Transit Talk with the General Manager

September 06, 2013
Mark Lonergan, Chief Operating Officer
General Transit Questions

Comments from Mark Lonergan: 

Good afternoon, my name is Mark Lonergan, RT's Chief Operating Officer, and I will be the guest host of Transit Talk with the General Manager today.

Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO, is in hearings at the State Capitol in support of new legislation and then will be riding with the RT team in the Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails Bike Trek in South Lake Tahoe this weekend. The three-day cycling event is the organization's largest annual fundraiser, and helps to fund programs to clean our air.

In Mike's absence, feel free to ask any transit-related questions you may have. My expertise is in the day-to-day operations and more technical side of operating a transit agency.

Before we begin, I want to make sure that you are aware that RT recently expanded its presence on social media and is now on Twitter @RideSacRT.

RT will use Twitter to actively engage customers and provide content through daily tweets including: news, events, service change information, construction updates, transit industry activities and more.

If you are an active Twitter user and ride RT, I recommend you follow us.

Thank you and let's begin today's chat.

Sacramento, CA:  Question regarding the "Senior & Disable" ramps at the light rail stations. Why does RT not require a pass to use these ramps? On more than one occasion, wheelchairs, senior citizens, and disable people are being pass because of the amount of utility carts and families with strollers are occupying the area. When asked to move, they don't want to. I believe that if RT required a pass, just like if one wants a discounted daily pass by showing a pass, a lot of passengers that need the ramp would be accommodated.

Reply:  We have never given any thought to requiring a pass to use the ramp. The ramp is intended for anyone who has trouble boarding from ground level and is not limited to just persons with disabilities. We have placed limitations on certain types of devices that can board across the ramp. For example, a person is not allowed to board with a bicycle across the ramp, and strollers or utility carts need to be folded prior to boarding. These limitations were created to address specific reoccurring problems with people blocking the area reserved for wheelchairs. We realize that there is competition for limited space in the front of the first car of a train and our rules are an attempt to manage these competing uses.

Sacramento, CA:  RT policy states in the timetable book (page 31) under Prohibited Conduct: Rule B sub 6 "Riding in an RT vehicle with a stroller/utility cart unless, prior to boarding, the children or goods are removed and the stroller/utility cart is folded and/or stored so that it does not block the aisle or the areas reserved for persons in wheelchairs or who use mobility aids." Why are the operators, mainly the light rail operators, not informing this?

Reply:  The operators are required to enforce our rules to the best of their ability. Specific to light rail, they do require strollers to be folded prior to boarding across the ramp. Once a person has boarded the train, the operator has limited options available to them to enforce compliance. If the person opens the stroller and blocks the aisle, the best the operator can do is continue in service and call for security to meet the train and address the problem with the person. If the train waits for security to arrive, it delays the entire light rail system. Operators are also required to ask people to move from the wheelchair area if it is required for a person in a wheelchair. RT has no legal authority to force a person to move, all we can do is make the request. Also, we are prohibited by law from asking if a person is disabled or the nature of their disability as a means of determining their eligibility to sit in the reserved seating area.

Sacramento, CA:  Bus rapid transit (BRT, BRTS) Type systems have many positives attributes and can be used as a prelude to Light Rail or in place of Light Rail. Has Regional Transit given consideration to Bus rapid transit (BRT, BRTS) type systems in its planning? What were the results of those considerations? Bus rapid transit takes its name from rail rapid transit, which describes a high-capacity urban public-transit system with its own right-of-way, multiple-car vehicles at short headways, and longer stop spacing than traditional streetcars and buses. Bus rapid transit however, uses buses on a wide variety of rights-of-way, including mixed traffic, dedicated lanes on surface streets, and busways completely separated from traffic.

