Transit Talk with the General Manager

January 06, 2012
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO, will host the first Transit Talk online chat session of the new year today from noon to 1 p.m. The system is accepting questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Good afternoon and welcome to the first Transit Talk session of 2012. RT is striving to reach a number of milestones this year and is excited that two major projects - the Green Line to the River District and the TransitRenewal comprehensive operational analysis - are on track for completion in the first quarter of 2012.

The Green Line to the River District continues to progress with RT towing the first light rail vehicle test train up the tracks on 7th Street from H Street to the future 7th and Richards/Township 9 Station on December 19, 2011. The test helped evaluate the installation of the special track work at Township 9 and provided a preliminary clearance evaluation of the new system, which is needed prior to the opening of revenue service in early 2012.

RT would like to invite you to the opening celebration for the 8th & H/County Center Station on Monday, January 9, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the station. A short ceremony will be followed by refreshments with customer assistance continuing at the station on Tuesday, January 10, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Initially serving passengers on the Gold Line, the 8th & H/County Center Station is one of two light rail stations that will serve RT customers traveling on the Green line to the River District when it opens.

RT also continues to develop TransitRenewal, a comprehensive operational analysis of the RT bus and light rail system that will serve as a guide to gradually increase service to pre-June 2010 levels by 2017. RT will hold community stakeholder meetings next week, and public outreach activities in late January and early February, with RT Board adoption of the plan in late February or early March. The first phase of service improvements are expected to be implemented in June 2012.

Join RT as we continue to celebrate the 4th annual Season of Civil Rights. RT is honored to once again take part in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. March and Celebration on Monday, January 16. The event is held to remember the sacrifices made by pioneers of the American Civil Rights Movement. RT buses will trail the march and offer rides to those who might not be able to walk the entire route. Supplemental bus service will also be provided from the end of the march at the Sacramento Convention Center back to the starting locations at Sacramento City College, the Oak Park Community Center and Grant Union High School.

For more information about the event, visit

Let's begin today's chat.

Sacramento, CA:  I know that Folsom Stage Lines connects to Folsom Lake College, but service is infrequent and much less convenient than if light rail were to extend to the college. In addition, after the 2:06 stop at Main and Madison, the Bus 24 connection stops at a transfer point to Folsom Stage Lines when the wait time is nearly an hour between transfers. Sac City has light rail and buses, American River has a great bus connection, CRC has buses and will get light rail...are there any such plans for Folsom Lake College?

Reply:  Thank you for your interest in expanding RTservice in Folsom. Service in Folsom is currently limited to the types and frequencies that the City of Folsom contracts with RT to provide. RT is exploring potential additional service options through TransitRenewal, a comprehensive operational analysis that is currently underway. Service to Folsom and Bus 24 connections are part of that analysis. RT has discussed internally the advantages of service that would connect Folsom Lake College to the RT system at the light rail connections in Folsom and will discuss the possibilities with the City of Folsom at a future date. Again, unless the City of Folsom annexes into the the RT service area, all RT transit service in the City is based on how much the City is willing and able to pay for through the contract.

Sacramento, CA:  Sac RT has done a great job moving towards using CNG fuel and away from diesel...given that RT has CNG infrastructure, is Sac RT considering CNG for its utility vehicle and/or neighborhood ride fleet? Also, given the size of the Paratransit fleet, is CNG or another alternative fuel or advanced technology such as hybrid being considered? California's HVIP and AB118 California Energy Commission funding would help offset incremental costs and given the price instability of gasoline and diesel, I would think there could be a business case for such a switch.

Reply:  Thanks for the question about CNG. The decision to move to CNG in 1993 has generated huge savings for the district, in addition to improved air quality. We are working with manufactures in the hopes of having small buses equipped with a CNG. There are a few manufacturers making them now, but they are not robust enough to stand up to daily service. We hope in the future to move to alternative fuels on the smaller buses. RT has recently acquired three gasoline/hybrid buses to use in our Neighborhood Ride service. This will allows us to fully evaluate the use of these vehicles. If they prove effective we will consider expanding their use in our service and for ADA demand response paratransit service.

