Transit Talk with the General Manager

August 03, 2012
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
September 2012 Service Improvements/General Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be live today from noon to 1 p.m. The system will accept questions now through the end of the chat. Thank you for your interest.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.

Many of you are likely aware that on Sunday, September 2, 2012, RT will implement major service improvements and begin the first year of TransitRenewal - a comprehensive operational analysis of the RT bus and light rail system that will restore, restructure and "renew" transit service through 2017.

In September, RT will extend night service on light rail and nine major bus routes, increase frequency on highly-utilized bus routes, and restructure bus routes to better serve riders. In all, the changes will add nearly 21,000 revenue hours and 450,000 revenue miles a year to RT's current schedule.

These initial accomplishments are consistent with the goal of TransitRenewal to develop the most efficient and effective transit network possible over the next five years - contingent upon available funding.

The additions come on the heels of massive service reductions RT was forced to make in June 2010. Faced with a $25 million deficit, RT discontinued over 20 percent of bus and light rail service and reduced staffing by nearly 30 percent. Now, after a relatively short period of time, RT is beginning to surmount the challenges posed by the struggling economy, with a service increase of approximately 8 percent in September.

The September 2012 service improvements are also an indication of better things to come from RT. Construction has started on several bus and light rail projects, the Green Line to the River District has opened for service, and RT is building a significant fiscal reserve. RT ended Fiscal Year 2012 with approximately $5.5 million in reserve and recently adopted a Fiscal Year 2013 budget that forecasts an additional $4.5 million in reserve by July 2013.

RT will be conducting outreach throughout August in an effort to reach as many people as possible with information about the upcoming service improvements. A schedule of outreach events that will be held at bus stops and light rail stations this month can be found online at

sacramento, CA:  Saw that bus 11 has extended hours and will run Saturday’s in September. Any plans to have Natomoas Light Rail also run Saturday’s to connect with Bus 11 & 15?

Reply:  I believe you are asking about running the Green Line to the River District on the weekends. Currently, there are no plans to do this. As the River District develops, we will reevaluate the need for weekend service, as well as greater frequency and night service.

Sacramento, CA:  Are Yolobus Employees allowed to ride RT for free?

Reply:  RT and Yolo County Transportation District (Yolobus or YCTD) executed a transfer agreement on July 1, 2009, that allows RT employees and dependents and YCTD employees, including the employees of the YCTD contract operator, to ride on either system provided a valid employee or dependent identification is presented upon each boarding.

sacramento, CA:  Parking at Richards Blvd. Looks like you're building a parking lot at Natomas Light Rail? Have you considered raising rates to park there with extra money going towards future light rail expansion into Natomas? This is a prime parking area as it’s a mile and a half from downtown where parking is $130-$150 a month average or $5 an hour. So pretty sure even if people have to pay double to park at Notomas Station way cheaper option than parking downtown. A lot of riders would gladly pay more to park if they knew funds would go to get a quicker Light Rail extension and to decrease overall completion time for Light rail to airport.

Reply:  The area near the new station is being developed by the developer. This does not include a park and ride lot. The next extension of the Green Line will include park and ride lots on the other side of the river. We have had some discussion with the developer regarding the possibility of a temporary Park and Ride lot. We are still assessing that.

sacramento, CA:  Checking parking lot stickers. I get off Light Rail train on way to work everyday close to 8:00 A.M. (by the way your Power Inn Shuttle is very good) and there are cars parked way in back of Power Inn parking lot. Since you have to walk all the way up to the platform to get a parking sticker (unless you have month parking pass) pretty easy to guess a lot of these cars are parked for “free” parking in RT lot rather than pay for parking at work. Do you partrol parking lots on regular basis?