Reply:  Bus Rapid Transit is a part of our Transit Action Plan for several major corridors You can see the specifics in our Transit Action Plan which is available on our website at

North Natomas , CA:  In the afternoon, just after 3:30, several riders, myself included, ride Route 13 to Route 11. Based on the direction of travel of the two routes, the transfer requires crossing Truxel Road at Gateway Park Boulevard. Each day we request that Route 13 calls in so that Route 11 is aware of around 12 to 15 transfers. We have on several occasions caught Route 11 leaving its 3:56 (to downtown) timepoint early. Tuesday it left at 3:54 rather that holding up to 3:59. Based on what has happened recently, may I request that you make a Route 11 schedule change that would become effective in January? On behalf of the "transfering" riders, we would like the Soithbound Route 11 leave Truxel at Gateway at :29 after the hour when it is once an hour, and at :29 and :59 after when it is operating at twice an hour. Would this be possible come January 6, 2014? Thank you.

Reply:  The January 2014 schedules are close to being finalized, but I will have our Scheduling Department look into this option or alternatives to improve this transfer in the future. Thank you.

North Sacramento , CA:  I wanted to ask you about the so-called "El Camino Gap" if you will. There is no service (Routes 23 or 88) on El Camino between Grove Avenue and Ethan Avenue in North Sacramento. My thought was that if Routes 23 and 88 connected with the Blue Line at Swanston (off of El Camino and Lexington) then the "El Camino Gap" could get filled. Would this be a possibility some time in 2014 and/or 2015?

Reply:  We have considered this before, but we have felt that it's important for Route 23 to serve Arden Way, including Arden Fair Mall and the transit center at Arden/Del Paso. RT does have plans to relocate the Arden/Del Paso transit center to the Swanston light rail station, but we would expect Route 23 would to still serve Arden Fair Mall.

Sacramento , CA:  My question is on the blue line. When service to CRC opens, how will schedules of the existing blue line change? Will it run later than it does now? How many additional minutes will it take one-way from Watt to CRC? What time would the last train leave CRC at night to Watt?

Reply:  The Blue Line to CRC is scheduled to open in September 2015. We're not planning any changes to our span of service, although times of existing trips may shift slightly. The schedule hasn't yet been written, but the extension will add approximately 10 minutes, which would put the last arrival at CRC at approximately 12:04 a.m.

Fair Oaks, CA:  How often does the 24 line run now? Was there a second bus added?

Reply:  Route #24 currently runs every 60 minutes. In January 2013, additional evening trips were added leaving Sunrise Mall at 5:45 and 6:41 p.m. (previously, the last trip left Sunrise Mall at 4:57 p.m.).

South Sacramento , CA:  Will there be any additional service for Route 55, especially if it extended to 8:00 p.m.?

Reply:  We are planning on adding weekday evening trips to Route 55 to extend outbound service to approximately 8:00 p.m. This may happen as early as January 2014.

Sacramento , CA:  My question is pertaining to RT connectivity coming off of Greyhound Buses. Greyhound has a bus trip in the Central Valley that arrives Sacramento at 8pm. It has been difficult when this trip is late to connect to your Route 15 Line. Would there be any possibility that some later hours be brought back to Route 15 that were cut when your agency implemented the major cuts back in 2010? I am aware that most bus lines do not generally operate past 9pm, but with Greyhound moving from downtown to Richards Boulevard, availability of Regional Transit connections has made life connecting to Regional Transit extremely difficult, especially with service stopping by 9pm. Gee, Thanks Greyhound for moving, it isn't any easier in your new location!! LOL

Reply:  Extended evening hours on Route 15 is on our list of improvements established by our TransitRenewal study, which we completed last year. Route 15 is one of our core routes, and we have a goal to run evening service on all our core routes until at least 10:00 p.m. on weekdays. It is our goal to restore all of the service hours cut in 2010 over the next 4 years and Route 15 is on that list.

Carmichael, CA:  Why is it that most of the ticket machines are capable of accepting credit/debit cards, but don't allow this feature? Other cities do, like Seattle and Portland.

