Transit Talk with the General Manager

August 05, 2011
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Mike Wiley, RT General Manager/CEO, will answer questions from riders and the general public today from noon to 1 p.m. Questions can be entered into the system now through the end of the session.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

RT staff and consultants are currently conducting TransitRenewal, a comprehensive operational analysis of the entire RT bus and light rail system that will lead to recommendations for transit service improvements over the next five years.

The goal for TransitRenewal is to identify ways to restore, restructure and "renew" transit service in an effective, sustainable manner that prioritizes long-term environmental and financial health for the region. The need for the analysis was identified, in part, after economic conditions required RT to implement major service reductions in June 2010.

Early findings from the data collection and service analyses are being presented to community and stakeholder groups throughout Sacramento. The information can also be found at

Community outreach and participation is key to a successful transit plan, so I encourage everyone logging on to this chat today to take the TransitRenewal survey. Just type in the web address listed above and click on the "Take the Survey" link.

Or, you can complete a written survey and learn more about TransitRenewal at the following locations and times.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Watt/I-80 and Arden/Del Paso light rail stations

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Meadowview and Florin light rail stations

Thursday, August 18, 2011 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. - 8th and O and 16th Street light rail stations

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Arden Fair Transit Center 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Watt/Manlove light rail station

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Florin Mall Transit Center 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mather Field/Mills light rail station

Thursday, August 25, 2011 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. - University/65th Street light rail station

All surveys completed at one of the TransitRenewal outreach locations will be entered into a prize drawing for an RT monthly pass.

Let's begin today's chat.

CA:  Will there be any more weekend closures of Sacramento Valley Station due to construction on the Green Line? Seems like this has become a semi-regular occurrence.

Reply:  There may be one more closure as we connect the Green Line extension into the existing operation. In addition to connecting the new tracks we also need to connect the overhead wires and the signal system. Thank you for your patience.

Sacramento, CA:  How can RT continue to plan to expand to areas such as the Green line( dubbed the line to nowhere) and South Line Phase 2 when it can barely keep its existing assets in a clean and working order(such as the light rail stations)?

Reply:  It takes long range planning to obtain grants for constructing new rail lines. The preparation and construction funding runs well in advance of our operational funding. As you noted, our operational funding has been cut back while we still pursue grant funds for future projects. Our plans and projects to restore operations and maintenance funds will occur prior to operating the new lines. Beginning this Monday night, the RT Board will begin discussions of service and maintenance restoration. The District is financially sound and living within its revenues. And there is a plan and dialog occurring with the RT Board of Directors on how and what to add as we move forward. The funds used for construction are different from those used for operations and maintenance. Keeping these processes in sync is an ongoing focus of the RT Board, myself and the District staff.

Sacramento, CA:  I was recently in NYC, the price there is $2.50 for one trip one way on the subway. I felt safer and felt like I got more out of my money than I ever have here.

Reply:  I'm glad you had a positive transit experience on your trip. RT also charges $2.50 for a single ride on bus or two hours on light rail. It's important to understand, however, that $2.50 pays only a small portion of the cost of providing this service. RT receives local, state and federal funds to make up about 75% of the cost of providing service. So another way to look at the value is that you are getting $10 in cost for $2.50. As for feeling safer, RT invests over $5 million per year on our security program. We have cameras on every vehicle and at all light rail stations. We are very focused on providing a safe environment for our customers. Reported crime on our system is extremely low. As we look at expanding our service we are also looking at how we enhance our security.

Sacramento, CA:  When will routes be put back? And will route 34 change when Sutter Memorial closes?

Reply:  We have a five year timeline (i.e., 2017) for restoring service levels back to their pre-2010 levels, however, we will not necessarily be restoring all the routes exactly like they were before. Our ongoing TransitRenewal project is set to wrap up near the end of this year and will establish priorities for restoration as well as restructuring suggestions for routes that were not performing well. In the meantime, we have a public hearing this coming Monday, August 8th, to take public comments and for the Board to consider a proposal to restore some evening service on light rail and some of our busiest bus routes, as well as some improvements to Route 1. These were changes that are almost certain to be near the top of the TransitRenewal recommendations, so we have made preparations to implement these improvements ahead of the full TransitRenewal schedule, in the event that our local sales tax revenue continues to come in over-budget. No changes are planned at this time for weekday service on Route 34.