Reply:  The pay for parking lots are checked daily. Often we check more than once as time permits. Our goal of checking is to keep people honest at the RT pay lots (Park Pay and Ride). A person that is parking and paying for the day does not need to return to their car once they have paid. When they pay they enter the stall number that their car is parked in. Our system then knows that they have paid.

sacramento, CA:  3) Security. Have you considered having extra security on platform to check people’s tickets at platforms AND when people get off Light Rail? From inside Light Rail you can see train platform and see RT Inspectors getting ready to board train. All people do who don’t have tickets is get off. If you also have Inspector’s on platform to check for tickets you can catch them when they get off. This would alleviate a lot of trouble makers and loiters who get on train or stand around Light Rail station without a current pass of ticket.

Reply:  Thanks for the suggestions. We use a variety of approaches to check for tickets. Often we conduct blitzes where as the trains stops at a station, every door has an inspector checking departing passengers and a few transit officers board the train to check tickets of patrons on the train. More often, we have a pair of transit officers board trains and check tickets. With our current system we have approximately 2% of our customers that fall into the category of non-paying.

Sacramento, CA:  If a lightrail car leaves Sacramento Valley Station at 9:23 AM heading west and another lightrail car leaves the Historic Folsom station at 9:30 AM heading east, what time and where will they meet?

Reply:  This sounds like an SAT question. Light rail cars head west from Historic Folsom Station and from Sac Valley Station they head east. If your question was a trick question they would never meet going the directions you suggested, because the track doesn't go in those directions. In fact they would derail. Looking at only time points with the trains heading toward one another, they would meet west of the Mather Field/Mills station.

Sacramento, CA:  Any chance the 62 line will be extended later any time soon to help students who have class late at Sac City? I appreciate the blue line running later, but it's never felt safe.

Reply:  There are no plans to run Route 62 later at this point, however, there will be later service on the Blue Line, as you mentioned, as well as on Routes 56 and 81 serving Greenhaven and the Freeport Blvd. area.

Sacramento, CA:  I’m happy to see that RT is adding back service later this year, but what’s taking so long? Why will it take five years to bring all the service back that was cut?

Reply:  The service restoration is being timed with our level of funding. The restoration timing is purely driven by funding. It is important to note that Regional Transit is one of the few public agencies actually expanding public service while others are still cutting service and laying off employees.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  How does RT decide where to allocate resources? Take bus stops and train stations, for instance. Does RT spend more each year in Citrus Heights than in Rancho Cordova for maintenance in these areas? How do you set work priorities among the different areas for maintenance?

Reply:  Maintenance is not allocated by area as a general practice. Separate teams maintain bus stops from those that maintain light rail stations. The staff has schedules for performing maintenance that are adjusted as we see problems. Some areas require a greater level of attention due to high use, while other locations require a greater level of attention because of the neighborhoods they are in. We attempt to make sure that the system is clean and comfortable throughout our service area.

Roseville, CA:  How does TransitRenewal relate to TransitAction? I get confused reading the website on these. Does one of them start where the other ends? Do you think you will ever get light rail to Roseville, Rocklin or Auburn?

Reply:  "TransitRenewal," is a comprehensive operational analysis of the entire RT bus and light rail system that resulted in recommendations for transit service improvements over the next five years. In June 2010, RT implemented major service reductions. TransitRenewal provides recommendations that will determine how to restore, restructure and essentially "renew" transit service from 2012 through 2017 within available funding. The service improvements being implemented on September 2 are a direct result of the TransitRenewal process. Recommendations from the study will be evaluated by the RT Board on a yearly basis moving forward. TransitAction is RT's transit master plan and sets an ambitious vision for an improved transit system for the Sacramento region looking forward 30 years in to the future. The Vision advocates greater partnership between agencies and with the public, and it lays out an ‘Integrated Transit Solution’ which focuses on a comprehensive approach to sustainable land use planning and complementary transportation demand management (TDM) measures. It is dependent on a significant increase in local, State, and Federal resources.

sacramento, CA:  Shuttle down Richards Blvd. Have you considered a Richards Blvd shuttle to and from the Natomas Light Rail Station? This Shuttle could go to Bus Station, and there are resturant’s along Burcut drive who I’m sure would put money in to have possible customers go to their establishments via shuttle, and motels further down Richards who’d also chip in to have their customers have shuttle access to Light Rail to and from their motel.

