Transit Talk with the General Manager

April 06, 2012
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Thank you for logging on to Transit Talk with the General Manager. We will be live today from noon to 1 p.m. and are accepting questions now, through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

On Monday, April 9, the RT Board of Directors is expected to accept the TransitRenewal service recommendations, paving the way for significant bus and light rail service improvements beginning September 2012.

The comprehensive in-depth analysis of RT's entire system started in 2011, with the ultimate goal of improving transit service over the next five years. The recommended service improvements that will be presented to the RT Board of Directors on Monday include restoring evening service on light rail and major bus routes to approximately 11 p.m., increasing service frequency on some of RT's heavily traveled routes and restructuring other routes to better serve riders.

The complete analysis can be found at Once the TransitRenewal service recommendations have been adopted, the information will be posted online as well.

In March, the Sacramento Metro Chamber and RT held the 4th annual State of RT Breakfast. The sell out crowd of over 400 attendees learned about RT's accomplishments and goals, and the challenges and issues facing transit today.

The annual TransitAction Awards were presented at the event to recognize models of excellence that have made a significant and positive impact on public transit in the Sacramento region.

I would like to congratulate this year's TransitAction Awards recipients:
  • Business of the Year - VSP Global
  • Organization/Agency of the Year - Los Rios Community College District
  • Transit Oriented Development of the Year - La Valentina
  • Elected Official of the Year - Councilmember Steve Cohn, City of Sacramento
  • Individual/Transit Advocate of the Year - Jan Hall Zolin
Let's start today's chat.

Sacramento, CA:  I have a concern about the information displays that have been recently installed on the most of LiteRail stations. The time and schedule are displayed for only half the time, the rest of the time it shows "Thank you for riding RT" and "Buy your RT pass online" which is, frankly, quite useless. Besides, sometimes you need to stare at the screen for 30 seconds straight just to take a one second glimpse at the current time and/or schedule. This is very inconvenient, especially when it's raining. So my question is: can the displays functionality be improved so that the time and schedule stayed on the screen longer or even constantly? Thank you.

Reply:  The next change to the displays will be part of our real time project. This summer we plan to begin outfitting the Light Rail vehicles with a real time tracking system which will allow prediction of actual train arrival times. When we prepare the sign messages that result from this data, we will look at the message content and times. The "Thank you" and "Buy" messages are place holders for advertising and system messages that are being used with the alert system. When we have a problem with the rail system, these placeholders are replaced with the alert information. As you probably know, we have only installed message signs at about half the stations. The rest are scheduled to be installed this summer. As we complete the two projects (real time and completing the sign installation), you will see adjustments to the messaging.

Sacramento, CA:  Will there be any schedule or Service Changes in June?

Reply:  We anticipate opening the Green Line to the River District (Richards Blvd.) in May, but no bus service changes are planned for June. We are planning on making a number of changes in September, including later bus and rail service, and a number of other improvements. Our Board of Directors will be voting on the service changes on Monday, April 9th.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Is Sac RT considering CNG for their service vehicles (light-duty vans, trucks)? Incentives, that Sac RT has CNG infrastructure, rising oil prices and expanding availability from manufacturers across the board seems to make a case for this. Also, will Sac RT consider CNG shuttles such as those in North Natomas Flyer’s new CNG shuttle fleet?

Reply:  The Natomas Flyer's were purchased and are operated by RT. These are as you noted CNG vehicles. If they work out, you will see more light duty CNG vehicles operated by RT. We are currently building our second CNG fueling facility at McClellan Park. The system will be operational in August. This will allow further expansion of our CNG fleet. As you noted, CNG pricing has become very inexpensive in comparison to petroleum products. RT paid 48 cents per therm for CNG last month. This is equivalent to 60 cents/gallon gasoline and we all know that gasoline is currently selling for approximately $4.00 per gallon.

sacramento, CA:  i ride from roseville rd to 11 and k everyday, for the last 5 years. why dont you try harder to get the crap off the train. i see transit cops checking for passes once every 2-3 months. there is always free loaders on the train, always. long haired black guy does his drug runs from 12 and I to del paso every day. he does it on the train infront of cameras. he has been doing it for 2 years. why dont you fix this. when i ride between 10am and 2pm, it is loaded by a very dirty bad element, and i would guess have are free loaders. at least make an effort.