Sacramento, CA:  Lower numbers of trips per route, less routes, horrible on-time rates, lack of security at stations and on trains, ever increasing fares for less service and less security. How is RT ever going to fix all of this?

Reply:  Monday night the RT Board of Directors is seeking community input regarding proposed service changes and improvements for fiscal year 2012. The proposed improvements are contingent upon sufficient funding.

Sacramento, CA:  Good day to you! I board the inbound trains at Watt/Manlove. The trains running towards Folsom or Sunrise come over the Watt overpass and we don't see them till they're "already there". Are there plans to install an audible alarm? It's pretty scary when I see people running across tracks last minute! There used to be an alarm before the overpass was installed, but I guess that was for automobile traffic (not pedestrians).

Reply:  The train sounds an audible horn as it enters the station. The background noise and lack of visibility make the alerts a bit harder to hear and see. I will ask my safety team to evaluate the situation and propose appropriate changes. Thanks for the comment.

South Sacramento, CA:  A Few Questions: 1) Will there be any restructuring of the bus routes once COA is completed? 2) If so, which routes or areas will be affected) And 3) I also understand that there will be a new card system where you can put money into those cards (i.e. Clipper Cards via Bay Area). Can you tell me any further details on when it will be out?

Reply:  One of the purposes of our TransitRenewal project (the Comprehensive Operational Analysis or COA) is to restructure current or former routes that are (or were) not performing well. It is not yet certain which routes will be restructured, but our lowest performing routes are the most likely targets. We will begin using the regional smart card in a pilot (test area) in the summer of 2012 and then go live systemwide by the end of the year. The card will be both a pass (monthly, daily, etc.) and a stored value (funds on the card) based system. INIT is the firm building the system for the region. After RT goes live, Yolo, Elk Grove and others systems in the region will follow. Customers will be able to use the smart card on any of the systems in the region when it is complete (late 2013).

Sacramento, CA:  Are current and past budgets available to the public? I made a public records request well over a year ago for information on proposed and final budgets for the past 10 years and never received anything.

Reply:  Yes current and past budgets are available to the public. To receive these documents just send a request to our finance staff. However, a Public Records Act request should be sent to RT's Legal department.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there any chance of buses going back on a regular schedule on Sundays?

Reply:  Restoration of Sunday bus routes and headways are certainly one of the things we will be looking at in our TransitRenewal project. Our consultants have been familiarizing themselves with our system and meeting with numerous stakeholders and staff members over the past several months. Initial recommendations should be coming in the next couple months. You may want to visit our project web page at where we have posted some presentations and numerous analytical maps of the RT system. The presentations should give you some idea about our consultants initial impressions of RT's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, areas to focus on. Please participate by taking our on-line survey that is also available at the same website.

Sacramento, CA:  Why can't regional transit run 24 hours a day?

Reply:  RT carefully monitors the cost of service to provide as much service as it can possibly afford to maintain and continue to offer into the future. Due to declines in the economy and subsequently revenues to RT, service was cut approximately 20%. RT has undertaken a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (TransitRenewal) to determine the most meaningful way to restore service as revenues begin to come back to a level that can sustain additional service. The level of service offered is also determined by the demand for service. At this point, ridership indicators do not point to the need for RT to offer 24 hour service on either bus or rail. If such demand is evident and it is affordable, RT will consider it. In order to provide 24 hour service RT will need a significant increase in local revenue.

Sacramento, CA:  Will transfers ever come back?

Reply:  It's unlikely that transfers will come back in their past form. In addition, by the end of 2012, RT will be able to offer a Connect Card (Smart Card), which will offer additional options for payment and span of service.

