Transit Talk with the General Manager

May 03, 2013
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk with the General Manager will be live on Friday, May 3, from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions from 10 a.m. through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

May is Bike Month in the Sacramento region and RT supports the effort to get people out of their cars and excited about using alternative modes of transportation. The largest component of the month-long campaign is a challenge to ride as many miles as possible, which can be logged online at

The spirited contest pits business against business, school against school and friend against friend, all with the goal of improving health and air quality. In 2012, more than 1.75 million miles were tracked and this year residents are challenged to peddle 2 million miles.

A great option for those who travel a longer distance and want to get involved in May is Bike Month, is to bike-and-ride with RT. By combining transit with your cycling commute, you will be able to go the distance and still participate.

On light rail, four bikes are allowed in the rear or front of each car next to the flip-up seats, or in the rack located near the flip-up seats. Always enter through the rear or front doors after all other passengers have boarded or exited the train. Remember, bikes are not permitted on the front of the first light rail car, which is reserved for passengers with disabilities.

All RT buses are equipped with bike racks, which can carry two bikes at a time on a first-come, first-served basis. Bikes are not allowed on board the bus itself, unless it is the last bus on the route that day and the rack is full.

To increase bike capacity on buses, RT is supporting a state bill sponsored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson that will allow racks with the capacity for three bikes to be placed on our 40-foot buses. Currently, the larger racks would push the 40-foot buses past state vehicle length regulations.

The bill was recently passed by the Assembly by a vote of 71 to 1. If it is approved by the Senate, it will then be sent to the Governor's office for his signature.

I'll be biking to work from my home more than usual this month, and I hope to see many of you out on the roads, bike trails and on RT.

Elk Grove, CA:  I wanted to know why regional transit has taken so long to implement a smartcard? The bay area has had tranlink/clipper since 2002 and why didn't sacrt follow quickly in their footsteps since their system works great across the bay area? Thanks!

Reply:  It took quite some time to find the funding to build a smart card system. Once the funding was secured, RT, SACOG and the other transit operators in the region developed a system requirement for the regional smart card. Last year INIT was selected as the vendor and they have been working on building the system. In October, we plan to run a pilot test of the system on some buses and at select light rail stations. The full implementation is scheduled to begin in January of 2014.

Sacramento, CA:  Can you please get the security guards to enforce no smoking around the areas. Constantly there are people smoking at 16th street (mostly) all the time and they don't do anything about it. More so many of them chat with people around like they are friends or something.

Reply:  Our current policy prohibits smoking in RT shelters where No Smoking signs are posted. That policy will be changing in July to include the entire station. Enforcement of the new policy will occur as the new signs are posted. Our contracted security company is aware of the change and their role in enforcing it.

Elk Grove, CA:  I see Elk Grove has implemented some type of card reader. Will this be compatible with the SmartCard or did they do this on their own?

Reply:  I am not sure what Elk Grove has implemented. Elk Grove is part of the regional smart card which begins pilot testing in October and full roll out beginning in January. As I recall, RT is first and Elk Grove second as we go live.

Sacramento, CA:  Is there any way to change the disabled pass from showing DISABLED in huge letters on it? I rather it be more Regional discount pass with the back saying for regional transit discount card.

Reply:  The labeling on the cards is intended to assist the bus operator in validating your eligibility to ride using that ID card. The Senior and Student IDs are like wise labeled. When the smart card is on line, we may be able to revisit the labeling.

Sacramento, CA:  Hi - Thanks for the great service. I ride the bus regularly to work. There no Sunday bus service to the south area. I understand budget cuts, but that prevents transportation for all of us in the South Area. Service could still be economically provided in bus routes ever two or 4 hours, to allow bus bound individuals access to at least some transportation. When will you be implementing bus routes on Sunday, intermittently, to the south area to allow access to transportation? Thanks so much.

Reply:  Our top priorities right now in terms of service are mostly getting later evening bus service to match the later evening light rail service on weekdays and Saturdays, but we recognize that Sunday service is still somewhat limited as well and improvements are planned as part of TransitRenewal.

Folsom, CA:  I notice that Hazel and Iron Point stations now have the electronic signage installed. Do you know if GLENN station will also be getting one?

Reply:  All the light rail stations will have the new electronic message signs installed. The RT staff installing them are working their way through the system. We expect to have 72 signs installed before the end of this summer. We recently completed a new passenger alert system and are releasing a mobile app which can be downloaded to your mobile device from "". This application has schedule, alerts and real-time information about both bus and rail operations.

Sacramento , CA:  In your May NextStop News you have a headline: "RT Launches Mobile Web App" but I was not able to find it in the Google Play Store on my Android Device. Is this for now exclusively for Apple users only? When can Android folks be allowed to go to the Google Play Store for this Mobile App as well?