Sacramento, CA:  How long does it take for a train operator to relay a problem to Sac RT headquarters to let the public know?

Reply:  The light train operators communicate directly with the light rail control center through our radio system. The control center staff directly post messages on our electronic message boards. There is no in-between step.

Sacramento, CA:  Why does the service disruption page on your website not update to include actual service disruptions? Further many of us do understand that public transit is susceptible to delays. We get it. What frustrates us is the indifference to communicating these delays so your riders can find an alternative.

Reply:  Historically, we have only had the ability to post planned disruptions such as due to construction projects, road closures, etc. However, we are currently testing a system that will provide real-time vehicle location information to passengers for buses and eventually light rail. We anticipate releasing it publicly in April.

Sacramento, CA:  Has RT planned for the loss of the CNG rebate which congress has not renewed?

Reply:  RT is well aware of the potential loss of the CNG rebate due to congressional inactivity and will revise revenues downward in the event it is not renewed. The estimated loss in FY 2012 if the rebate is not renewed is $600,000. While uncertainty surrounds the future of the CNG rebate, sales tax based revenues are more robust than budgeted and the increase in that revenue source will help make up the shortfall if the rebate is not renewed. We are optimistic that the CNG rebate will be taken up again during the current legislative session and will be renewed retroactively to January 1, 2012.

Sacramento, CA:  I noticed that the older Siemens light rail vehicles are having LED exterior destination signs installed. Is this rolling out across the fleet?

Reply:  Yes we will be gradually changing all of the exterior sings on the light rail vehicles to electronic signs. The current signs are now longer being manufactured and the new electronic signs will provide us with greater flexibility.

Sacramento, CA:  A couple of months ago I asked a question regarding painting the trains the same color as the line that they are on, and I was told you would consider it in the future. Do you have any updates on this?

Reply:  Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to repaint the light rail vehicles at this time. We are exploring other options to upgrade the exterior of the older Siemens vehicles.

Sacramento, CA:  Are any additional LED signs planned for the light rail stations that currently do not have them?

Reply:  Phase 2 installation of the electronic message signs begins in April when additional funding becomes available. The phase 2 funding is expected to pay for completing the system. Construction should take about 6 months. I expect all of the remaining stations to have message signs by the end of the year.

South Sacramento, CA:  Two-Part question. A) What is the status of TransitRenewal project? and B) Any updates to any service changes for South Sacramento?

Reply:  On Monday, January 23, we will release a draft service plan for TransitRenewal. Public outreach will take place in the month of February including a public hearing before the Board of Directors on Monday, February 27, after which, we will make any necessary adjustments to the plan, and bring a final version to the Board for adoption. Regarding South Sacramento, TransitRenewal is likely to recommend some increases in service to the busiest routes, however, in the immediate future, the only changes are minor schedule adjustments in April to accommodate the new Green Line to Richards Boulevard and because of schedule adjustments to the Gold Line to improve reliability.

Sacramento, CA:  1st Question: Will night service on light rail and major routes come back in April?. 2nd Question: When will the RT Tracker be available for all bus routes?

Reply:  Last summer we made plans to restore two hours of evening service on light rail and several major connecting bus routes. We had to postpone implementation due to uncertainty about our federal funding, but public outreach has been completed, and it could theoretically be approved by the RT Board and implemented in September or possibly as early as June. We anticipate the RT Tracker real-time vehicle location information will be made available to the public in April.

South Sacramento, CA:  Status for any changes to Route 55?

Reply:  TransitRenewal is likely to recommend that headways on Route 55 be improved from 60 to 30 minutes on weekdays. The draft plan will be released at the RT Board meeting on Monday, January 23.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the relationship between RT and Paratransit, if any? Michael

Reply:  That's a very interesting question. The relationship is a collaborative provision of service. The purpose of the relationship is to provide the federally required ADA demand response service within the RT service area. RT contracts with Paratransit, Inc., to provide this service to ADA qualified riders who need service within the RT service area within the hours RT operates. RT's funding of this service currently accounts for approximately two thirds of Paratransit Inc.s' operating budget. RT also provides Paratransit with vehicles and other capital.