Reply:  Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. This GM Chat is one way to let RT know what your experience has been while riding our transit system. However, it is not not necessarily the best way. While we have a number of transit officers, contract security and sworn police officers on the transit system every day, they may not see everything that you do. Therefore, we rely on the feedback of RT passengers to help us keep the system safe and clean. There are a variety of ways to do that. You can call or email Customer Advocacy (557-4545, or and report any problem you experience. If the problem is crime-related you can call the RT Police Crime Tip Line (556-0275). Within a month, we will roll out a new Text # to report non-emergency crime problems on the RT System. For all emergencies, we still recommend calling 911. Finally, you can report any problem to the train operator via the intercom on the trains. Again, we appreciate you taking the time to report the problems you have experienced. We'd like to address them as quickly as possible. Please call Customer Advocacy so that we can get all the specifics that will help us handle this most appropriately.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the schedule for the replacement for the 23xx buses

Reply:  We run buses about 14 years. The 23XX buses were delivered in 2003. They are scheduled to be retired by the end of 2017.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there any chance that RT is going to get brt buses

Reply:  There are a number of BRT routes scheduled in RT's long range plan (TransitAction). The implementation of these services are all based on funding. The new bus maintenance facility is being built with maintenance births to support larger buses.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the Smart Card be operational within the RT system and will it result in lower fares for customers?

Reply:  The original schedule had the pilot beginning this fall. That is slipping to March of 2013. The Smart Card will be fully operational for RT in the summer of 2013 and the other five transit operators in the region will implement it over the 8 months after RT. Following a successful implementation of Smart Card RT will be in position to consider a broad range of fare options. Some of the options may result in lower fares. As an example, distance or time based fares result in lower prices for riders riding short distances and times.

Sacramento, CA:  Congratulations on your plan to restore service. If the economy tanks again, will the latest service additions be the first to go?

Reply:  We are proceeding very cautiously, adding some service and adding funds to our reserve. To avoid cutting service again, the additions are modest and the reserve provides a level of funding protection to avoid the dramatic cuts that we made two years ago. Our top two Board adopted priorities are to enhance our service and to establish and maintain a healthy reserve. The reserve is designed to provide a sufficient financial cushion to weather future financial storms.

Sacramento, CA:  When will RT bring WiFi to customers on light rail?

Reply:  We are currently testing WiFi at three light rail stations. If the test goes well, we will expand it to other stations. On light rail vehicles, WiFi requires cell cards and hardware. We are providing this service as part of the North Natomas Flyer service. If this works well, we will look at adding it to some of the light rail vehicles. The cost of the service will be one of the decision drivers. Is this a service you would be willing to pay a nominal fee to receive?

Roseville, CA:  When will light rail extend to Roseville? Rocklin?

Reply:  Roseville, Rocklin and Placer County have not been active supporters of extending Light Rail to their communities. For RT to extend to these communities, they would need to take an active role in helping RT to secure the necessary resources. This is what the City of Folsom did.

Folsom, CA:  I heard that RT has a "surplus" of money now. How did that happen and what will you do with it?

Reply:  RT currently is projecting an operating budget reserve of $5 to $6 million at the end of FY 2012. This reserve will be used as a rainy day fund for future financial contingency's/emergency or changes in revenue assumptions from year to year, so that small reductions in revenue from year to year moving forward can be absorbed by these reserves without having to reduce or impact service levels. In addition, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is requiring that RT build reserves equal to 1.5 months of operating expenses as part of the New Starts process for the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (Light Rail South Line Phase 2 project). RT's goal is to reach that requirement by the end of FY 2015 and have a reserve balance of $18 million dollars. Our goal is to average $4.6 million in reserves each year from FY 2012 to FY 2015 to reach this reserve requirement. This happened through a focused effort to create a sustainable financial future for RT and our patrons.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  There are a lot of places in this city that are inaccessible by public transportation. There currently is no way to travel up and down Sunrise Blvd. There is no way to reach most of the business between the light rail stations with out an extensive walk, and the discontinued Route 73 makes the closest bus stop for a lot of people in this neighborhood a mile away. Are there any plans to add or birng back any service to this city?

Reply:  Most of Sunrise Boulevard north of Highway 50 is covered by Route 21, which runs seven days a week. On the weekends, we don't run as many trips north of Sunrise Mall, but we are planning on addressing that in the coming years. South of Zinfandel, we also do not have any bus service on Sunrise Boulevard, however, the route we used to run there (Route 91) did not pick up many riders there, so at this time, we are focusing on other needs such as more evening and weekend service, dealing with overcrowding, etc. We are planning on adjusting Route 74 and 75 to provide additional service in Rancho Cordova near the Kaiser Hospital, although this will have to wait until construction of a new connector road is completed from Mather Field to International Drive.

Sacramento, CA:  Do you think RT will ever take over the Sac State bus service? I think you would do a better job to connect students to the light rail.