Reply:  We created a mobile web app enabling the application to be used on nearly any type of mobile device. The look and feel are similar to that of an Android or Apple application. If you input into your mobile device's browser, you will be taken to the app home screen. A prompt will appear with simple instructions on how to add an app button to your home screen. Please take a look and let us know what you think.

Folsom, CA:  I see that more of the pieces to the puzzle are coming together in Sacramento for a brand new Entertainment Sports Complex at the JMA Ventures Downtown Plaza. In following this story, I have been hearing that this new building would open in late Summer or early Fall of 2016. By the time we get to that point in our lives, will Regional Transit be holding staff meetings with staff at the City of Folsom towsrds the goal of a sensible financial package that will allow us the same light rail service hours that, say Rancho Cordova, has the benefits of enjoying today? Cutting us off of service from Sacramento Valley Station at 6:23pm daily will not allow us to enjoy the Entertainment Sports Complex like our neighboring Ranco Cordova will. The last train from Sacramento Valley Station to Rancho Cordova now leaves at 10:53pm. That would make more sense after an event, even if you began your trip earlier that day in Folsom. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Reply:  Thank you for your interest in extending later evening light rail service to Folsom. This is the service addition most often requested. It is, as your question/comments expressed, up to the City of Folsom to pay for additional service under the existing contract. There are two options for providing this service in Folsom. One is for the City of Folsom to request the addition of late night service to the service contract and accept the additional cost for RT to provide that service. Another is for the City of Folsom to annex into the RT service area. If the City decided to annex into the RT service area, revenues that accrue to the City for transit services such as TDA and STA would come to RTand the City service would align with the RT Board adopted service schedule which includes late night service. Both options are out of RT's hands but we would welcome the opportunity to work through either option with the City of Folsom.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the Light Rail system be getting new Rail Cars. I've heard rail cards were purchased years ago from the county of Santa Clara and are rusting in the yard because they couldn't accommodate the the track system. Waste of money. But the rail cars you have are old, dirty and run down. My second and more important question is WHEN are you going to get an Smart phone APP with real time arrivals and information? And lastly. Are your ticket Machines EVER going to accept debit or Credit cards? Thank you.

Reply:  The smart phone application is available at Thirteen ticket machines with the debit/credit function are being installed at our highest use stations in the July/August time frame. The rebuilding of the UTDC (Santa Clara) rail vehicles is currently underway. The cars will be a great value once they are in service.

South Sacramento , CA:  I watched a replay recently on Channel 14 of your last Board Meeting. Seems like there are protests going on about the South Line extension to CRC. Will this cause a delay (major or minor) in the schedule for your estimated opening of it in September of 2015, I think, if I heard the conversation correctly? By the way, I'm so looking forward to riding light rail from Cosumnes River College to the new Sacramento Entertainment Sports Complex when it finally opens.

Reply:  The RT Board of Directors took action in March to delegate authority to me to award the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (CRC) contract for construction of civil, track, structures, stations and systems to Balfour Beatty Rail Inc., Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. and Teichert Joint Venture.

The bid sufficiently meets all RT requirements and came in at approximately 8 percent below RT estimates for the project funding. However, construction work on the project is impacted by federal funding complications caused by organized labor union objections to California's Public Employees' Pension Reform Act (PEPRA). The labor unions believe that PEPRA violates existing collective bargaining rights of transportation employees and have filed objections with the U.S. Department of Labor. RT and other transit agencies throughout California are working together to reach a resolution.

The stakes are high, if a solution is significantly delayed or unsuccessful, the Blue Line to CRC project, numerous other federally funded transit projects and even $23 million in RT operating funds could be at risk.

If PEPRA issues are resolved soon, I will sign the contract and issue a Notice to Proceed and construction of the Blue Line to CRC can officially begin. The light rail extension will provide residents of Elk Grove and south Sacramento a viable transportation option to connect to the economic center of Sacramento while helping to significantly reduce regional emissions.

Sacramento, CA:  At the Watt/Manlove park and ride lot there is a section of spaces near the front of the station blocked off by cones. It has been this way for maybe a month but no construction or tree removal seems to be in progress. Do you know what work is planned and when these spaces might again be available ?

Reply:  The county is mobilizing to begin construction of the bike and pedestrian crossing into the station as part of their larger bike trail expansion project and the Watt/50 Interchange improvement project. Construction in the station area is scheduled to begin in a matter of days.

Sacramento, CA:  Someone mentioned the 51 last month. It’s great that the people in that neighborhood ride the bus and as a result get more frequent service. Could you consider adding a 51E service instead of just another bus? This would be especially helpful in rush hour but also at any time of day. Buses that make a lot of stops like that one get bogged down in their schedules no matter how many buses are added. We currently have no express service. Certainly this would be a great place to add it. Thank you for considering my ideas, Sharon

Reply:  Thanks for the suggestion. When we studied this last year our conclusion was adding more buses to Route 51 would be more beneficial for more people than bringing back Route 50E at similar cost. Since going to 12 minute headways on Route 51 we've seen fewer complaints about crowding and pass-ups, better schedule adherence, and increased ridership. We think that has helped us successfully carry a lot more people a lot more comfortably and reliably.

