've been reading about Prop 22 and Prop 26 but it's confusing.

Reply:  That's a very good question. If you have been following the saga of transportation funding from the state, you know that transportation funds were frequently redirected by the state to backfill the general fund. Following a successful lawsuit against those actions of the state by the California Transit Association, the state changed the source of the transportation funds by eliminating the tax that funded them and replacing them with a lower amount of another kind of tax that limited, but "guaranteed" transit agencies approximately $350 million statewide. Prop 22 was a guarantee against further fund grabs by the state for cities, counties and special districts, which also includes transit agencies. Which, on its own, would have secured the $350 million. However, Prop 26, essentially rolled back actions by the legislature to create new taxes and/or fees unless re-enacted by a 2/3 vote. The legislature has until November 1st of this year to take action on the taxes and fees that were affected by Prop 26. Since Prop 26 did not affect the elimination of taxes and/or fees, the action to eliminate the previous funding source is still in place. Only the action to create a new replacement tax is in jeopardy. At the very worst, transit agencies could lose about one half of the $350 million set by the earlier action.

Roseville, CA:  Route 11 has been detoured off of 7th Street for months but I can still plan trips there. Why isn't the trip planner accurate?

Reply:  RT does not customarily update the schedules and the online trip planner to reflect temporary detours, as a significant amount of field work is necessary to capture the route, turns, stop locations, etc. that feed into the online trip planner. We may consider making an update for this route, due to the long-term nature of the detour. But thus far, with staff layoffs last spring, we have not yet been able to do this.

Sacramento, CA:  When are you going to finish the Green Line? For such a short route it sure is taking a long time.

Reply:  Completion of the Green Line to the River District is scheduled for the middle of this year. It will be three years from the start of the environmental process to completion for this project, which for a major construction project is very short. We established a very aggressive schedule to complete the project and unfortunately, it has experienced several unforeseen and unavoidable delays. Many of those delays were the result of or involved action by other jurisdictions over which RT has no control. It's not unusual for a project to experience delays but this project has had its challenges, we agree.

Sac, CA:  What is the status of the green line? How many stations will it have?

Reply:  The current phase under construction to the River District will add two stations, one at 8th & H streets and one at Richards Blvd. and 7th Street. The next phase to Natomas will add three stations in South Natomas, plus up to seven stations in North Natomas. The final airport segment will add three stations. There are also plans for a Railyards station and a Sequoia Pacific station off Richards Blvd.

Granite Bay, CA:  A lot of these questions seem 'canned'. Does anyone other than RT employees participate?

Reply:  All of these questions come from interested parties such as yourself. We DO NOT create our own "canned" questions.

Sacramento, CA:  Did your drivers ever settle their contract? They owed you a lot of money, didn't they?

Reply:  We are in binding arbitration with our operator's union, the Amalgated Transit Union. I cannot share any details at this time. When the arbitration is complete in the next several months, we will be able to share the details of the new contract. However, we have consistently maintained that all of our employees must share in cost containment measures.

sacramento, CA:  given the current economic rebound, are new business contracts with RT accepted?

Reply:  It's hard to answer your question without knowing what kind of business contract is of interest, but in general, keep in mind that RT is a going concern with a more than $100 million annual operating budget. Although this amount is significantly less than in previous years, contracts are negotiated regularly for business to sustain and continue operations. As the economy improves, it is reasonable to expect that more contracts will be accepted as business expands. Regional Transit has continuing needs to support our operations. These contracts are competed in a very open process. Our Procurement Team can be contacted via our website, by phone or by appointment. Contract opportunities are also listed on the web and vendors who sign up, receive e-mail notification of contract opportunities in areas where they express an interest.

Folsom, CA:  A while back in 2010 there was talk The City of Folsom might cut back its funding to light rail therefore effecting service. Has the economy’s relative stabilization caused this to resolve itself?