Reply:  Customers at motels on Richards and Bercut or at the Greyhound bus station on Richards can already take Route 11 or Route 15, either of which will take them to the Green Line, or direct to downtown. Route 11 runs at least once an hour on weekdays. Route 15 runs seven days a week, with hourly service on weekends and service every 30 minutes during the day on weekdays. Of course, if the motels wanted to pay for a special shuttle, or additional service on Route 11 or 15, we are always open to setting up a cost-sharing agreement.

Sacramento, CA:  When will RT have a universal fare card like the Bay area? Will I ever be able to use my Clipper Card on the RT system?

Reply:  RT and seven of the other transit providers in the region are working with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) to install a smart card system. INIT was awarded the contract for the regional smart card last year. The vendor is building the hardware and preparing to install system components. You might notice work at light rail stations underway currently setting up the stations for the new equipment. We hope to be in a pilot test phase this winter. The card we are installing is a non proprietary card. The Clipper Card is proprietary and will not work on our system.

Sacramento, CA:  Since I don’t have to go through a turnstile to get on the train, how does RT know how many riders are using it on a daily, weekly, or annual basis? Is it just a guess? Based on what? How do you use that kind of information?

Reply:  Sampling is used to determine ridership. We have a small staff of Route Checkers that conduct physical counts. When the new smart card comes on line next year, we will have more information to determine ridership. We also have a project in our capital program to install automatic passenger counters on all of our light rail vehicles, just like we have on our buses. However, that project is not currently funded.

Folsom, CA:  I’m a fan and use light rail almost every day and I’ve started noticing that some of the cars are starting to look worn out and rattle a lot especially between Folsom and Sacramento, so I was wondering if there are any plans to maybe buy new trains. I’ve seen some awesome trains in other cities that would look way cool in Sacramento.

Reply:  You are probably writing about the Siemens vehicles which are up to 25 years old this year. The CAF cars are much newer. We currently are doing mid-life overhauls on the cars obtained from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). These 21 cars will begin service in the next two years. The Siemens cars are scheduled for replacement beginning in 2022.

Elk Grove, CA:  Why are there so many different transit systems in the Sacramento area? Why isn’t there just one big one that serves all areas? Wouldn’t that be more efficient?

Reply:  Elected officials of the cities and counties in the region decided different things for their areas. We do coordinate very closely with our transit partners in other jurisdictions.

Sacramento , CA:  On a recent ride into the University/65th Street Station, some things concerned me, specifically "bus stacking" of Routes 26 & 87. Would RT be able to look into this, specifically with TransitRenewal Phase I approaching, that only one bus route be assigned a designated space? I would suggest that Route 26 utilize the space once used for Route 36, and the space currently used by Route 34 remain empty until Route 8 is reinstated. I would though like to see that Routes 26 & 87 not use the same parking space so as to eliminate "stacking" at this Light Rail & Transfer Facility.

Reply:  Thanks for the suggestion. We'll take a look.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  So what’s up with fare enforcement on the trains? I have personally observed an enforcement person checking groups of people for fares and letting people go that do not have proof of payment. Shouldn’t they be writing everyone up that they find that does not have any proof?

Reply:  I am not able to speak to specific incidents because I am not fully aware of the details. However, while the police officers and transit officers are afforded some discretion in how they handle violations, in general, RT takes enforcement action against those in violation of applicable laws, including fare evasion. If you have specific instances you would like to bring to our attention you can contact our Customer Advocacy Department at 557-4545 or

Sacramento , CA:  Is Route 56 going to once every 15 minutes between CRC & Meadiwview Station this September, or did funding hold that improvement back at least one year and possibly two years?

Reply:  For September the Route 56 hours are being extended to later in the evening. Next year the frequency will be improved.