Reply:  Good question. When Regional Transit originally purchase the ticket machines (FVM's), the machines came equipped with credit and debit features, however at that time, the costs associated with the implementation and monthly transactional fees were cost prohibitive. Since then, the hardware that was initially purchased and installed in the FVM's ten years ago has become obsolete and the restrictions surrounding credit card processing has become more stringent. The good news is the transaction/fee costs are now much less therefore the concept is more viable. Currently, RT is engaged in a Smart Card program which will allow our customers to use credit and debit cards to load and re-load money onto the Smart Card. As it relates to the current FVM's, RT is working on a pilot program whereby approximately 11 new FVM's, recently installed, have the new hardware and software to allow for the use of credit and debit payment options. Since we are still in the testing phase, we don't have a go live date yet. However, when this becomes available for public use, we will embark on a marketing campaign to get the word out.

Sacramento, CA:  Is RT planning on posting service delay or disruption information to Twitter? A model Twitter account would be MUNI in San Francisco. They post frequent updates to notify riders of delays across their transit system. Yesterday, the Watt/I-80 train inbound to downtown failed to show up twice and there was no mention of this delay on the account.

Reply:  RT is working on an automated system to post real-time service disruption alerts to Twitter @RideSacRT. At this time, we are only able to tweet RT news, events, planned service change information, construction updates, transit industry activities, and major light rail service disruptions that require special shuttle buses. In the meantime, the best way to check for all other types of service disruptions is by accessing RT’s mobile web app ( on your smart phone or tablet. Click on the Service Alerts link/bar before heading out to catch a bus or light rail train to check the current status.

Elk Grove, CA:  Are the proposed Hi-Bus routes in the Transit Conceptual plans for Laguna Blvd, Elk Grove Blvd, Elk Grove-Florin, and Bradshaw planned to be BRT? Will they have their own dedicated rights of way or will they be forced to mix with street traffic? Will E-Tran or Sac RT run them?

Reply:  These types of decisions are really outside the scope of the TransitAction plan, which was intended to envision a more robust transit network for the region, and to estimate some approximate costs and benefits from such a network. A Hi-Bus corridor could in theory be a simply a high-frequency bus corridor, perhaps with articulated buses, but it could also involve major capital improvements, such as dedicated right of way. In the latter case, an alternatives analysis would probably be done to determine the optimal and preferred service model, vehicle type, etc.

Elk Grove, CA:  Are there any plans to bring in low floor light rail cars? One of the ways that can address the limited space in the front of cars is low floor light rail that would make it easier for everyone to board with bikes, strollers, the elderly, in addition to persons with disabilities.

Reply:  RT's light rail system was constructed before low floor light rail vehicles were an option in the United States. We plan to start a conversion to low floor with the replacement of our first series of Siemens cars which is anticipated to start as early as 2017 depending upon available funding. In addition to the vehicles, a conversion to low floor requires extensive station modifications. We are designing our new light rail stations to accommodate low floor vehicles, but most of our existing stations will require modification.

Sacramento, CA:  Hi Mark, Are there any plans to improve quality of service? I see the marketing campaigns but it would make more sense to work on keeping the customers you have before trying to obtain new ones. The LR stations are filthy and the trains and busses are frequently dirty or having malfunctions. Also it would be great if there was more of a security presence. It's not like the community doesn't know that public transit exsists in their area its that there are those who feel more safe using their cars instead. If RT can provide optimal service that is safe and clean then more people would utilize it.

Reply:  I appreciate your comment and agree with your concerns. We do need to focus on the cleanliness of both our stations and vehicles. Both have suffered from the funding difficulties RT has faced over the past few years, but needs to be a priority in the future. With respect to security, we constantly modify and adjust our security program and deployment strategies based upon what we see happening on the system. As an example, we are starting a program that assigns specific officers to specific stations so that they can work more closely with local law enforcement on neighborhood issues that may be spilling into the station, and be an advocate for some of the cleanliness and other issues specific to a particular station. On the trains, we are returning to the vinyl seat cushions to address the difficulty in removing the dust and dirt from the fabric cushions. The vinyl cushions will be easier to keep clean and will not collect as much dirt during the service day.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there any plans for the RT tracker to include LR service disruptions?

