Transit Talk with the General Manager

July 01, 2011
Mark Lonergan, Chief Operating Officer
General RT Operations and Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live today from noon to 1 p.m. The system is open for questions starting now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mark Lonergan: 

Thank you for joining us today.

My name is Mark Lonergan, RT Chief Operating Officer, and I will be sitting in today for Mike Wiley, RT General Manager/CEO, who is getting an early start to the July 4 holiday weekend.

This is my second opportunity to interact with riders as guest host of this forum and I'm looking forward to tapping my 33-plus years of transit experience to answer your questions.

This week you may have heard that RT is considering restoration of late night and weekend light rail service that was reduced in June 2010. For the restoration to occur, RT would need at least $1.4 million in additional revenues to operate the service annually, or an additional $700,000 for six months of service starting in January 2012.

The Fiscal Year 2012 budget adopted by the Board of Directors on Monday, June 27, is based on sales tax revenues increasing by only 1 percent over Fiscal Year 2011. However, actual sales tax receipts in Sacramento County are coming in at 5 percent higher than Fiscal Year 2010. If this trend continues over the next few months, RT may recommend a budget revision to increase revenue projections to support the proposed increased service.

This is an exciting possibility for RT staff and riders. The June 2010 cuts placed a hardship on people who depend upon transit for their livelihood and had a dramatic affect on system ridership as a whole. After making tough choices over the past four years, we may soon be ready to begin to reverse the trend.

On that positive note, let's begin today's chat.

Sacramento, CA:  How are the temperatures for the light rail vehicles set? Sometimes the train can be a little cold and other times a little hot, depending on the weather.

Reply:  We have two fleets of light rail vehicles, the vehicles manufactured by Siemens that entered service in 1987, and the vehicles manufactured by CAF that entered service in 2003. The temperature on the Siemens fleet can be set by RT's Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance Mechanics. The system on the CAF fleet are computer controlled and set by the manufacturer. We know that the CAF light rail vehicles tend to be on the cool side of comfortable when the system is working properly. For both fleets, each vehicle has two HVAC units. If one fails, you will experience a difference in temperature from one end of the car to the other. My advice to anyone with a concern over the temperature in a train is to phone or e-mail in a complaint with the car number that you are riding in and we will check it out. The car number can be found above the door to the operator's cab at each end of the light rail vehicle.

Sacramento, CA:  I have a $6.00 day pass that expired I thought I could turn it in but they said NO!!1 money is hard to get these days. I thought I lost the pass and I found it in one of my books and I was happy at first : ( so sad; why do they expire? so you can steal people money?

Reply:  The reason that our tickets and passes have expiration dates is that with out an expiration date they would be valid forever. If we change our fare structure, the old passes would still be valid under the old fare structure. So as a matter of policy we print expiration dates on all of RT's pre-paid fare media. The other concern that we have is related to counterfeiting We do have a problem with people counterfeiting our fare media. An expiration date is one of several tools that we use to address this problem.

Sacramento, CA:  Will the RT bus and train real-time location info be available on a smartphone app?

Reply:  We hope to have real-time bus and train location by about this time next year. We have two projects currently active to provide real time vehicle information, one for bus and the other for rail. Both projects will provide vehicle location information available from RT's web site and for the light rail system, in the train stations. A specific smartphone app will follow once these projects are complete.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT use electronic tickets like Yolobus just switched to?

Reply:  In partnership with SACOG and several of our nearby transit partners, including Yolobus, RT is developing a smart card which will be accepted by all of the participants. Using contactless fare media technology, all transactions will be done by simply tapping the card to a card reader which will be located on the bus and at light rail stations. If you are riding the train, RT's Transit Officers will have the ability to verify that you have properly paid the fare by tapping on prior to boarding the train.

Sacramento, CA:  I'm often in the area of downtown near RT's Green Line construction. It looks like things are starting to move along nicely. What is the schedule for the line to open?