Reply:  The Hornet Shuttle is managed by Sac State, and at this time, RT is not involved in it, nor are there any formal plans for it. We do believe, however, that there are some opportunities for a partnership that could provide people more options for transportation and be economically feasible for Sac State and RT.

Sacramento, CA:  What's with the electronic signs at the stations. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

Reply:  We are only half way done with the installation. The rest of the signs should be installed this summer. The signs had a few problems that the manufacturer fixed. You should be seeing good reliability as we go forward.

South Sacramento, CA:  Now that the initial phase of Transit Renewal changes are coming up? Got a few questions on other issues? 1) Status of the Connect Card and how will it affect state employees? 2) Status of new Green Line and when will it start? and 3) Will there be any new Pay Park and Ride Stations that will be implemented this year?

Reply:  1. The Smart Card system will begin going live early in 2013. State employees will receive the card and can load fares with the help of their agency's transit coordinators. 2. The grand opening for the Green Line to the River District is schedule in late May. 3. The RT Board has not authorized any new Park Pay and Ride Stations in the next year.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there a crazy person quota per train? per car? I'm a die hard transit rider but sometimes it gets to me. How many officers, if any, are on the train at any given time?

Reply:  We have 50 security officers, 22 sworn deputies and police officers, and just under 20 RT transit officers (fare inspectors) assigned to protect our passengers and employees as well as maintain order and enforce laws and RT rules of conduct. RT's transit security officers are assigned to all trains at night and some security officers along with the officers and transit officers are assigned to various parts of the system based, in part, on observed or reported problems. It is also helpful to know that all of our trains and light rail stations are equipped with multiple security cameras

Fair Oaks, CA:  With the current transit routes (RT and Folsom Stage Lines), it takes about 45 minutes to get from Fair Oaks (Hazel and Madison) to Folsom Lake College (FLC) when this is a 10-15 minute drive. With the September 2012 proposed changes, the 24 will now go to Historic Folsom. Are you coordinating with Folsom Stage Lines on connection times, and how do you envision the time it takes to reach Folsom Lake College from Fair Oaks changing? Also, under the proposed change, what is the earliest time in the morning someone would be able to reach the college?

Reply:  One of the reasons we are recommending this change is to improve connections. By extending Route 24 to Folsom, both RT and Folsom Stage Line will be able to schedule buses to meet the Folsom trains. We also are recommending to our Board that the first trip start from Sunrise Mall at approximately 6:00 a.m., so riders can catch a Folsom train arriving downtown at 7:30 a.m. Likewise, the last Route 24 bus will be scheduled to get riders from the last or the second to last train arriving at Historic Folsom.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Will RT continue to run the Rancho Cordovan indefinitely?

Reply:  The Rancho Cordovan is a route we operate on behalf of the City of Rancho Cordova through a service agreement. Rancho Cordova is currently evaluating future options for the route. We hope to continue to operate this service on behalf of the City.

Folsom, CA:  Is there anything the residents of Folsom can do to get later night service to Folsom? Is it in the plan to restore service that you keep talking about?

Reply:  Extended night service to Folsom is not in the TransitRenewal Plan. If you would like to see more RT service to the City of Folsom, let your city leaders know by attending and commenting at city council meetings and advocating in the community. You can also attend RT Board Meetings and let your voice be heard.

Sacramento, CA:  Why do you limit speakers to only 3 minutes at board meetings? Some of us have more to say.

Reply:  The RT Board sets the time limit. The idea is to give everyone the same amount of time to make their comments. A focused eloquent argument can be made in 3 minutes. Remember, the purpose of speaking is to provide the Board of Directors your views and influence their decisions. If speakers keep this in mind, they can sway the board members to their view. Also, if you believe that you need additional time you can always put your thoughts in written form and we will make it available to all of the Board members.

Sacramento, CA:  Will rt ever restore weekend service to those of us in the Avondale area? If not why not?

Reply:  There are no plans to restore Route 6 weekend service, but we have revised our recommendations in TransitRenewal to include Sunday/Holiday service on Route 62. This will bring Sunday north/south transit back to the Land Park/Greenhaven/Pocket corridor. For the time being, however, Routes 56 and 81 to light rail are the best options for accessing the remainder of the system on Sundays and holidays.

Sacramento, CA:  When you implement the Smart Card, how will transit incentive reimbursements be handled? Will the current "retail outlets" (such as the ones inside state offices) be continued?

Reply:  The arrangements with the state offices and other employee sponsors will be very similar. The media and the tools to load the media (smart cards) is electronic and web based. Our expectation is that employees will be able to have their cards loaded without visiting the coordinators office. The coordinator can authorize the card on line and e-mails are generated to the employee that the card has been reloaded with the selected media.