Reply:  You can check for light rail and bus service disruptions by accessing RT’s mobile web app ( on your smart phone or tablet. Click on the Service Alerts link/bar before heading out to catch a bus or light rail train to check the current status. We are working on a program to provide real time light rail arrival information which would show light rail disruptions in greater detail. At this point I do not know if that will be combined with our current RT Tracker app (it should be technical difficulties aside) or made available through a different program.

North Natomas, CA:  I was reading today's questions and replys. Based on what has been said, I have a question. I do mobility training at PRIDE Industries and was curious if you are also planning to move Route 13 to the Swanston from the Arden/Del Paso Station, or if this route would remain at Arden/Del Paso? If you do move it, that is fine, however folks like me as a mobility trainer need sufficient time to train folks with disabilities as we at times need to be overly repetitive to certain individuals so that they get it fully ingrained in them about service changes. Thank you for paying close attention to this inquiry.

Reply:  There are no plans to modify the Route #13 at this time. Moving transfers form Arden/Del Paso to Swanston requires improvements that are currently not funded. So, we do not have a schedule for this change.

Sacramento , CA:  When will the no smoking policy start to be enforced? It's not fair that smokers have more rights than nonsmokers. We should not have to move and wait for the bus standing in the sun while the smokers are happy smoking in the shade. Even if they are polite and put the cigarette out the smoke is still hanging around. It would be nice if the no smoking policy was enforced the same way at the light rail. Some smokers are getting a mixed message when RT employees are smoking. This is something that has been upsetting me lately because of my allergies and asthma. I have to wait for the bus standing up in the sun while they are sitting.

Reply:  At the RT Board's direction, RT will roll out the phased implementation of no smoking at select light rail stations mid to late October. Prior to implementation, Marketing will conduct outreach efforts to inform passengers about the program.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I have noticed that several if not all 28 line buses continue out of service from the Cordova Town Center station and become the 74 line and vice versa. I was wondering if Regional Transit could extend the 28 from it's current end of the line to the Sunrise Station carrying passengers on the non revenue portion between Cordova Town Center and Sunrise and bringing back direct service to the Sunrise Station from Citrus Heights.

Reply:  We have actually been considering extending Route 28 from Cordova Town Center to the Mather/Mills light rail station, where it could not only connect with Route 74, but also provide direct connections to Routes 21, 72, and 75.

South Sacramento , CA:  Another issue with Route 55 is that it is late on Saturdays, especially around 12:00, where the bus gets crowded. This is causing me to miss the connection to Route 81 at Florin Towne Centre. Is this issue being addressed?

Reply:  Weekend on-time performance has been the subject of some internal discussions. Thank you for bringing these specifics to our attention.

Sacramento, CA:  What is RT doing to ensure that transit funding stays in place should federal funding be delayed in the future?

Reply:  The delay of federal funding is something that RT has been working on vigorously now since the beginning of January. As you recall, the governor signed into law pension reform policies which required new employees to pay up to 50% of the normal cost of their pensions as well as a host of other modification to their retirement benefit calculations. Immediately upon the implementation of this reform, the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) challegened the legality of the bill, which resulted in a delay of RT's federal funds. Upon receipt of the challenge, RT has been working with California Legislators to resolve the issue. With the help of Assembly members Roger Dickerson and Richard Bloom, assembly bill AB1222 was created to delay the implementation of the pension rules. The passage of this bill will allow the Federal Funds to flow again. As for a long term solution, RT, with the backing of the State of California, is expected to enter into a lawsuit with the Department of Labor to settle the disagreement permanently.

