Transit Talk with the General Manager

October 07, 2011
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
Gneral Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be live today from noon to 1 p.m. The system is accepting questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

RT is conducting the first "Ride Transit October" campaign this month to show appreciation for our current riders and to encourage new riders to discover the benefits of taking transit.

Activities will include "Fun Fridays" at the Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street, where customers can take a spin on the prize wheel with purchase, and "Customer Appreciation Days" when RT staff, including myself, will greet customers at the locations listed below to show appreciation for riding RT.

The following is a schedule of the customer appreciation dates, times and locations:

Tuesday, October 18 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Watt/I-80 and Arden/Del Paso light rail stations

Wednesday, October 19 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Glenn and Florin light rail stations

Thursday, October 20 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. - 8th & O and 16th Street light rail stations

Tuesday, October 25 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Arden Fair Transit Center 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Watt/Manlove light rail station

Wednesday, October 26 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Florin Mall Transit Center 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Mather Field/Mills light rail station

Thursday, October 27 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Sunrise Mall Transit Center 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. University/65th Street light rail station

I will also be out riding buses and light rail trains as part of the 2nd annual "Ride with the GM" promotion looking to meet our passengers, take questions and listen to suggestions on how RT can improve service. I will be traveling on October 11, 12, 13, 17, 21, 25, 26, 27 and 31 so please check each week for specific routes and times where you'll be able to catch me.

As always, thank you for riding RT. If possible, ask a friend to take transit with you for Ride Transit October to discover the benefits themselves … cleaner air, less stress and more money in their pocket.

Let's begin today's chat.

Sacramento, CA:  Hello, I recently made an observation that on E-Tran, Yolobus, and Placer County Transit those providers have new fareboxes, I was wondering if RT will replace their fareboxes or modify their existing ones to handle the future smartcard

Reply:  RT's buses will be equipped with new devices that will read the smart cards. Our current fareboxes will be upgraded to communicate with the new system. We will also install smart card readers at the rear door of all buses. All of our rail stations will also receive new devices.

Sacramento, CA:  Will the 30 min frequencies be restored on the 38, and 6 Line?

Reply:  Thank you for the question. Recommendations to change frequencies on specific routes will come through the Comprehensive Operational Analysis, also called TransitRenewal, that will soon be completed and presented to the RT Board. Several factors including the ability to sustain service changes financially will be considered over the coming months. Over the next few years, the same number of service hours that were cut will be restored, although it may not come back in exactly the same way. Stay tuned for the specific recommendations of TransitRenewal that will be posted on the RT website.

South Land Park, CA:  Hello Mike, I was wondering when will the land park area receive full weekend service again?

Reply:  We are still in the process of reviewing our entire system as we complete our Comprehensive Operational Analysis, also called TransitRenewal. We expect to present a TransitRenewal plan to the RT Board in December or January. That plan will establish priorities for service improvements.

Sacramento, CA:  I read the Roger Dickenson recently submitted a new law that strengths the Steineburg Bill that allows RT to ban certain passanges? Has it been implemented?

Reply:  We are still waiting for Governor Brown to sign the legislation (AB 716). Once he signs the bill it will take effect in January. I would encourage you to ask the Governor to sign this legislation.

South Sacramento, CA:  Can you tell me about the status of the COA Analysis? I've taken the Transit Renewal Survey also to let them know about the effects.

Reply:  Thank you for taking the TransitRenewal Survey. Your responses as well as those of many others will help RT in the decision making process to follow the completion of the COA. A presentation on the findings of the TransitRenewal process is expected to go to the RT Board in December of this year. Implementation of the recommendations of the study will come later, but could be as soon as April of next year.

South Sacramento, CA:  Will there be any further service changes besides the initial recommendations in 2012?

Reply:  First, let's distinguish between service changes and recommendations. The "early action" recommendations from TransitRenewal that were presented to the RT Board earlier this year have not yet resulted in actual service changes. The Board deferred adopting service changes until there was more certainty in ongoing funding, especially at the federal level. We still do not have the assurance that funding will be available to support service changes this year, although the economic indicators are starting to be a little more positive at the local level. The full report on the results of TransitRenewal will be brought to the Board in December of this year and consideration of all the recommendations along with a full financial update.

Sacramento, CA:  I read in the Sacramento Business Journal that the smart cards aka Connect Card will debut as early as next summer 2012 and spread to other agencies in 2013. Can you tell me a little bit more on this and how will we able to get the card?

Reply:  RT will conduct a pilot program for testing purposes next summer. Assuming the pilot is successful, we will fully implement the system in early 2013. Cards will be available everywhere we currently sell passes and tickets today.