Sacramento, CA:  If I want a route that was cut restored but its not on the lists for TransitRenewal, how do I do that? Do I circulate a petition around the neighborhood or should we all just come to a Board meeting and ask for it? I’m specifically interested in getting the 51E back. Why was it cut anyway?

Reply:  One of the main reasons Route 50E was originally created was to address reliability problems on Route 51. Since eliminating it, Route 51 has become even more overloaded. We looked at how many buses it would take to restore Route 50E and decided we'd get more benefit from putting those buses on Route 51 itself, improving frequency to every 12 minutes. We also were able to add a bus to Route 55 so that it will run every 30 minutes. We think this will do more to solve the problems with late buses, wheelchair pass-ups, etc. on Route 51. Each year of TransitRenewal we will conduct a new public hearing prior to Board action to approve a set of service improvements. You are encouraged to participate at that time.

Sacramento , CA:  What is the rough timeline that RT is looking at in moving the North Sacramento transfer activity from Arden to Swanston Station? Is Capitol Corridor a partner in Swanston Station as well?

Reply:  Capital funding drives the project schedule for this realignment This move is in our plan, but is currently unfunded. We have funding that we are waiting on from the State of California called TCRP that will help fund these improvements. Yes we have and will continue to coordinate closely with the Capital Corridor.

Roseville, CA:  What did you do to all those pigeons that were at the Watt I80 station? They seem to be thinning out.

Reply:  Thank you for asking. First we have a no kill policy. The station has been outfitted with netting and other devices to discourage roosting. We have also provided a feed product that has birth control added to the mix. We are pleased with the results. The Sac Airport Avian Control Staff has been very helpful in providing ideas and support with our pigeon problems.

Sacramento, CA:  If the Governor’s tax initiative does not pass in November, will RT’s financial plan be affected? I know that RT receives funding from the state in some form or another.

Reply:  You are correct that RT receives state funding, however, State Transit Assistance is not included in those segments of the State Budget that will be affected if the tax initiative does not pass in November.

Sacramento , CA:  I heard that one goal of RT is to build a "reserve" account. How can riders like us help out in that cause so that there is enough future funding down the way so that future service cuts can be avoided altogether in the next fiscal crisis, which, by the way we all hope will never happen again? Nonetheless, it is always best to be prepared than not. Wouldn't you agree?

Reply:  You are correct that RT is currently building a significant fiscal reserve. RT ended Fiscal Year 2012 with approximately $5.5 million in reserve and recently adopted a Fiscal Year 2013 budget that forecasts an additional $4.5 million in reserve by July 2013. The best way to support RT funding is to become involved in the local government process and advocate for public transit. Let your city council person or county supervisor know you support more transit options and would like them to do so as well. Also, using the system regularly and letting others know it works well for you helps to build ridership and awareness. Thank you for your patronage.

Carmichael, CA:  Is there a timetable for implementation of the 'deferred' 2012 improvements(i.e.,the route 24 restructuring,extending Saturday evening service on the highest productivity routes)?

Reply:  There were a number of improvements we originally proposed for September 2012 that we simply didn't have enough money for this year, but we anticipate being able to add next year, in September 2013. These include later service on selected bus routes on Saturdays, later service on light rail on Sundays and Holidays, direct downtown service for Route 103, improved headways on Route 56, and replacing Route 24 with a new route going all the way to the Historic Folsom light rail station. We originally were trying to push the Route 24 changes through in January 2013, but the only options that will really improve service there substantially are considerably more expensive, so we are holding off and looking at alternatives. We may add some earlier and later trips on Route 24 on its existing routing in January 2013.

South Sacramento, CA:  Checked with the updated routes, particulary for 5, 54, and 55. I like the changes, particulary route 54. However, on the same route, is there going to be future Saturday service going to Gerber Road?

