Transit Talk with the General Manager

March 01, 2013
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be live Friday, March 1, from noon to 1 p.m. and the system is accepting questions now through the end of the chat. Thank you for your interest.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Last Friday, RT hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of RT's new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling facility at McClellan Business Park. The new fueling system will serve as a secondary facility to RT's main bus fueling facility on 29th Street in midtown Sacramento.

RT is the designated evacuation services provider for many entities, including the city of Sacramento and county of Sacramento. With a second fueling facility, RT has the capability to fuel its entire CNG bus fleet if a major incident were to disrupt the operation of the main facility.

Other transportation providers that contract with RT to utilize the new fueling facility will also reap the cost-savings and efficiency benefits. The North Natomas Transportation Management Association and the Twin Rivers School District are using the facility, with at least two additional agencies planning to take advantage soon.

The new CNG fueling system features the most technologically-advanced fueling equipment in the world, including the fastest dispensers in the industry, able to fill four buses simultaneously in less than six minutes.

In addition, RT launched a safety and security public awareness campaign called "See It - Hear It - Report It." The campaign's aim is to encourage RT passengers to be vigilant in recognizing and reporting crime as well as possible terrorist-related activity. The campaign also features a new dedicated phone and text tip line for reporting non-emergency crime or suspicious activity.

Before we begin the chat, I would like to remind everyone that on Thursday, March 21 RT will host the 5th annual State of RT Breakfast and TransitAction Awards at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento.

The State of RT provides an annual forum to discuss the Sacramento region's transit priorities, and the TransitAction Awards recognize efforts in support of transit and honor selected nominees that have made a significant and positive impact to public transit in the Sacramento region.

There is still time to register for the event or to become a sponsor. For more information on the State of RT Breakfast, visit

Folsom, CA:  Why does Light Rail Service into Folsom stop so early in the evening? You need to extend your hours of operations, so commuters can more options on public transportation. I live in Folsom, and often times want to go into Sac. for a show, dinner, a game etc., and unfortunantely quite often I wouldn't have the option to use public transportation, due to the fact that it stops running into town(Folosm), so early in the evenings 7PM, during the week, and even earlier on weekends and Holidays. another point on that, is that are quite a few events that happen in folsom through out the year, that people from the surrounding areas come to, and light rail isn't option for them due to the limited hours of service in the evening. Thank you Ralph

Reply:  The City of Folsom contracts for the light rail service RT provides . The hours of operation are part of that agreement. If the city wanted to extend the hours, RT would be willing to increase the service hours to Folsom, subject to the city funding the additional costs. Contact your city representatives with your suggestion.

Sacramento, CA:  Im a bit confused is transit renewal phase 2 happening in September 2013 or January 2014?

Reply:  RT has plans to implement some additional improvements in September 2013. These will likely be small improvements that can be implemented under the authority of the General Manager. RT is still considering additional recommendations implementation in January 2014.

Carmichael, CA:  I've that the 23 has some odd scheduling during weekday midday hours.There are times in which there's just a 15-minute gap between trips,but it's immediately followed by a 45-minute gap.Are there any plans to fix this?

Reply:  The extra time built into the Route 23 schedule is to give operators rest and meal breaks. Eventually we would like to improve these headways, but need to dedicate the funding. Currently there are no plans in the TransitRenewal schedule, but it could be evaluated over the next few cycles.

Sacramento, CA:  I've been told by bus drivers that if I don't flag down the bus it may not stop for me at the bus stop. I find it hard to believe that RT would have such a policy, since some of its riders may not be able to see well enough at a distance to... know if the approaching bus is the bus they want to catch. Shouldn't a bus driver stop at a stop when any person is waiting, open the door, and announce the route? It seems like common courtesy and good service.

Reply:  While many of RT's informational materials mention to passengers to flag down the bus as it approaches, operators are trained to stop the bus if they see anyone waiting at the stop. This includes sitting on the bus bench or in the shelter. If you are clearly visible at the RT bus stop, the operator should stop to see if you would like to board. If you are passed while waiting, please contact our Customer Advocacy department at 557-4545 or at and file a complaint. This will help RT to correct the problem.