Reply:  The construction of the Green Line to the River District project is scheduled to be completed in September of this year, however Green Line service will not begin until early 2012. This projection is based on the timing of private developers completing the new light rail station on Richards Boulevard, which is needed to open the line for service.

Sacramento, CA:  If a new Arena goes into the Rail yards, will RT utilize the River District as Park & Ride Light Rail locations? Also, will you add the planned River District’s Dos Rios Light Rail Station? This could mitigate some traffic congestion in the neighborhoods adjacent to the Arena.

Reply:  The future Richards station will not have an RT-owned park-and-ride lot, however, a new arena located downtown would still have very convenient access via light rail. The proposed Dos Rios light rail station is in RT's Capital Improvement Plan, however, funding sources have not yet been identified.

Sacramento, CA:  Would it be possible to let the Placer Bus drive up to the Train like the 103 Bus after 5pm? The current bus stop is too far away and we miss the 5:59 Train due to that.

Reply:  This is something that we would need to discuss with our partners in Placer County. There are a number of possible solutions that might make this transfer work better more smoothly, stopping as you suggest is certainly one of them. I think we also need to look at the on-time performance of the Placer Bus schedule. We will look into further and see what we can do.

South Sacramento, CA:  I understand that there may be a restoration of night service in 2012 for light rail and some bus services? Also, is there any indication from the COA of recommending the streamlining of bus service?

Reply:  Streamlining or restructuring of bus service is part of the Comprehensive Operational Analysis currently in progress. We are also looking at potentially restoring some of the evening service that was cut on the bus and light rail system in early 2012 in advance of the full COA recommendations. The current Fiscal Year 2012 budget does not include any service increases, apart from the new Green Line extension, but we are making preparations so that if sales tax receipts come in better than expected, we could potentially restore some much-requested evening service in either January or April of next year.

South Sacramento, CA:  I live where last year, two bus routes (Route 4 and Route 8) were elimated in my neighborhood. Only Route 55 is available as a result. Is there discussion for either restoration of the routes or streamlining the service of those two routes?

Reply:  Yes. RT is currently undertaking a study designated "Transit Renewal" to evaluate how and when bus and light rail service will be restored. It is highly probable that the two routes you referenced will not be restored as previously operated. Transit Renewal will evaluate service coverage of the Sacramento area as well as the frequency of service.

Folsom, CA:  Has the budget been causing deferred maintenance? Seem to be having a lot of unusual breakdowns lately (wires falling, cars catching fire, etc.).

Reply:  No, we have not deferred any maintenance as it relates to the light rail vehicles, track, signals or overhead power distribution. We have had a number of mechanical failures lately and we analyze each failure to see if there is anything that we can do to prevent future failures. There is no connection between the failures that we have experienced and our level of maintenance. In several cases, the cause was the result of a premature failure of a critical part and the failure was not evident or could not be anticipated from our regular inspections. In every case we are analyzing the failure to see what we can change to prevent this type of failure in the future. We also experience an increase in failures with the first hot weather every year. The electrical systems that power and control our trains and signal system are temperature sensitive.

Folsom, CA:  What's with the slow orders on the Folsom line? Several spots east of Sunrise the trains abruptly slow down and crawl along at 25-30 for a while, then take off again. Track problems? Lawsuit problems?

Reply:  We have had an on going ride quality problem with this section of the Gold Line since we opened it for service. What we found was that the rail that was purchased for this extension was flawed which caused significant ride quality issues. We recently re-profiled the rail head to correct the flaw. In addition, we have had some mechanical problems with the machine that we use to remove flat spots from the wheels on the trains. This machine has been repaired and we are in the process of catching up with the back log of wheel flats. Once we have the trains in order we will remove the slow order and resume our normal speed through this area. I do not have a specific time frame yet for lifting the slow order, but it should not be much longer.

Comments from Mark Lonergan: 

Thank you for your questions. Mike Wiley will return to host Transit Talk next month on Friday, August 5 from noon to 1 p.m. Have a great Independence Day weekend and celebrate safely!