Reply:  As you evidently noticed, Route 54 will be covering some new areas starting in September 2012. From its current terminal at Cosumnes River College, it will be extended across Highway 99 via Calvine Road, then go up Power Inn Road to Gerber Road. We had a number of requests from college students for direct service to this area. It will also serve an adult education center on Gerber Road. While Route 54 will also begin running on Saturdays, it will not do this new extension on Saturdays. If we get a lot of requests for it, we may consider it, but we have a lot of other areas that need weekend service as well.

Sacramento, CA:  Will there be any service enhancements for the land park area?

Reply:  We have a long-term plan to improve Route 61 from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes on weekdays. We have been getting a lot of requests, however, for later evening and weekend service in Land Park, South Land Park, Greenhaven, etc., so we may revisit our plans for this area and what we're prioritizing.

Folsom, CA:  Another needed service improvement is more maintenance staff. Trains need cleaning more often than once a week (or more?) - you can't keep people from making a mess but you can clean it up more often. Ditto the stations - empty trash more often than once a week or more? Then of course there are the breakdowns, which seem to be happening even when it's not really hot recently - cars & other stuff being used a little too hard/too long between service?

Reply:  The stations have a light cleaning daily, heavy cleaning at least twice a week and daily at some stations, like Watt/I-80. The inside of the trains are cleaned each night and the exteriors are washed weekly. We try to deliver a highly reliable system that is safe and can be depended upon by riders. Statistically we are achieving very good reliability, but even a single disruption can be an inconvenience for our riders. We will continue to work on reliability, understanding the impact on you and the other riders who depend on RT.

Sacramento, CA:  Thank you for the RT Tracker. Its very useful.

Reply:  You are welcome, we are glad it is being put to good use!

Sacramento, CA:  Does Sacramento RT have an iPhone app for bus and train times?

Reply:  RT is testing an IPhone app right now and expect that it will be available sometime in September. Check back on the website and you will see it advertised when it becomes available. The RT App will also be available through the Apple App Store. The android version will be available through the RT website.

Kathi-N. Natomas, Sac, CA:  Hi Mike. I see where the schedules are going to be changing in Sept - so are we finally going to get the .25 cents transfers back? Thanks.

Reply:  Hi, Kathi. The upcoming changes in service will not include fare changes so transfers will not be coming back.

Sacramento , CA:  When are the utdc light rail vehicles suppose to begin revenue service?

Reply:  The contract was recently awarded for the work to setup the UTDC cars to operate on RT's light rail system. The first car is scheduled for completion in 10 months.

Sacramento , CA:  I've read on your website that Light Rail will run later hours on weekdays and Saturday's this September. Will Sunday's/Holiday's be considered in one or two September's from now or is that thought not being considered at all in any of the TransitRenewal Phases?

Reply:  We originally wanted to run light rail later on Sundays and Holidays this year. It is among our first priorities for September 2013.

Kathi-N. Natomas, Sac, CA:  I want to express my thanks for you Transit Officers who get on the light rail and ride it for several stations. I love them being there as it helps stop a lot of the homeless and rif-raf from being loud and very abrasive. Might want to also have one or two on the 22 or 23 line - just to stop some of the noise. Thanks for having them on the light rail.

Reply:  I appreciate your feedback. Thank you.

Kathi-N. Natomas, Sac, CA:  Quick question - FAST the Fairfield-Suisun bus system gives you a voucher for when you don't have exact change right when you pay your bus fee. Do you think RT will ever go to something like this? The great thing with the voucher is that you can use it anytime you ride on another FAST bus plus cash to bring the total put into the box to the ride fee. Just curious.

Reply:  Good question, Kathi. RT is moving toward a Connect Card system next year that will make it easier for passengers to pay for rides on bus and rail without having to have exact change as long as they have a balance on the card. No changes to the current fare structure or operating procedures will be made before then so to answer your question, RT will not be able to undertake a voucher system in the meantime.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I had heard RT was going to introduce a new Route 195 Citrus Heights Dial a Ride. Do you know any more about that and when it will start. Will it be open to all residents of Citrus Heights or just certain areas.