Sacramento, CA:  Why doesn't SacRT use Twitter to update disruptions and delays? SF BART and Portland TriMet are just a few of many that employ Twitter to inform their riders/customers about service delays. It would be helpful to commuters, the bulk of your ridership, if they could see on Twitter why a train hasn't shown up so they could arrange alternative transportation instead of having a blackout on information.

Reply:  RT is looking into the possibility of using Twitter to update customers about disruptions and delays. One option is to tie the updates to the electronic message signs located at the stations. We want to make sure that if we plan to use twitter for disruptions, that a message goes up every time there is one.

Sacramento, CA:  Will you look into adding a 3rd car for the 6:29 p.m. train out of Watt I-80?

Reply:  Historically, we have found that two-car trains are sufficient to handle the passenger load at this time, but we will take another look at this trip.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the new station on 8th between H and I open? And will the Gold Line trains stop there?

Reply:  The station is scheduled to open Monday, January 9th. All trains going through the station will stop, which includes the Gold Line trains. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 11:30 AM Monday morning. Please join us for the celebration.

So. Sacramento, CA:  Good Afternoon. I have 3 questions/comments for you. 1. Why aren’t the light rail ticket boxes able to accept debit/credit cards? I only work 3 days a week and I am forced to carry $3.00 a day for my Senior ticket. I don’t work enough to purchase the semi-month ticket of $25.00 as I only work 6 – 8 days in a semi-month. 2. I ride the light rail to Arden Del Passo and take the 23 to Ethan and Alta Arden. Our regular bus driver has a 14 minutes lay over at Arden Del Passo every morning at around 7:12 am. He always lets us on the bus so we don’t have to stand in the cold. This past week, he has been on vacation and the relief drivers have had us stand out in the cold. One eats two cups of yogurt and then plays with her phone. She does not open the doors until the “Not In Service” sign changes 4 minutes before she leaves at 7:29 am. What is the policy on riders being allowed to get into the bus rather than stand in 39 degree cold? I for one will be glad when the regular driver is back on the 23 line. 3. I also have a problem with the afternoon 23 line. This bus is supposed to reach Arden Fair Mall and Challenge at 4:41 pm per the schedule. I know that this is a “Timed” stop. That means that is should be at Ethan and Alta Arden stop at approximately 4:35 – 4:38 pm or there bouts. However, that bus is notorious for being late. Last week and so far this week it ran between 8 and 10 minutes late. I missed the light rail that stops at Royal Oaks at 4:52 two times in a row. I get off at Royal Oaks because this bus rarely makes it Arden Del Passo in time for the 4:59 light rail. One time when it was late a Transit Office lent me her phone to call my husband. He picks me up at the Meadowview Light Rail station at 5:35 pm so I don’t have to walk home in the dark. Is there anything you can do to help this problem? The last time it happened – I sent in a complaint. Bet nothing happened with it. Anything you can do will be appreciated. Thanks. Kathi.

Reply:  Hello, Kathi, and thank you for bringing these issues to our attention. Regarding your question on the acceptance of debit/credit cards on light rail ticket boxes, RT is working towards replacing some of the light rail ticket boxes to enable credit card use as early as 2012. Future implementation of the Connect Card system will allow the use of credit cards to add fare to the cards which will be reduced as rides are taken. You will learn more about this in the upcoming months. Unfortunately, this does not solve your problem in the short run, just know that we are aware of the inconvenience to our customers and are looking for solutions. As you experienced, when a driver is waiting at a transit station for ten minutes or more, they are allowed to stay on the bus with the door closed. This is time when the operator is on their "rest break". During this time they are on their own time, which could include a lunch break. We do make exceptions during inclement weather. As part of our TransitRenewal project we are evaluating the operational reliability and service level of the #23 line. TransitRenewal will likely include a recommendation for increasing the frequency of this service. This will allow for improved connections with light rail at Arden/Del Paso.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the message boards at the train stations start displaying real time train information?

Reply:  We are working on acquiring GPS equipment with real-time communications with vehicle tracking. When we have this installed, we will be able to provide accurate real-time updates. We recently installed GPS equipment and two way electronic communication gear on the bus fleet and will be rolling out real-time information on the bus service. These services will include web, phone and text messages about bus arrival times and progress. The system also has maps showing the bus locations and arrival times. We will be working on the same services for light rail soon.