Sacramento, CA:  When are the UTDC light rail trains entering service?

Reply:  In 2003, RT purchased 21 cars from VTA with plans to have them overhauled for use on RT's expanding system. After some fits and starts, money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act recently made it possible for RT to release a request for proposal to modify the UTDC vehicles to fit RT system needs. Proposals were submitted in September and should be awarded in November. Once awarded, we estimate it will be 18 months until 15 of the UTDC vehicles will be up and running, with the entire project complete in two years.

South Sacramento, CA:  Another question on the Transit Renewal Project. In the website, there would be some indication that there would Proposed System Network Maps. Do you know a time period of those documents that will be released?

Reply:  Our TransitRenewal consultants will be providing an update to the RT Board of Directors on Monday, October 24th. However, the service plan is not scheduled to be presented until early December 2011. The plan will be comprehensive with a number of exhibits.

Sacramento, CA:  Is Sacramento Valley Station going to stay in its current spot or are the plans still to move maybe closer to 7th St when the rails are realigned?

Reply:  The City of Sacramento has very extensive plans to expand and realign Sacramento Valley Station. The existing building will remain in place. Additional buildings will be constructed between the existing structure and the relocated tracks to the north. The passenger activity will shift to the eastern side of the site, approximately between 4th and 5th streets. RT's light rail tracks will turn just to the west of fifth street and serve a new boarding platform that will be oriented in a north/south configuration. Finally, this is the proposed site of the new sports and entertainment arena. The new arena will be located on the western portion of the site. For more information, please visit the City of Sacramento's website.

Sacramento, CA:  Does RT provide a subsidy to people who receive Health and Human Services assistance in the Sacramento region? If so, how does the program work?

Reply:  RT has an agreement with the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance (DHA) for the purchase of single fare, daily and monthly passes for its General Assistance program participants. The discount is not a subsidy to individuals and is consistent with the quantity discount programs offered to any large group or organization that can guarantee a high level of use. The discount conforms to RT's Discount Fare Policy and RT does not determine who will be a recipient of the fare media under the revenue contract. If you believe you may qualify for participation in the DHA program, you may want to give them a call to discuss the discount program with the folks who are running that program.

South Sacramento, CA:  Any changes to Route 55 upcoming?

Reply:  We have been looking more generally at north/south travel between the Florin Towne Centre area in South Sacramento and Cosumnes River College and the surrounding area. Route 55, which links these two destinations, has very good ridership on weekdays, however, a lot of the ridership appears to be more associated with travel to/from the college. For that reason, we have been giving some thought to extending Route 51 (Stockton/Broadway) to CRC (as well as increasing the frequency) so passengers get a more direct trip to the college and so they don't have to transfer from Route 51 to Route 55. All of this is being considered as part of TransitRenewal.

CA:  Hi- I'm wondering for the current budget year about the relative stability of governmental funding levels to RT which in previous years required mid-year budget reductions

Reply:  Thank you for the question. RT is definitely in a much better place financially in FY 2012 than it was in mid-2010 when service cuts were made. While not out of the woods totally, economic indicators suggest that local sales tax revenues are making a come back. Barring any unforeseen action at the state level, local revenues could be considered to be stable at this point. The real uncertainty is at the federal level. RT relies on several federal revenue streams that are tied up in the indecisiveness that prevails in Congress regarding how best to cover the $1.5 trillion budget deficit. Based on recent actions to continue one of those revenue streams through March 31, 2012, we believe that some resolution will come forward within the next few months on the rest. If we are able to achieve the same level of confidence in funding at the federal level that we have at the local level, RT will be better able to make long-term decisions on bringing back service. A full update on the financial condition of RT will be made at the December Board meeting, so check back.

Fair Oaks, CA:  What is being done to address all of the drugs and drug dealing on the Watt I-80 train during regular commute hours?

Reply:  It's important to point out that RT's system is very safe. Our crime statistics are very low compared to the crime in the areas that we serve. It is also important to remind folks that our entire system is monitored through an elaborate system of cameras iincluding on-board the rail vehicles and in the stations. In addition, we have a plain clothes team, as well as uniformed officers, that address that type of behavior. Our officers coordinate their efforts with other units from the City of Sacramento Police and Sacramento County Sheriff's Departments. If you have any specific information I would urge you to call the RT Police Crime Tip Line at 556-0275.

Sacramento, CA:  Is RT thinking about providing Wi-Fi service on trains or buses?

Reply:  RT currently has no plans to feature wireless service on our light rail vehicles. Our passengers on average are on the system for about 30 minutes. Consequently, the ride time is relatively short and doesn't really justify Wi-Fi.

Elk Grove, CA:  Is RT going to have a Bus Rapid Transit service anytime soon?