Sacramento, CA:  Is RT involved in the plans to bring the Arena to downtown Sacramento? If so, what part will RT play in making it happen?

Reply:  Yes, RT is very involved in the development of the Sports and Entertainment Arena and the future Intermodal facility. Both of these will share the site currently occupied by the Sacramento Valley station. We are are working closely with the City of Sacramento staff and staff's of other transit operators to make sure that these future facilities are fully accessible to all of our patrons. It is critical that these facilities receive a very high level of transit service.

South Sacramento, CA:  Have you looked into the 6:06 train stopping at 8th & O 2min after the last #2 bus leaves?

Reply:  Since trains come every 15 minutes each way on both lines, there is always a last train that doesn't make the bus. We do not have any plans to run Route 2 any later at this point. At this time we're focusing on other priorities such as later service on light rail and our core routes, more buses on our busiest routes, etc.

CA:  Where did funding to build the Green Line to the River District come from?

Reply:  The majority of the funding for the Green Line to the River District comes from Measure A - Plan of Finance Funding which is a part of the local transportation sales tax funding for Sacramento County. This funding source includes a capital component that funds many transit, streets & roads and other projects in the Sacramento Region. The Green Line to the River District project is funded with all Local and State funding, and includes no Federal funding.

Sacramento, CA:  Why is the light rail train going downtown now arriving one minute AFTER the 72 leaves Watt/Manlove? Why can't the drivers wait 3-5 minutes to see if the train arrives when they just sit at Mather Field light rail when they arrive there? I had a 29 minute wait this morning because of the new schedule?

Reply:  Route 72 from Watt/Manlove is timed with outbound Gold Line trains. It's also timed at Mather for with inbound Gold Line trains. I will forward this to our Scheduling Department to investigate, but it may not be possible to do what you're asking without disrupting these other connections.

Sacramento, CA:  Are you planning to bring back the 36 line? It seems like a lot of people were cut off from RT with that bus being cut.

Reply:  There are no plans to bring back Route 36 at this point.

Sacramento, CA:  Are buses ever supposed to arrive early, specifically, to their final destination? The 72 line has been arriving 5 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. Maybe this is due to Spring Break with fewer passengers to pick up, but it seems like some people may be missing the bus if they are expecting the bus to arrive at the usual scheduled time.

Reply:  Buses are not supposed to arrive early, even if the loads are lighter. I will advise our Transportation Supervisors.

Sacramento, CA:  I am concerned about RT's TransitRenewal Plan in regards to route 80/84. Under the plan, RT will eliminate the parts of the route that currently serve La Riviera Drive and Kaiser Hospital on Morse. I am concerned with this due to the fact that the travel to the hospital is extended for those coming from Rosemont (having to take light rail then the 82) and prevents a lot of students along with other passengers that live on La Riviera that take the 80/84 to the light rail. Not making these areas accessible to transit seems wrong, is anything going to be done to make these area more accessible to transit?

Reply:  We are not recommending the La Riviera Drive service be eliminated until 2014 and we have also revised our recommendations on the Morse Avenue service to postpone that change until 2014 as well. We still feel that these are good changes to make in the long run, as we have a long-term goal of making Watt Avenue a BRT corridor high frequency and higher-speed travel. But until we have the money to improve headways on these routes, we think it makes sense to keep Routes 80 and 84 on their current routing, as many of our passengers have requested.

Elk Grove, CA:  I see that South Line Phase II (blue line extension to CRC) is currently scheduled for construction between Summer (or is it Fall?) of last year to 2013. Has construction actually begun? If not, when will it begin and how long do you anticipate construction to take?

Reply:  The parking structure at CRC is under construction. The bridges are next up for construction (May) and if we receive FTA permission to complete the design, we will continue to move forward. We expect to hear from the FTA within the next 60 days. The goal is to be in operations to CRC by June 2015.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there any chances that the 61 will be changed back to an every-30-minute bus?

Reply:  This is recommended in TransitRenewal as part of our five-year plan.

Sacramento, CA:  RE: the Gold Line and the 72. I don't understand what other connections will be disrupted by a few minutes wait? Obviously, there is a problem with the 72 schedule. Before this change, the Sunrise-bound trains were arriving at the time the 72 left and we were being left behind (when we came from downtown)

Reply:  The purpose of adjusting the Gold Line schedules was to make it more reliable and on-time. We're still working on ironing out some of the connecting bus schedules. Thank for your suggestion. We'll take it into consideration.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for participating today. The next session will be held on Friday, May 4, from noon to 1 p.m.