Sacto, CA:  This last Wednesday the 4:30 Folsom train did not come. We were all waiting at the station. Someone called the RT offices and it was going to be 21 minutes before the call was answered. Why don't you post train cancellations on the electronic signs that were put up?

Reply:  First, I apologize for any inconvenience the delay caused. I am assuming you are referring to the problems we had Wednesday morning. Our customer service office (call center) doesn't open until 6:00 a.m. Because of the limited hours of service in the call center, we are trying to use the electronic message signs for a broad range of passenger updates. The disruption you referred to should have been shown on the message signs. I will look into why it wasn't.

No. Natomas, Sacramento, CA:  So you are doing the Consumas River line - when do we get the Green line to the Airport? Soon would be nice.

Reply:  In our financial forecasts, we assume the Green Line will begin service to North Natomas in 2025 and to Sacramento International Airport in 2029. Local and federal funding sources for this project have yet to be identified; however, we are looking forward to opening the first leg to Richard Boulevard in upcoming months. We will continue to work hard to progress the remainder of the project. We would be able to deliver the Green Line to the Airport much sooner (by 2019) if the voters of Sacramento approve increased funding for RT. RT staff is currently evaluating the feasibility of asking the voters for additional resources.

Sacramento, CA:  On your electronic boards there is a notice sometimes that the Gold Line is going to be approx. 5-10 minutes late. Why is it always the Gold Line that is delayed?

Reply:  The signs at each station show only messages for the service at that station. Downtown shows all of the disruptions, but as you leave the shared track and are in the Gold Line or Blue Line service area, only the messages about those services are shown on the electronic signs. To your point, we have been having service reliability issues with the Gold Line and will be adding an additional train in April to improve our on time performance.

West Sac, CA:  Is RT still considering a street car system to West Sacramento?

Reply:  A street car system to West Sacramento is included in RT's TransitAction Plan. RT is working with the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento on a feasibility study and will be a partner in the project. RT will ultimately run the system when it is complete.

So Sacramento, CA:  I know that you have no money to paint the light rail cars - but how about just washing the very dirty windows on the inside? They are horrible!

Reply:  The cars are washed nightly by an automated wash system and the insides are cleaned by staff. The windows have a coating installed to protect them from graffiti that is crystallizing and makes them appear dirty. Our maintenance team just began replacing the armor coating on all the vehicles. You should see cleaning looking windows soon.

Roseville, CA:  Is there any chance there will be a Lightrail expansion up the northeast corridor to Roseville soon?

Reply:  That's a good question. Light rail expansion in the Northeast corridor is in the TransitAction Plan and would be an excellent addition to the RT system. Unfortunately, the cost of expansion is steep and there is currently no agreement in place across jurisdictional boundaries to share costs or provide service to Roseville.

Sacramento, CA:  When there is a train delay on the Gold Line, why does it seem that the train that goes to Folsom is always stopped at Sunrise due to the delay. We have to get off at Sunrise and wait for the next Folsom train. Why not have the Folsom train go through and the Sunrise train be taken out of the system?

Reply:  Although it is obviously a hassle for Folsom-bound passengers when the Folsom train is taken out of service at Sunrise, we have to turn the train around in order to get it back on time. If we don't get the train back on time, the delay will spread to other trips, such as passengers trying to make a connection at 16th Street. We also have limited options going to Folsom because of the single-track section. If a train is running late and it continues on to Folsom, the following Folsom train will have to be held until the first train returns and clears the single-track section. In April we will be making adjustments to the Gold Line schedule, including some additional running time and layover, which should improve schedule adherence.

Midtown Sacramento, CA:  Are there going to be any schedule changes for Routes 34, and 38?

Reply:  It's too soon to say whether any schedule changes are anticipate for Routes 34 and 38. However, we may have an answer for you soon. In the wake of service cuts in 2009-2010, RT began a compressive operational analysis called TransitRenewal to look at all of RT's routes and service. The purpose of the study is to recommend service changes, enhancements and additions for Board consideration when RT is financially able to restore service. The RT Board will hear the next report on TransitRenewal on January 23rd.