Reply:  The level of funding for light rail to the City of Folsom is ultimately determined by the City and is not a unilateral decision by RT. RT and the City jointly review RT's estimates for the cost to provide service the following year based on a calculation methodology both agencies have developed. In 2010, the funding shortage experienced both by RT and Folsom sparked discussion on service cutbacks. Fortunately, RT and the City of Folsom were able to work together to avoid service cuts. Hopefully, we will be able to maintain our service level and increase it in the next few years.

Sacramento, ca, CA:  RT has old trains. Climbing up stairs to get on the trains seems a bit antiquated. Is it in future plans to get new trains at ground level? Also what is the status of the green line and when will it connect to the airport and what route will it take?

Reply:  Our next fleet of vehicles will be low floor, eliminating the steps. The stations will need to be modified to support these vehicles. The next light rail vehicle acquisition will likely take place with our next major extension, following the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College. The extension of the Green Line to the Airport is scheduled for completion following a successful vote to increase local taxes to provide the funds to build and operate it. Hopefully, that will occur in November 2012.

South Sacramento, CA:  Union Pacific seems to hold a lot of power when it comes to where RT and other transit agencies in the area can expand service? What’s your take on them pushing the Blue Line plans into back yards in the south area?

Reply:  I'm not sure I agree with your premise, but the decision to seek an alternate route was RT's. It was made to enhance safety and to avoid the requirement to build a costly crash wall between the Blue Line and Union Pacific tracks. It's hard to argue against a safety requirement imposed by another agency, however unreasonable it may seem. RT staff is to be commended for developing an alternative that will save the project over $10 million and provide a safe alternative route.

Fairfield, CA:  Do you offer discounts on monthly passes for military dependants?

Reply:  No.

Sac, CA:  When will late night service resume or will it?

Reply:  RT has just kicked off a Comprehensive Operational Analysis. The purpose of this project is to examine the system thoroughly and assemble a plan for service restoration that will not only fill in gaps in the current system, but improve the overall efficiency and quality of service. Restoration of evening service is one of many things we will be considering. Our goal is to begin restoring service as soon as next fiscal year. However, the timeline and amount of service we can restore will depend on our funding situation remaining stable.

Sacramento, CA:  Any update on the VTA vehicles and when they will begin service?

Reply:  We have been developing contract specifications to upgrade these vehicles. That process is nearly complete and we should be out to bid to begin this work in the next few months. At the present time we have sufficient funds to upgrade about one half of the vehicles. As additional funds become available we will add more vehicles.

North Highlands, CA:  I'm a college student that rides bus 19 to lightrail, and then bus 1 to ARC. Bus 1 is extremely busy at all times as we all know. Has there ever been any discussion about adding more buses to that route? I've been on the bus countless times where the driver insists on piling as many people as possible on and it gets dangerous when they start to drive, and then when they start to drive recklessly. A second question is, who monitors the driver's driving? How does RT know their drivers aren't driving recklessly?

Reply:  I'm happy to announce that in April, we will be adding a bus and adjusting the schedule on Route 1 to address some of the problems with overcrowding, which will be done on a cost-neutral basis. RT's Transportation Supervisors monitor our drivers in the field. When appropriate, we may require bus operators to undergo follow-up training.

Sacramento, CA:  Can bus drivers refuse to let potential riders on the bus if they deem them to be dangerous or suspicious? I’m asking in connection to the burglary suspect being caught after feeling a home to jump on a bus this week.

Reply:  Your question hinges on the suspicious behavior of riders. Regional Transit cannot hinder riders civil rights. The behavior of a rider must progress beyond suspicion to hinder the rider. On the other hand, our drivers are in radio communication with our control center. They can dispatch supervisors and police units as the situation suggests. In the case you referred to the outcome was perfect. We allowed the alleged suspect board the bus and assisted in his apprehension.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation and please remember to save the date for next month's session on Friday, March 4, from noon to 1 p.m. Have a great weekend!