Sacramento, CA:  If the Kings do stay in Sacramento and a new arena is built downtown, have you considered moving the Light Rail tracks under ground? You could create a station under the new arena to provide better access, and the tracks would be off the streets in the downtown area, providing more room for cars and pedestrian traffic.

Reply:  I've been the RT representative on the Mayor's task force exploring how a new arena might be set up. Our role has been to explore how transit might play a more significant part in bringing people to a new arena. There is a lot more work to do, but all of the options are being considered.

South Sacramento, CA:  What is the status of the Connect Card program? Also, besides the changes on Transit Renewal coming up in September 2013, do you have any news on any further service changes that we do not know about?

Reply:  Work continues on building the smart card equipment and Light Rail Stations are being prepared for the new equipment. The proto-type testing of the smart card system begins this summer. RT is scheduled to begin live operations by 2014. The other six transit operators will go live over the 12 months following RT. Outreach is scheduled to begin this summer. RT has plans to implement some additional improvements in September 2013. These will likely be small improvements that can be implemented under the authority of the General Manager. RT is still considering additional recommendations implementation in January 2014.

South Sacramento, CA:  Will Route 54 go extend into Gerber Road? Will it extend service to EGUSD for weekend service?

Reply:  RT restored service to EGUSD on Gerber Road with Route 54 with the September 2012 service change. We considered extending the service further on Gerber Road but there was not enough time in the schedule without the large cost of adding an additional bus. We are closely monitoring the ridership for this new segment. RT receives the monthly calendar of daily scheduled events for EGUSD. We are able to take any weekend activities into consideration. As weekday ridership builds on this segment we will consider further enhancements to the route such as weekend service and extending the service on Gerber Road to Siemens.

rancho cordova, CA:  Why is RT not tax exempt? What is required to become tax exempt?

Reply:  RT is a public agency and as such is exempt from paying income taxes and general property tax, if that's what you mean. However, RT is not exempt from other types of special assessments and fees, or most sales tax. Based on the nature of the purchase and its future use, some purchases are exempt from sales tax.

Elk Grove, CA:  Last night on my commute home on the Meadowview train the driver announced at the Florin station that the train was out of service and that we could catch the next train. Upon hearing this, I along with several other passengers exited the train. As the train pulled out of the station towards Meadowview I noticed there were still passengers on the train. I found out from the security guard at the Florin station that the train was going out of service at Meadowview. If I had known this I would have stayed on the train and not been delayed in getting home. The drivers need to be clear in their announcements as to whether the train is or is going to be out of service.

Reply:  I apologize for your experience yesterday. It seems the announcement may not have needed to be made until the train reached Meadowview, if at all, since only people traveling in the opposite direction would have been affected. I will mention this issue to our light rail department and we will work to be more clear in future announcements. Additional detail on the time of night when this occurred may be helpful with internal reporting. If you would like, you can also file a complaint with our Customer Advocacy department at 557-4545 or online at

Sacramento, CA:  I read that you recently signed a contract to be RT’s GM for the next 5 years? What are some of the goals of your tenure?

Reply:  Thanks for asking. We have recently achieved several significant goals of my tenure. On the capital side, one of the most significant was achieving the Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to secure $135 million to begin construction of the 4.2 mile extension to the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College. This was the culmination of more than a decade of planning and preliminary work on the project. In addition RT completed the 1.1 mile Green Line extension to Township Nine at 7th & Richards Blvd., and we just celebrated the opening of the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station at McClellan Business Park. On the organizational side, RT has emerged from the worst financial downturn in its history. After five years of extreme cost containment measures, RT is slowly growing on the financial side and was able to designate $5.2 million in reserves for the first time in years. As for the next five years, RT needs to continue our focus on enhancing the quality reliability and safety of our service. We need to continue to increase our ridership while we continue to improve our economic stability. We will be focused on completing the construction of the Blue Line to CRC on time and under budget, with an opening date of September 2015. We will be working closely with our partners to implement a starter streetcar operation connecting the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento. RT also needs to focus on making improvements to our existing service, facilities, and vehicles. We need to look for opportunities to enhance our existing rail service, such as adding additional stations. RT will be implementing a new electronic fare card that will provide a full range of opportunities to update our antiquated fare structure. The most critical need facing RT over the next five years is to secure a significant increase in local dollars. RT currently operates a level of transit service that is woefully inadequate in many respects. We do a great job with the level of funding we receive. However, when we compare our community with other major metropolitan areas in California and across the Country, our level of service is significantly lower. I am very focused on returning to the voters and asking for an increase in local funding so that we can begin to implement our long range plan, TransitAction. Without such an increase we will not be able to expand our service much beyond what we operate today. That means no Green Line to the Airport without such an increase! continued financial growth and stabilization, continuing to work regionally to develop the Green Line to the Airport and the downtown streetcar project will be important projects for RT.

