Transit Talk with the General Manager

October 04, 2013
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions and Ride Transit October

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you to Mark Lonergan, RT's Chief Operating Officer, for hosting the chat during my absence in September. His participation in the chat has become a tradition each year while I'm away cycling in the Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails Bike Trek. I'm sure readers appreciate his insightful answers.

This month, RT is celebrating Ride Transit October with events and promotions to thank our riders and encourage others to try transit. RT activities will feature "Fun Fridays" at the Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street, where customers can take a spin on the prize wheel with purchase; a "Why Do You Ride Transit?" Twitter contest where riders will have the opportunity to enter (tweet) to win an RT Basic monthly pass; and Customer Appreciation Days when RT staff will greet customers with give-a-ways on random routes throughout the system.

In addition, I will also be out riding buses and light rail trains as part of the annual "Ride with the GM" promotion interacting personally with passengers to answer questions and listen to feedback about RT's service.

Riders interested in speaking with me can find my trip schedule at "Like" our Facebook page or follow @RideSacRT on Twitter for updates.

I look forward to meeting new and dedicated riders this month. Thank you for taking part in Ride Transit October.

Let's begin today's session.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  When are we going to see RESTORED service to lines that were cut in 2010?

Reply:  RT's 2012 TransitRenewal project set forth a five-year schedule for restoring bus and light rail service to 2010 levels. Our fiscal situation has not been as favorable as we would have liked, and that has kept us from sticking 100% to schedule, but we have been making progress toward this goal. We will take another step toward this goal in January when we extend evening hours on major Saturday evening bus routes and on certain weekday routes. The five year plan is still in effect and we expect our service level to be fully restored in 2017.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Recently, I observed Route 23 on San Juan turning onto Greenback and thought that at that point it operated along another Route, Route 1. What ever happened to service further up San Juan, which becomes Sylvan, followed by Auburn Boulevard once you pass Sylvan Corners? It would make sense to me that Route 23 go to where folks can connect to Roseville and Placer. Is this a good suggestion for coverage via Sylvan and Auburn, north of Greenback?

Reply:  Sylvan Road was a gap in our service for a couple years. We now provide a Neighborhood Ride bus, Route 95, which goes from Sunrise Mall, west on Greenback, north on Sylvan/Auburn, and west on Antelope Road to Roseville Road. Route 95 runs Monday to Friday from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thank you for the suggestion. We'll take it into consideration.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Good afternoon Mr. Wiley. Are there any plans to provide veterans with a discounted fare? There are many of us that need to go to the V.A. at Mather or McClellan, and our appts can be held up or take longer than most. By that time the ticket we purchased has expired, and it costs us more in the end. Many are unemployed and/or disabled, and this really cuts into our living expenses.

Reply:  Persons with disabilities should come to our Customer Service Center at 1225 R Street (at the 13th Street light rail station) and apply for a disabled photo ID card, which entitles the customer to half off all fares. We do not, however, offer any discounts for the unemployed or for veterans, although there are other agencies and organizations that do. For instance, the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance provides discount transit passes to persons on general assistance, and many employers in the area help their employees purchase tickets and passes.

Orangevale, CA:  How is Line 24 doing? Is there any upcoming service changes our community needs to be on alert for coming in 2014?

Reply:  Since we added a few evening trips in January 2013, we've seen ridership improve modestly. For September this trend appears to be continuing.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  With so many issues on the Gold Line (too many bikes, smoking, music to name a few) I don't understand why you can't have a number to call or text "right then" to get someone from RT to handle it. I have seen many uniformed (yellow and black) get on and not do a thing about it.

Reply:  Non-emergency issues can be reported by texting 67283 and the message must start with "sacrt". Please use this for non-emergency issues. This provides the information immediately to our safety control center. The officer in charge at the time can then dispatch someone to deal with the situation.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  how about cleaning the light rail cars. I get on at 6 a.m. or earlier and they are filthy, and smell of urine and other bodily fluids. Cold and flu season is coming, and I think proactively about the germs that will be on the buttons to get on and off, the straps to hold on to, the metal bars on the back of the seats that people grab on to when getting up.

Reply:  Each of the light rail vehicles are cleaned nightly. We are also hiring a vendor to assist us and improve the level of cleaning. Please contact Ms. Espinoza at and share your observations. It would be very helpful if you note the vehicle number.

South Sacramento, CA:  Do you know when either the service change notices or the new schedules for January 2014 will be released?

Reply:  The plan is to release the details in November.

Sacramento, CA:  Does Sacraemento RT have to do anything with the construction between Jacinto Road and Center Parkway along Bruceville Road?

Reply:  No all of our current work is north of the entrance to the college. Our track construction will start at the entrance to the college and go north.

Sacramento, CA:  Are passengers allow to eat on the bus and lightrail?

Reply:  Eating and drinking is prohibited on vehicles, except that a person may drink a non-alcoholic beverage if it is kept in a container that is designed to be spill-proof or spill-resistant, and only when it's being used properly. We have signs to that effect on the trains.

Cliff in RC, CA:  This may be a little different, but I am really curious how the light rail "operates" i.e. power, all those lines above it, switching tracks. Is there a way to learn more about this?