Reply:  You're correct that we're developing plans for a dial-a-ride service in the City of Citrus Heights. The details have yet to be worked out and agreed to, but we envision it being open to the general public.

Sacramento, CA:  From my experience, bus drivers are very conscientious of bicycle riders in the center city grid. Is this part of driver's training, or is this a product of drivers becoming familiar with their routes?

Reply:  Our training program for bus operators is very extensive. The training includes all aspects of sharing the road with other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Thank you for noticing the operators. Their job is often thankless. I think any driver will tell you that familiarity with routes is helpful in a number of ways. The fact that we are able to retain a staff of experienced drivers is probably a major contributing factor to our good safety record.

Sacramento, CA:  Any chance the central city fare or transfers will ever come back? I ask because I've visited multiple cities recently and they all have amazing transit systems at low costs. One in particular was Portland, which had a FREE central city area, along with transfers good for a total of 2 hours of trips. They are facing budget issues just as Sac, but they seem to be able to make transit work.

Reply:  The central city fare and transfers will not come back as they were because the fare structure will not change until after the Connect Card is fully implemented. However, RT is fully engaged in examining alternative fare structures that will be possible once the Connect Card is in place. Distance based fares may be a part of the future fares structure that will charge less for shorter distances, like the central city fare. Just a note on the Portland comparison, Tri-met has announced the discontinuation of its free central city zone effective September 2nd due to fiscal constraints, while RT is restoring service on the same date, so I would say RT seems to be able to make transit work pretty well.

Sacramento, CA:  I want to see RT expand to cities/suburbs that currently do not provide funding. Implicitly or explicitly, some state they believe adding easy transit would somehow bring "undesirables" to their neighborhood. This is silly, but are you aware of any research by RT or others that shows that crime does not increase by increasing transit access?

Reply:  As you noted, transit service does not increase crime. There are a number of studies that confirm this. If you think through the suggestion that it does, you would have to picture criminals escaping with TVs and other stolen goods on buses and trains. It just doesn't happen.

Citrus Heights, CA:  How come the 80/84 line always operates with older 2300 series coaches. These buses are way too slow for such a busy route and have the worst air conditioning for Sacramento's Hot summers. I have only seen a 2800'series bus once and that was the holiday bus.

Reply:  I'll have to check into it.

Sacramento, CA:  When Folsom and Sunrise trains pass the crossover near the Watt/Manlove station overpass, they tend to sway side-to-side and sometimes knock passengers down who aren't holding on. Is there a reason this section of track causes the trains to do this? It has been happening for a few months now.

Reply:  RT staff is working on correcting this problem. The issues causing this has to do with a transition from fixed to less rigidly fixed track. We have not yet determined a solution.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there an ETA on a smartphone app that will allow tracking of buses, much like the RT Tracker web page? The current web page is pretty much unusable on anything smaller than a tablet.

Reply:  RT is working on its smartphone app and it should be available next month. It will use schedules on trains at first until real time is available. For the current RT Tracker, try using the estimated arrival times tool when on your smart phone. This is easier to use than the map tool when on the smaller screen and with a 3G or less connection.

Sacramento, CA:  Where will folks be able to buy/refill a Connect Card when it is available? I ask because I have noticed that many (all?) ticket machines at LRT stations are not taking credit cards and can't break larger bills. Credit cards acceptance would make life a lot easier.

Reply:  We will be adding new machines for the smart card at stations that take credit cards. We will be adding a credit card feature to some of the current ticket machines as well. In addition, riders can add funds to their cards on the web, at the RT Customer Service Center and other locations. Riders can also set up to automatically increase the value on their cards from their personal account and not have to do anything.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for participating in today's chat and I hope to hear from all of you during the next session scheduled for Friday, September 7, at noon. I also encourage everyone to pass along information about service improvements to friends and family who use public transit in the Sacramento region.