CA:  There are crossing gates all along light rail except 9th and R and 10th and R. Why not there?

Reply:  I am assuming that your question concerns our light rail service crossing 9th and 10th Streets on O Street. We do not have light rail service on R Street west of 12th Street. We do have storage tracks that extend to 10th and R, but movements are made on these storage tracks when traffic is clear and gates are not required. Diagnostic work is done at each crossing of the light rail system to determine the appropriate level of protection. The diagnostic work takes into account the traffic volumes as well as train speeds. In some locations in the Downtown area, the traffic signals are considered a sufficient level of protection.

Midtown Sacramento, CA:  For months we keep being told you're bringing the trains to the RT Trakker... but nothing has happened. When are we really going to see where the trains are?

Reply:  There are a lot of technical challenges that we're working on, particularly with regard to communications between the trains and the wayside equipment. Look for an announcment when this progresses further.

South Sacramento , CA:  Are there any other changes that are being considered for January 2014 besides Transit Renewal phase two!

Reply:  Some of the "big ticket" items originally called for as Phase 2 of TransitRenewal, such as headway improvements on Route 23 and 56 are most likely going to be too expensive, given RT's current budget realities. We are anticipating expanding Saturday evening service hours on major routes. We are also looking at adding some evening trips on Routes 55, 67, 68, and 72 on weekdays, as well as possibly extending Route 28 from the Cordova Town Center light rail station to the Mather/Field Mills light rail station.

Elk Grove, CA:  Are there any planned changes to Route 65 once the blue line extension to CRC begins operating?

Reply:  The schedules may of course change, to provide good connections with the new Franklin light rail station. We are not currently planning on changing the alignment of the route itself. We foresee that there may be some reduction in demand on parts of the route, but at this point, our feeling is that we should wait and see how ridership actually reacts before suggesting any major changes.

Sacramento, CA:  On Thursday going home, the train was about 45 minutes late. The two scheduled 103 express buses left us. There was a serious lack of communication. None on the electronic board. I checked twitter, Facebook, and the website for any alerts. Nothing. In today day and age, why the lack of communication? There is other situations, the RT train drivers can seriously run their mouths to passengers constantly but they themselves can't communicate to their passengers? I been riding for 20 years and I remember the day when when one of the 103 buses was told to wait on the scheduled train when it was late, or the day when the driver would explain to passengers what is happeningto relieve the frustrations. These chats with the top are great but is the lower levels getting the message? Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to submit.

Reply:  I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience on Thursday. Bus operators are supposed to wait for passengers from a train that is in the station. If a train is running late, radio control may hold connecting buses; however, there is a limit to how long buses can be held.

Elk Grove, CA:  What are RT's plans in preparation for the new housing development being built near I5 and Freeport?

Reply:  The area that I think you're referring to is currently served by Route 56 seven days a week. Our Planning and Facilities departments always review major development projects to assure that we will have somewhere for our buses to stop.

Sacramento, CA:  How many of your Board members ride RT regularly? How many of the employees use RT to commute to work?

Reply:  I do not have any specific information in response to your question. I do personally know of several RT Board members who ride the RT system, but you would need to ask them directly. With respect to RT staff, we do not survey the staff to see how many people use the system. Again, I personally know a number of employees who regularly use the system, and of course our General Manager is a regular and frequent rider. On a general note, the RT Board and staff are no different from everyone else. The system works well for some of us and for certain trips we make. The same issues with respect to service coverage and frequency that limits the utility of the system to the general public is a problem for us as well. On the operations side of RT, it is difficult for a bus driver to use the system if they are the person that pulls the bus out in the morning, or in at night. A lot of our drivers and maintenance personnel work outside of RT's service hours. There are a number of us that are on call 24/7 which also limits our use of the system.

Comments from Mark Lonergan: 

Thank you for your questions today. Mike Wiley will return for the next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager, scheduled for Friday, October 4, 2013.