Transit Talk with the General Manager

July 06, 2012
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, July 6. We will be live from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will be accepting questions from 10 a.m. through the end of the chat. Thank you for your interest.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

For those of you who may have missed it, on Friday, June 15, RT held a Grand Opening Celebration for the Green Line to the River District light rail extension. The event started with a literal bang, as fireworks shot into the sky as the inaugural train pulled into the new 7th & Richards/Township 9 Station.

Hundreds of people were on hand to celebrate the culmination of this project, enjoying complimentary food, live music, community booths, and remarks from local government and business leaders.

The new Green Line to the River District extends light rail 1.1 miles north connecting downtown Sacramento to the River District. The extension includes two new light rail stations: 8th & H/County Center Station (opened on January 9, 2012) and 7th & Richards/Township 9 Station. Service operates every 30 minutes, Monday through Friday, from approximately 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (no weekend or holiday service).

Building a multi-million dollar light rail extension in the current economy presented a multitude of challenges. Since construction began in November 2009, RT faced challenges related to weather, underground utilities and integration of a third light rail line. RT worked closely with our partners and construction contractors to overcome these obstacles and deliver an extension that will be a catalyst for transit-oriented development in the River District.

In June, RT also launched a new real-time bus tracking system called RT Tracker. The GPS technology allows customers to track RT buses on routes, view their locations using online maps, and receive estimated arrival times for any bus stop.

Customers can also use text messaging to receive estimated arrival times or sign up to be sent automatic email or text alerts. The real-time system can be accessed at

While on-time performance is high, some bus delays are unavoidable. You can now track the locations of buses and adjust your travel plans accordingly, gaining greater flexibility in using public transportation.

Real-time tracking of light rail vehicles is not yet available, but is included in plans for RT Tracker expansion when funding becomes available. Try it out and let us know what you think.

Let's begin the chat.

Sacramento, CA:  Has the Green Line been getting decent ridership?

Reply:  So far it's averaging over 250 riders each day. It has been as high as 350.

Citrus Heights , CA:  During the TransitRenewal Hearings and final adoption of the September 2nd Service Changes, one route that was put on hold was Route 24. Will this route likely change on January 6, 2013? If that is a possibility, will at least one, and perhaps up to five different options be presented to the Board of Directors for their "blessing" by the end of the day on August 27th, if not earlier?

Reply:  At this point, we have not determined what we will be recommending to our Board of Directors in August. We are evaluating a number of concepts to improve service to Orangevale and to provide a connection between Sunrise Mall and the City of Folsom.

Sacramento, CA:  Should people have been able to see out of the Green Line train before they took the window coverings off?

Reply:  Yes. The perforations were not sufficient to be able to see through the material (vinyl). We are working with the vendor to have replacement material installed on the windows.

Citrus Heights , CA:  In terms of the TransitRenewal Service Changes for September 2nd, will Weekend Service on Route 2113 offer early morning service past the Sunrise Mall Transit Center all the way to the Louis/Orlando Transfer Point, or will the early morning weekend schedule primarily remain the same and only go as far as Sunrise Mall Transit Center from Mather/Mills Station?

Reply:  I assume you're talking about Route 21 (Sunrise Blvd./Citrus Heights). We are adding some evening trips on weekdays but there are no changes to the weekend schedule. We may look at that in the future.

North Natomas, CA:  Between now and the last day of August, will you and your staff be doing any "physical" appearances in communities affected either positively or negatively by the September 2nd TransitRenewal Service Changes? For example, here in North Natomas, will there be outreach on the positives of what's coming for Route 11 as well as the negatives for Route 14? Will other communities get the same educational "physical appearances" from now through the end of next month, or will riders expect to know, on their own, what's going on especially when the change to them is interpreted as negative?

Reply:  RT is currently scheduling outreach events throughout the system to inform people about the September Service Changes. Dates and locations will be scheduled from early August through the end of the month and be published by the end of July. We will make sure to pay special attention to the routes that are being discontinued or curtailed.

Sacramento, CA:  When the smart card comes out, will the possibility of Transfers and Central City Fare Return?