rancho cordova, CA:  Has RT considered property tax revenue instead of sales tax to pay for green line to airport? It seems that revenue would more stable

Reply:  Yes, RT did consider property tax revenue instead of sales tax to pay for the Green Line to the airport and other capital projects. Many potential revenue sources were evaluated as part of TransitAction, RT's comprehensive long-range plan. Unfortunately, a direct property tax is not an option for RT. As a result of Proposition 13, property tax cannot include any charge that does not directly affect the assessed property. However, if the voters agree to assess themselves to pay for a bond issue, for example, those assessments can be attached and collected by the County through the property tax process.

Sacramento, CA:  What bill will help RT add three bike racks to RT buses? How much will they cost per bus?

Reply:  AB 206 by Assemblyman Dickinson was introduced this year will correct the vehicle code to allow for three position bike racks. RT installed one of the three position bike racks on a bus as a six month test. The test demonstrated that the 3 position racks can work with our equipment. We have a federal grant in process that will fully fund the 3 position racks to the fleet of 40' buses.

Elk Grove, CA:  When RT finishes refurbishing the ex-vta utdc light rail cars, will they placed into service immediately or until there is enough of a demand to implement?

Reply:  The UTDC cars will be used as needed once they are complete. Having the extra cars will make maintenance of the rest of the fleet easier. The refurbished vehicles are needed for the upcoming expansions. Also once they are ready for service we will need to operate them routinely or they will deteriorate over time due to lack of operation.

sacramento, CA:  I have seen more police officers checking for fare. Would it not be more cost effective for rt more fare checkers than police officers?

Reply:  We do have a few vacancies in our Transit Officer ranks which may explain why you are seeing fewer of them. We contract for police service from the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento Sheriff's Department. The number of sworn officers hasn't changed much in recent months, however, they have been more visible on the trains as opposed to other deployment areas. The scope in which the police officers are utilized is wider than that of the RT Transit Officers. Over the next several months you should see an increase in the number of police officers. Police officers allow for a much higher level of security.

Elk Grove, CA:  Are there any plans for RT to step up its bus replacement program and/or add articulated coaches to the fleet before 2017? Also, has RT considered seeking an aggressive tree cutting program through the city to allow the operation of high-capacity double-decker buses through the city? Alexander Dennis, the worlds largest double-deck bus maker now has a "low-height" bus for North American that stands at 13' 1". That clearance is shorter than a big rig truck.

Reply:  Our fleet is on a regular replacement schedule governed by federal guidelines. We are also looking at adding articulated buses on the 51 and 1 or other routes with very high demand. The new bus maintenance facility at McClellan makes maintaining articulated buses possible. Having the new CNG fueling stations at our McClellan maintenance facility on line (opened last Friday gives us more flexibility on our fleet mix.

Carmichael, CA:  Why does the District not operate on a holiday schedule for President's Day (Chavez & Veterans)? I am sure you have some ridership data to support the schedule, but I was just curious?

Reply:  That day is not an RT holiday. It was eliminated nearly 40 years ago due to the fact that local employers did not celebrate the same day of the month for the holiday. Consequently, RT was under significant pressure to operate regular service on such days. Today there are still inconsistencies between employers as to what days are celebrated as holidays. Some, including the State of California recognize the day. While, many private employers do not.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

I appreciate the involvement from everyone in today's chat. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, April 5, 2013. Have a nice weekend.