Sacramento, CA:  I am wondering how long drivers have to wait for a late light rail train. At Watt/Manlove, the bus is scheduled to leave at 13 and 43 minutes after the hour. The light rail is scheduled to arrive at 10/12 after the hour (Folsom train and Downtown trains respectively). The trains are invariable 1-3 minutes late, and upon arriving at Watt/Manlove, I am constantly finding the bus has already departed. I have even exited the train at 12 after, only to find the bus that leaves at 13 after is gone. I have called many (too many) times, been told that the supervisor will be notified, and find the same driver has left too early. The only way I can be sure to make the 72 from Watt/Manlove is to arrive in between departures, which isn't always plannable. Will anything ever be done so that we are not left standing for almost 1/2 hour?

Reply:  Generally, buses are expected to leave at their scheduled time, i.e., there is no standard wait time for a train. Buses will sometimes be held based upon the decision of a radio supervisor (often based in turn upon a request from an operator) however that is a case-by-case decision. A preferable solution to your problem would be to adjust the regular schedule for the route, if possible, without creating worse problems elsewhere (or to improve schedule adherence on the Gold Line). I will pass your suggestion on to our Scheduling Department. I will also pass your suggestion on to our Transportation Department so they are aware of the existing problem. We are also currently evaluating the schedule of the Gold Line trains to address the reliability issue you raised. I expect that we will implement improvements to this schedule later this year.

Sacramento, CA:  I encounter way too many rude drivers. I do not know why I need to be treated rudely because they are having a bad day. What can be done? My reports seem to make no difference: the same drivers continue to speak rudely or act rudely, no matter what.

Reply:  Rest assured that we do address rudeness among our employees. It is extremely difficult to convince people to change their behavior. In that case, we have a process in place that will result in those employees seeking different employment. Please continue to use our Customer Advocacy process to report on the quality of our service.

CA:  What kind of feedback to RT receive from World Masters Athletics Championships attendees who used the system to get around in Sacramento?

Reply:  I personally talked to a number of athletes riding our light rail trains who were very pleased with the service.

Sacramento, CA:  I remember that you told someone to just talk to the smokers at the stations when they are in the non-smoking sections.. I did this and was told no. The smoker than followed me to the other end of the light rail station (which is where I had to go to get away from the smoke) and threatened me.

Reply:  We have received a number of reports recently about smokers not respecting non-smokers rights. Consequently, I have asked our staff to review and modify our non-smoking ordinance to expand the no smoking areas and to provide an increased level of enforcement. This will require several months, as we must have our Board adopt an update of our smoking ordinance By the end of the year we will have the ability to ban smoking on the entire station platform.

Sacramento, CA:  Does RT have any rules against people playing music out loud through their cell phones? This annoys me greatly and I know it affects the ride of other passengers as well.

Reply:  Disturbing another person by loud or unreasonable noise (including loud music from a cell phone) is a violation of the law under section 640 of the Penal Code. We have a limited number of rules governing passenger behavior as well. Our transit officers, police officers and security officers are expected to confront passengers behaving inappropriately. Although we want your travel on our system to be as pleasant and trouble free as possible, often annoying behavior does not rise to the level of a behavior we can prohibit.

Sacramento, CA:  What can be done about those routes that just barely connect time-wise, and cause you to have to wait a half hour when it doesn't connect correctly? I am an ARC student traveling from 72 line to light rail to 82 line. If the train does not arrive on time, I have to wait 40 minutes for the next #82. Am I going to have to leave an extra 1/2 hour early just to be sureof a timely arrival when the printed schedule says that my original departure time would get me to ARC with extra time?

Reply:  While we put a lot of effort into reliable operations and convenient connections, as long as our system has a lot of routes on long headways of 30 and even 60 minutes, it's never going to be possible to make every connection work. One of the first observations our TransitRenewal consultants made is that we have a number of good routes that can support greater levels of service. If we can prioritize improvements to these strong routes, there would be a lot of additional benefits to the rest of our routes as well.

Sacramento, CA:  Was there an increase in ridedship due to the WMA Games?

Reply:  Yes.

Sacramento, CA:  Since the 28 line was cut back, it has prevented us from using businesses along Folsom Blvd (especially the library). Is this another one of those lines that won't come back for a long time?

Reply:  We've received a lot of requests to restore Route 28 service on Folsom Boulevard. Our cost per passenger on this route was unfortunately almost double our system average. We will be trying to find a way to restore service on this corridor in a way that will be either less expensive to operate or more productive in terms of ridership.