Reply:  RT has long-range plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Hi-Bus (high frequency, high quality bus service) on several major corridors including Watt Avenue, Stockton Boulevard, Florin Road, and Sunrise Boulevard. Design work is currently being done on the area of Watt Avenue, Highway 50, and Folsom Boulevard near the Watt/Manlove light rail station to allow buses on a future BRT route to access the light rail station directly through a dedicated lane. Our TransitRenewal project is also likely to recommend improving the frequency of Routes 80 and 84 on Watt Avenue so that there will be a bus every 15 minutes on this corridor, which would be a great improvement for our customers.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I rarely see any officers on board the trains during the evening commute hours and there people constantly playing their music loud and/or being disruptive. Anything in the works to address these issues?

Reply:  While security officers are assigned to some trains, transit officers, police officers and deputy sheriffs ride trains on a more random basis as well as responding to reported problems. Please call our Customer Advocacy Department (557-4545) to report the specifics of the problem (time, location, description of violators) so that we can quickly address the issue for you.

Sacramento, CA:  When is the anticipated construction for South Line Phase 2?

Reply:  The Blue Line to Cosumnes River College is the premier project for RT and will extend the Blue Line from Meadowview Station 4.3 miles to Cosumnes River College (CRC). Wheels are in motion to move forward on the construction of the joint parking structure at what will be the transit station on the CRC campus and that is expected to begin as early as November of this year. The larger project for the light rail extension itself is currently awaiting approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to enter Final Design. Once received, RT will move forward very aggressively to negotiate a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the FTA. As soon as it is executed, RT will be able to move into construction full force and could begin as soon as next summer. Revenue operations are currently expected to begin in mid-2015.

Sacramento, CA:  Do you see any problems with cars on K Street affecting the light rail trains?

Reply:  Light rail trains and cars share the roadway throughout downtown Sacramento. K Street should not present any additional challenges for us. We have worked very closely with the City of Sacramento to make sure that our operations will not be negatively impacted. It is hoped that the addition of cars will continue to enhance the revitalization of K Street and attract many more people. That will be very good for RT.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the bus lines 63-64 come back?

Reply:  Due to low ridership, our cost per passenger to operate these two routes was unfortunately among RT's most expensive. It is not likely that we would reinstate these two routes exactly as they were before. However, we are looking at how to serve these areas in other ways that will balance the needs of residents with the requirements we have for cost-effectiveness.

citrus heights, CA:  I ride the 1 line quite frequently and find on the weekends the light rail misses the 1 by like 5 to 10 minutes. Any chance of better realigning the connections at Watt/I80 on the weekends.

Reply:  We very seldom alter the light rail schedules, because doing so would affect so many other lines. However, the Route 1 schedule could conceivably be adjusted. We will have to make sure that by adjusting the Route 1 times to leave later for people coming from the train, that we don't cause people on the inbound Route 1 buses to miss their inbound trains, or cause any other disruptions. Thank you for your suggestion. I will ask our Scheduling department to review the schedule.

Sacramento, CA:  comment-I just wanted to note as a rider, in my opinion, the overnight folks who clean up the bus interiors seem to be doing great- especially during wet weather ...a little detail but makes a huge difference.!!!

Reply:  Thank you for your comment. I'll let our Maintenance folks know.

Sacramento, CA:  What are some examples of new service standards being developed by the Transit Renewal study?

Reply:  It's common for transit agencies to develop service or performance standards for their bus routes to assist in decision-making. Some common metrics include minimum requirements for boardings per revenue hour, farebox recovery, and/or a maximum level for cost per passenger. There are countless other more elaborate metrics for taking into consideration the net cost after fare payment, the distance traveled, etc. Then there are also broader service standards for stop spacing, route spacing, headways, on-time performance, etc. All of these metrics are helpful for evaluating service and making decisions. Part of our TransitRenewal project includes deciding which and how many of these performance measures should be incorporated into official RT policy. There will be an update at the RT Board meeting on Monday, October 24th.

Antelope, CA:  A follow-up question regarding disruptive passengers: Would it help to send cell phone pictures of violators? Could it lead to faster response times? Is there a hotline number? Thank you.

Reply:  Cell phone photos could be helpful, but that could also increase your personal risk. RT has cameras on every train, bus and light rail station from which we retrieve video to help keep our system safe. Any type of problem can be reported to our Customer Advocacy Department at 557-4545. Crime related problems (just occurred or chronic) can be reported to RT Police at 556-0275. Emergencies should be reported via 911.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for participating in today's chat. Be sure to check back next month on Friday, November 4, from noon to 1 p.m. Have a nice holiday weekend.