Reply:  The initial smart card implementation will incorporate the current fare structure and pricing. At the same time we have begun to evaluate adjustments to the structure, including charging less for shorter trips, like a Central City City Fare. There are a number of other good options that include distance based fares. When we get closer to the implementation, we will be doing outreach and publicity for the smart card.

Sacramento, CA:  I saw on your website what TransitRenewal is about and have mostly learned about service changes on September 2nd. While I don't want to get too much ahead of myself, I'm curious to know what may be considered for September 2013. Would you be able, in this forum, to highlight what possibilities there are for September 2013 and the estimated month that your Board of Directors may get their opportunity to get the first hearing on this topic?

Reply:  Thank you for your interest in TransitRenewal. In addition to the September 2012 service additions, the website link for TransitRenewal has a summary by year of the improvements staff plans to propose each year through 2016. TransitRenewal is a five year plan to restore service to pre-2010 service cut levels, however, the amount of service restored annually is subject to available funding. The RT Board adopted the full TransitRenewal plan in concept, but approved only the first year of service additions with the FY2013 Operating Budget. Future service additions in TransitRenewal will be considered annually through the budget process. You can expect to hear about Fiscal Year 2014 service additions by March of 2013 when budget deliberations for the FY 2014 Operating Budget begin.

Sacramento, CA:  What are the plans for transit (most specifically rail) to an area in the railyards? What about when the Amtrak station finishes moving it's platforms?

Reply:  RT has plans for a light rail station on the Green Line serving the Railyards. Bus service could also be extended there when the area is built up, but we don't have any plans for that yet. As for the light rail station at Amtrak, there are still several variables including the Railyards, a downtown arena, and the Downtown Streetcar. We are actively working with all the project sponsors to work out a plan that will fit transit in with the overall project. The California Transportation Commission (CTC) recently adopted an expenditure plan for the allocation of State Proposition 1A Connectivity funds that included an allocation to RT for improved light rail connections at the Sacramento Valley Station. These improvements are slated to be completed by 2016.

South Sacramento, CA:  When are we going to get a peek of the new schedules for the changes coming September 2nd, 2012? Also, any details on the Connect Card? And are you planning any further light rail pay and park stations in the future?

Reply:  1. Schedules should be online at by the end of July. Pocket timetables will be released about a week before the changes take effect. 2. The Smart Card Marketing Campaign is scheduled to begin this fall. During the outreach, we will be sharing how to use the new system and the benefits to riders. 3. No, there are no current plans to add new stations to the Park, Pay and Ride program at this time.

Sacramento, CA:  I see that RT had a surplus at the end of the last fiscal year. How is this possible with ridership coming in below expectations? Where did the bulk of the surplus money come from?

Reply:  RT's ridership for FY 2012 has increased by over 2% compared to FY 2011. Light Rail ridership is up by over 7% while bus ridership is lower by approximately 4%. RTadopted a fiscally conservative budget in FY 2012 that anticipated reserves at year-end in conformance with the Comprehensive Reserve Policy adopted by the RT Board in September 2011. Given the existence of such a policy, there is no such thing as surplus money within the context of RT's financial plan as all available funding over expenditures is dedicated to Operating and Capital reserves. However, I understand your question and can say that while there were numerous puts and takes over the course of the year between revenues and expenditures, the largest segment of additional revenue came from the growth in sales tax over FY 2011. Sales tax growth in FY2012 was 6.7% over the prior year. RT's early sales tax projections were roughly 2% and were later revised at mid-year to 5%. Two of RT's primary revenues are sales tax based. The RT Board is expected to officially declare the reserves for FY2012 later this year after the annual audit is completed.

South Sacramento, CA:  Will Route 55 have an earlier start time when the changes go in September 2012?

Reply:  The first two northbound trips on Route 55 going to Florin Mall will start a few minutes earlier from Cosumnes River College. Currently, these trips start at Methodist Hospital and Mack Road. There won't be any other major changes, although you'll want to check the schedule online for any other minor adjustments. Schedules will be available on at the end of the month.