Sacramento, CA:  Every day this week while waiting for light rail at Archives Plaza heading in the Folsom direction, your new electronic sign has been wrong. Specifically on 08/03/11 it said that the train would arrive 5:05 and didn't arrive till 5:10 but I didn't see any indication that the trains were running late. I just want someone to be aware of the discrepancy so that you can look into fixing it. I thought the electronic signs were a great idea but not if they don't convey the correct information.

Reply:  Please let us know when you see a sign with a problem. They are generally working well and reliably, but we have had occasional problems. The signs currently display scheduled arrival and disruptions of 5 minutes or more. Our team is focused on making them work well for our customers. We have had a few issues, but the signs have been a great opportunity to keep riders informed. We are working on going live with real time data on the trains and buses. Real time train arrival is expected to go live later this year. We are also working on a smart phone application which will provide real time bus and rail information for stops and stations. Once we have real time arrival the signs will automatically provide actual arrival times.

Sacramento, CA:  I need to suggest that all light rail park and ride lots should have outlets to plug in electric cars for charging while parked. It's 2011. This option should be available.

Reply:  We are working with two firms interested in providing charging stations are our park and ride lots. They will be subscription and fee based. There are a few policy and contracting issues that will need to be resolved before we can begin providing this service. Our goal is to have this in place by next summer.

Sacramento, CA:  I got on a bus with a man who had to be at least 25 years old He claimed he was a student and put in student fare. (If I had been the driver, I wouldn't have confronted him either. He was scary.) But I see young people getting on without showing id's. Please don't say that the drivers probably know them I think that ALL people wanting a discount need to show an id that gives them that discount. I have been riding RT for over 25 years and I have never gotten a discount of any kind!! Why are they allowed to do this? (The man who got on for a student fare did not get a daily pass and went on to ride the train.)

Reply:  I understand your concern and I appreciate the information. Driver's are required to validate discount fares with passengers when they board the bus whether they know them or not. Student discounts are available through the schools for students age of 18 and under. Students 18 or older may have a discount pass from Sacramento State or Los Rios Community College as long as they are enrolled students. You may want to take a look at the RT website for information on the various discount programs available to passengers to see if you qualify for any of them. Our new Connect Card (Smart Card) will provide us with the ability to more closely monitor proper use of student fares.

Sacramento, CA:  How much typically does a special event like WMA increase ridership?

Reply:  Special events can have a dramatic effect on our ridership. We have experienced substantial increases for these events, including AMGEN bike tour, the State Fair, Olympic Trials among others. In most cases we are able to transport thousands of additional riders with almost no increase in service, simply by adding additional cars to existing rail service.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there any consideration in the future to introduce electric trolley bus service?

Reply:  Not at this time. There are overhead costs whenever you introduce a new vehicle type to the system. While trolleybuses are a great option for extremely hilly areas, we will probably be sticking with our CNG fleet which has been very reliable, economical, and environmentally-friendly. We do have plans for electric streetcar service.

Sacramento, CA:  Are you planning to add evening service to Route 55?

Reply:  Route 55 is actually one of our more productive routes on a cost per passenger basis, and it provides a useful link between Florin Towne Centre and Cosumnes River College. Later evening service and increasing the frequency have been suggested by our Planning Department for many years now, but given our funding reductions over the last several years, it has not been an option. Hopefully, we will be able to make some improvements to this route soon.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  What is your policy for priority for the front part of the light rail trains? Twice this week on the gold line in the afternoon, I was pass in my wheelchair because they were full with mother with thier kids and those oversized carts full of stuff?

Reply:  We instruct all of our riders with strollers to fold them prior to boarding. When the wheelchair area is occupied by non-wheel chair riders, we ask them to move. If they choose not to move, we can't force them. When we pass a wheelchair, the operators notify dispatch, so that we can attempt to have the next train to hold space for the person that was just passed.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for participating in the chat today and don't forget to participate in TransitRenewal by taking the survey at or at one of the outreach locations scheduled this month. Transit Talk with the General Manager will be back on Friday, September 2, from noon to 1 p.m.