Sacramento, CA:  Why are we investing a lot of money in a tracked trolley system when we could provide a circulator bus for that route now? We have no circulators and they are really useful. Why can’t we just provide bus service to the airport or increase the service provided by Yolo Bus to twice an hour? Instead of a streetcar, why don’t we consider some kind of train concept and start with service between the rail station and old Sac where there is currently no RT. Since we are a train town, why don’t we design it as a small train? We don’t even have to build track for it, but it would look cute and fun and provide the feel people are looking for without the expense and disruption to business of having a tracked train. Thank you for considering my suggestions, Sharon

Reply:  The streetcar project is one of RT's highest priorities and is a small train, as you call it. The street car is also a circulator as you describe It will connect West Sacramento, Raley Field, Old Sacramento, the Sacramento Valley Station, the new Sports and Entertainment Facility, K street, the Convention Center and Mid-town. We hope to complete the project in time for the opening of the new arena. An environmental review of this project will likely begin in a couple months which would be an excellent way to learn more about the alternatives that were considered and make your comments heard.

South Sacramento, CA:  In regards to the upcoming changes via Transit Renewal coming up in September 2013, do you have any other service changes that you have planned that we do not know about?

Reply:  Unfortunately at this time it is not certain that there will be sufficient funds to make any service changes in the next fiscal year; however, we are making preparations so that if some money can be found in the budget, we can make at least some modest improvements such as later evening service on core bus routes on Saturday.

Sacramento, CA:  Let's delve a bit more deeply into what many see as a problem with RT. A lot of places outside the US use express buses instead of light rail in order to provide service. Could we bring in some express service on some of the longer routes at least at rush hour times? It could help us build ridership. I'm not against "investing in infrastructure" and it’s a very good idea for the US, however we are so far behind on infrastructure that there are so many competing needs. Why should we give money to RT to put in expensive infrastructure when RT hasn't even tried bus service? Thank you for considering my ideas, Sharon

Reply:  RT's TransitAction plan actually envisions a very substantial network of bus routes designated "Hi-Bus" that are essentially what you described, that is, longer distance routes serving longer distance travel patterns at higher speeds. You don't really need to leave the U.S. to see examples of cities with well developed cross-town services. Los Angeles and Seattle for example have put a lot of resources into these types of networks to serve their very large service areas.

Sacramento , CA:  I've heard from many of my fellow riders that Regional Transit is not on Twitter at this time. I checked Twitter early this morning and saw many mentions of Sacramento Regional Transit on Twitter, but no such Twitter Handle for your great agency. From my discoveries on this matter, I have a two part question. When will Regional Transit launch on Twitter, and in the meantime, how do you and your staff monitor mentions you currently get on Twitter?

Reply:  RT staff is planning to establish an RT Twitter presence in the near future. Before we do, we want to make sure we are able to tweet timely, reliable information on service disruptions no matter when they occur. Currently, our Marketing and Communications staff monitor RT mentions and note what people are discussing.

Antelope, CA:  Is there a possibility that is Sacramento builds a new arena downtown, that RT develop an "Event" fare that would allow the rider to ride to and from the event on the same fare/ticket, with a discount would be great. Could this be done for other events, like soccer at Hughes stadium?

Reply:  Thanks for the suggestion. Yes we are very interested in such an engagement Currently RT will work with an event sponsor to provide a "free ride" in conjunction with an event ticket purchase and that may be a future option for special events. If event sponsors using the future arena or any other sports venue that is served by RT are interested in developing a similar arrangement, we are open to those discussions.

Antelope, CA:  Have you considered developing a "season ride pass" for Kings season ticket holder that allow them to ride bus/LR on game days.

Reply:  I like the idea. When there is an arena downtown, this might make sense.

Arden Park, CA:  As a loyal light rail and bus rider for years I have to say on the positive side that I appreciate the service in Sacramento. And I like that you have brought back some of the service that you cut in previous years. However, I am continually frustrated by the misguided allocation of your resources. You are a public transit agency!! Every cent possible should be spent on transit service, the station and bus stop upkeep, maintenance, and the basic infrastructure to run the service and communicate the status of the service with me "the public." Yet I hear ads on the radio reminding me to ride transit, I see RT sponsoring silly lunches and breakfasts, spending my taxpayer money on your own self-serving political breakfast. Forget all the fluff people! Everyone in Sac knows about RT, you are hard to miss. Ads won't make people ride. Better service will! Make your signs at stations work as well as BART. Make your RT Tracker service work reliably. Tell me consistently on your web site when things aren't right. Seems like your people that do sign and web site and other upkeep are either incompetent or understaffed. Focus on the basics RT. Then you can buy party horns and radio ads.