Sacramento, CA:  Did you see the poll conducted by the Sacramento Business Journal with people most people saying “transit really isn’t an option here” in Sacramento? Do you think this was a fair poll?

Reply:  I have not been provided the results of the poll, however, I did read the article. It is not surprising that business people believe that transit is a weak option in our community. The level of service in many areas of our community in inadequate at best. In order for service to be more usable it needs to operate frequently (at least every 15 minutes) and operate from early morning until late at night. Currently only a select few bus routes and light rail meet this service description. In order for RT to operate a majority of our service to be attractive to the motoring public we will need a major infusion of resources. This is the vision of TransitAction, RT's long range master plan.

carmichael, CA:  First,when will the new timetable book(effective September 2)go on sale?Second,are certain routes with alignment changes(i.e.,19,22,and 34)going to have their geographical names changed as well?

Reply:  The new bus and light rail timetable book will be on sale the last week of August. It will be finalized much sooner, but it takes about three weeks for the book to be printed and returned to us. The new timetable information will be available online by the end of July. Regarding the geographical names, there won't be any changes to route names, although the destination headsigns will change for Routes 1, 22, 26, 34, and 54, plus some of the trips on Route 5 and the new trips on Route 25 that turn around at Fair Oaks Blvd.

Sacramento , CA:  Are there any plans to implement bus rapid transit on RT's busiest routes?

Reply:  TransitAction, our long-range plan, calls for BRT or Hi-Bus on a number of major corridors, including Watt Avenue, Stockton Boulevard, Auburn Blvd./Greenback Lane and Florin Road. Hi-Bus has many of the characteristics that make BRT suited for high-ridership corridors, such as signal priority, larger vehicles with more doors, and possibly off-vehicle fare payment, without necessarily adding the cost and difficulty of dedicated lanes and elaborate stations. Design work is already underway to make a dedicated lane for buses at the intersection of Watt Avenue and Folsom Boulevard.

Sacramento , CA:  Speaking of the ridership for the Green Line is this average for a line of this size. The stations and length I mean.

Reply:  We are pleased with the initial level of utilization. The ridership will continue to grow as additional development occurs.

South Sacramento, CA:  Will any other agencies (i.e. E-Tran) be notified of the changes due to connections to major destinations with RT?

Reply:  Yes

Carmichael, CA:  Recently, voters in San Diego and San Jose passed pension reform measures (ie cuts) while the State of CA continues to address the issue. What does the future hold for RT pension benefits/liabilities?

Reply:  As with so many public agencies in California, RT is actively working towards a solution to rising pension costs. A cross divisional work group was formed last year and has developed a list of potential modifications to the RT pension program to contain costs and improve the funding levels of each plan. The next steps will include working with attorneys to determine both the legality and the feasibility of each potential change the committee has identified; to finalize a strategy and to begin discussions with each employee or labor group as negotiations commence over the next year to make the necessary changes. So while it is too soon to tell what the future holds for RT pension benefits and liabilities, it is fair to say that RT has a strong commitment to continuing to provide a competitive benefit package that includes pension benefits. As costs are controlled, the RT's liability for the plans will reduce over time.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I urge that in making changes with the Bus 24 route and in working with the City of Folsom, increased efficiency is considered. Going from Fair Oaks to Folsom Lake College is a 45 minute bus ride with limits in time; by car this is a 15 minute drive. It seemed to me that the proposed service changes for the 24 would make this route somewhat more efficient and the bus route beginning earlier and ending later would be beneficial, although efficiency of the rest of the route (to the college) would depend on Folsom Stage Lines. What work is being done with the City of Folsom? Will service change for Bus 24 in September, and if not when will any Bus 24 route changes be made public?

Reply:  The City of Folsom has been supportive of bringing an RT bus from Orangevale over the American River to the Historic Folsom light rail station. We haven't yet discussed a longer route to Folsom Lake College or elsewhere in Folsom, although we've sketched some potential routes and done some initial cost estimation. We have had a lot of support for more service in this area. No changes to Route 24 are being made in September. There is a possibility we'll make changes in January 2013.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for participating today during this holiday shortened week. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, August 3, from noon to 1 p.m.