Reply:  See the following article on Frank Sprague:

South Sacramento, CA:  How is ridership with Routes 5 and 55?

Reply:  Route #5 ridership has been more or less flat, although trends appear to be somewhat positive, after some negative trends over the prior couple years. Route #55 has been setting all-time highs and came close to 1,000 average daily boardings in September. For the most part, all of the service improvements we implemented in September 2012 have performed well, including route #55.

Sacramento, CA:  I sure wish we could have at least 1 train an hour between the hours of midnight at 5am. Have you ever been poor and stranded in Sacramento?

Reply:  Yes, when I was in college I lived on about $250.00 per month and hitched hiked when stranded. Because we have limited funds and because transit service is expensive to operate and maintain, we unfortunately have to keep our services focused on areas and times when the general public is most likely to ride, and can't always meet the needs of everyone who would like to ride. With additional local support ($) we would be in a much better position to operate a more comprehensive service.

Sacramento, CA:  Since we have a electronic ramps for wheel chairs, could that also apply to bike racks because passengers who use the bike racks don't put it up after the passenger get their bike at their stop.

Reply:  We're not aware of any products like that on the market. Although I see the need, I suspect there could be a lot of problems with a device like that. Buses in service are incredibly hard on electrical and mechanical equipment, especially if it is mounted on the exterior of the bus. Anything with wires and moving parts requires a lot of maintenance and is subject to malfunctions.

Sacramento, CA:  Were you ever worried that federal funds would be held up for an extended period of time due to the pension changes issues?

Reply:  Federal funds have been held up since the passage the State of California Pension Reform (PEPRA), which took affect January 1, 2013. We have been involved in many efforts to resolve this issue over the past ten months. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1222 today, which we helped craft and was recently adopted by the California State Legislature. This bill allows a 15 month exemption from PEPRA for California Transit Agencies. This is a positive temporary solution to this issue. RT along with the State of California will be filling a law suit against the federal department of labor in federal court very soon. We expect the outcome of this law suit will provide a permanent resolution to this issue later this fiscal year.

Elk Grove, CA:  As you may be aware, there is a new community development in South Sac (bordered by Franklin on the East, I-5 on the West, the regional wastewater plant on the South and the Meadowview Community on the North). Will RT be adding commuter bus routes to accommodate new residents to that community or will you be expecting the Blue Line to handle the increased commuter burden?

Reply:  This area, which has been termed the Delta Shores area, will be served by the Morrison Creek light rail station, which will be built as part of our Blue Line to Cosumnes River College light rail extension (to open in September 2015). Since the Delta Shores community isn't likely to be built at that point, we won't be adding ticket machines, lighting, signage, etc. right away, but we will do the basic concrete work now so that it is ready to go when the time comes. Eventually we will provide connecting bus service from the western portion of the community to the new light rail station.

Elk Grove, CA:  What is your policy regarding folding bikes? Do they still need to be on bus racks or can they be brought on board? Are they still subject to the 4 bike per LRT car limit?

Reply:  If the bicycle is folded, it can be treated like a shopping cart or any other kind of luggage, that is, as long as the aisles are clear, it may be brought on board the bus. On the train, the same rules apply. There is more room at the end of the train, and that would probably be the best place for it, but fundamentally, as long as it is not obstructing an aisle, you may bring it with you. It is also significant for you and others to know that when I became General Manager I instructed our operations staff NOT to enforce the four bike limit.

Elk Grove, CA:  If I recall correctly, last month, COO Mark Lonergan mentioned plans to modify the LRT stations to accommodate more modern low floor light rail cars by 2017. Can you say (or point to) what would specifically need to be done to modify the existing LRT stations?

Reply:  At many or most of our current off-street stations, the boarding platform is level with the rail, so passengers have to step up to board the train. Even if the train had a low floor, passengers would still have to make a step up into the train. This would still be easier than ascending a flight of stairs into a high-floor vehicle, like we currently do. But the ideal is for the station platform to be higher than the rail, so that it is level with the floor of a low-floor vehicle. Once this is achieved, persons in wheelchairs can board directly from the main platform. This allows us to remove the mini-high ramp and platform and it allows persons in wheelchairs to board any car in the train, rather than be limited to the front of the first car. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that new stations be built this way. Over time, we can also retrofit our old stations. Once an entire line has been retrofitted and we have low-floor vehicles, then the mini-high platforms will no longer be needed on that line.

Sacramento, CA:  Could there be anything done to remind the passengers to put up the bike rack?

Reply:  We do have signs and we can put information in our news letters.

Folsom, CA:  WIth FTA shut down, do you have cash issues as some transit (and Amtrak) do that might curtail service if the Fed shutdown goes long?

Reply:  RT could incur cash flow issues as a result of this Federal shutdown, depending on how long it takes to resolve this issue. RT has federal grants outstanding and we are expecting these grants to be funded in the near future by the Federal Transit Administration. However, if this Federal Shutdown continues for an extended period of time, it could cause cash flow issues and potentially impact service levels at some point in the future. Our cash flow analysis indicates that we can manage a federal shut down as long as it doesn't extend beyond June of 2014.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your questions today. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager is scheduled for Friday, November 1, 2013.