Reply:  Thank you for your continued support and very positive comments. I agree with most of what you said. Improvements in the service levels and quality are very important and is our number one focus. However increasing ridership will generate more fare revenue and will allow us to expand our service. Advertising is designed to help accomplish that. The events you criticized are also very important. In order to greatly expand RT's service we need a significant increase in local resources. This will need to be approved by the voters and building public support is critical! All that we do is focused on enhancing and expanding our service.

Land Park (Sacramento), CA:  I'm so glad that the Sacramento Kings will be staying right here, where they belong, in Sacramento. My concern is about your service between our neighborhood and downtown to go to and from the new arena. We have no Sunday Service, and haven't since mid-June 2010 when lack of funding prompted RT to cut somewhere I read in the amount of 20% of bus and rail service. Will you consider for us, restoring Sunday service no later than the grand opening of the new arena? We really need Sunday service, and the sooner, the better. Thank you.

Reply:  This was not a heavily-used service when we ran it, but we do receive a lot of requests to restore it. We'll take your request into consideration, thanks.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT allow third party app developers to develop a native app for the iPhone android? Web-based apps aren't the best route

Reply:  Yes, we will provide access to data. We recently provided this information feed to a Windows 8 developer who has published a Windows 8 mobile application They won some awards for their work at the recent mobile application conference in Sacramento. Contact Mike Mattos at 556-0300 for more information.

Sacramento, CA:  With the smart card labeling perhaps RT can see how the clipper card looks. It's more streamlined and not as offensive

Reply:  We are working with a team that was part of the implement of five other major systems. They are sharing lessons learned and discussions of look and feel. In the initial transition, we are likely to keep the back of the card as the ID needed for discount riders. The front of the card will show our branding. After the system is up and running, I expect we will have opportunities to change the fare structure and other system settings to take advantage of the flexibility of the new system.

North Natomas, CA:  I am not impressed with your "RTTrakker" service in North Natomas. My route 170 never shows up on the map until the bus is past my stop.

Reply:  There are some interesting technical problems with the 170 that do not surface on the rest of the system. To get a bit technical, our scheduling system drops the bus out of service on the return trip from downtown in the morning and the reverse in the evening. The bus is shown out of service until it reaches the 1st stop as it returns to service. This period of invisibility is the root of the problem. The vendor that provides our scheduling software and our staff are working on the problem. We should solve it soon. Sorry for the inconvenience. The mobile application doesn't suffer from this problem. You can access the mobile app from .

Citrus Heights, CA:  I heard your new commercial on KFBK the other day. Who in their right mind would actually take transit on a weekend? The Light Rail runs every 30 minutes.

Reply:  Actually, around 40,000 people ride the RT system on Saturdays and slightly fewer ride on Sundays. We agree the 30 minute headways are troublesome and as funding permits, service will be improved to provide shorter waiting periods. However, RT offers a transportation option for many with no other options and a transportation alternative for many who would prefer to ride than drive.

Natomas, CA:  I see that someone from Folsom asked about what will most likely be a new Kings Arena adjacent to 7th and K, where your tracks go now. Now that this looks like it's for sure, where is RT at the table with the Mayor and his "whales" on funding track and station extensions and improvements to ensure that RT can properly accomodate thousands of riders after an event, like MUNI does after a Giants game? Or is RT going to do like always and sit back and wait for the problem to arise down the road and then claim there's no money to fix the problem? I just want to make sure you are asking for money now and being pro-active, and not going to just let things happen.

Reply:  RT has been an active participant in all of the discussions and planning for a new arena. The site of Downtown Plaza is an outstanding location for access to our service. We are also working on a number of improvements, including a streetcar and the Green line to the Airport, that will also provide outstanding connections to the new arena. RT never just "sits back" and waits for a problem to arise. We are very proactively involved in the arena discussion.

Sacramento , CA:  In watching a replay of your last board meeting, I hear that there is a "golden" opportunity on May 15th at the State Capitol for improving service through better funding. Can you elaborate? Is "Transit Talk" the appropriate forum for matters like this?

Reply:  Based on your question I think you are talking about state legislation that if it passes would reduce the voter threshold for increasing local taxes from 66.7% to 55%. RT has been actively advocating for this change. If it is ultimately approved it would significantly enhance our chances of expanding our service.

Elk Grove, CA:  I saw a previous comment about impacts to the Phase II Blue Line extension due to labor union issues. Previously, you mentioned that you were targeting fare service to begin in Fall of 2015. Due to these issues, does that mean this is now delayed?

Reply:  No, at this point there is no delay to the scheduled opening date of September 2015.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, June 7, 2013. Have a great weekend.