Sacramento, CA:  What changes are going to happen to routes 11 and 15 when the Green Line opens?

Reply:  No changes are planned for Route 11 or 15 for the Green Line opening. The Green Line will increase the number of options passengers have for getting between Downtown Sacramento and Richards Boulevard.

North Natomas, CA:  Hello, I heard that RT was taking over the Natomas Flyer is that the case? if so what are the details?

Reply:  This is correct. RT won a competitive bid to operate the North Natomas TMA Flyer routes and we anticipate taking over service in March or April. New buses have been purchased and are expected to be delivered later this month. The routes and schedules will remain basically the same.

Sascramento, CA:  What is the timeline for the possibility of using Twitter? You could tie Twitter to your Facebook page right now without an issue also. And the best part: it's an established service that takes 1 minute to set up and any folks in SacRT could update Twitter easily before fussing with the sign boards that are not located at every station, which per a response from SacRT's Facebook indicates that you're awaiting more funding.

Reply:  RT does not use our Facebook page to alert passengers about unscheduled disruptions and has no plans to. Regarding Twitter we plan to tie in the messages posted to the electronic message signs to the future account. This will keep messages uniform and not add a number of extra steps for our operations staff to accomplish during disruptions.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I see your new RT Tracker, and am curious as to why you are only advertizing the fact you can see the neighborhood ride buses? I can see all the routes.

Reply:  We haven't gone live with all of the bus routes yet. We are testing it and you are seeing a early (nearly complete) version of the product. Look for fanfare and notices in the next few months.

Sacramento, CA:  has there been any thought to extend route 33 from it's terminal at Alkali Flat Station to 8th and O following the alignment that the 29 takes during it's morning and afternoon runs

Reply:  We have considered some changes to Route 33, but at this time, we are not planning on changing it. If you have some specific destinations you think would generate ridership along that route, please email your suggestions to

Citrus Heights, CA:  Hoping you can you inform me about the Sacramento’s Regional Transit greatest accomplishments are for 2011 and what to expect in 2012 relative to the success of RT or organization expansion

Reply:  Thanks for the question. FY 2011 was a year for RT to stabilize financially following three roller coaster financial years that tracked closely with the regional and national economic decline. In 2011, RT was able to restore the structural deficits in its financials that were responsible for the service cuts in 2009 and 2010. With careful attention to containing costs, RT has been able to keep additional service cuts at bay. As for other specific accomplishments in 2011, RT was able to negotiate the last two of five labor contracts with concessions necessary to RT's financial recovery; achieve a medium rating from FTA on the Blue Line to CRC, begin construction of the parking structure at CRC, award the contract to build the two bridges needed for the Blue Line extension, achieved 26% fare recovery ratio, make significant progress on the construction of the Green Line, installed electronic message signs at 16 light rail stations, and more. 2012 has already started with some major positives starting with the opening of the 8th and h street light rail station scheduled for Monday, January 9th.

sacramento, CA:  Will you be adding more guards to ride the trains? I'm scared to ride sometimes.

Reply:  We are always looking for ways to enhance the security and safety of our passengers. As funding becomes available, we will look into adding more police officers and security officers on the trains. Currently, we have security officers assigned to several trains and at a number of stations. The police officers and deputies assigned to our Regional Transit Police Services routinely ride the trains and patrol the stations.

Folsom, CA:  On the Gold Line, when there are problems with Folsom trains the more common occurrence for a short turnaround seems to be to dump the passengers at Hazel rather than Sunrise. That's understandable if there's a regular Sunrise right behind. But wouldn't it be better to do the short turnaround at Iron Point where there are local bus connections and more people to borrow rides from to get to the other stations? Hazel's kind of the middle of nowhere.

Reply:  The light rail dispatchers have to take into consideration what it will take to get the train back on time, where the train can turn around, etc. When trains run late we try to minimize the disruption to passengers as much as possible.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation in today's chat. The next session of Transit Talk is scheduled for Friday, February 3, 2012, from noon to 1 p.m. Happy New Year!