Transit Talk with the General Manager

November 01, 2013
RoseMary Covington, Assistant GM of Planning
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live Friday, November 1, from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions from 10 a.m. through the end of the chat.

Comments from RoseMary Covington: 

Hello, my name is RoseMary Covington, Assistant General Manager of Planning and Transit System Development, and I will be your guest host for today's session of Transit Talk.

My responsibilities at RT include managing short and long-range planning, major project planning, transit-oriented development, accessible services and customer advocacy.

I'm pleased to announce that activity recently resumed on the Green Line to the Airport light rail extension project when the RT Board of Directors awarded a contract for preliminary environmental and engineering consulting services for the planned extension.

Over the next two years, RT staff and project consultants will work to advance the previous Green Line to the Airport Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report to an official draft, ready for release to the public. They will also complete preliminary engineering on a number of aspects of the expansion.

One issue that will be addressed is whether or not the bridge that will be built across the American River, connecting Sacramento to Natomas, will include the capacity for automobiles in addition to light rail, bicycles and pedestrian traffic.

Identifying additional funding sources for the extension is also a major goal of the project. The team will look to designate a portion of the Green Line in Natomas as a federal New Starts project candidate, which would open up the possibility for federal funding on this segment of the project. Proposition 1A state funding will also be pursued with the intent for the Green Line to the Airport to make a future connection with high speed rail.

In downtown, RT will also partner with the City of Sacramento to incorporate light rail and bus service into the plans for a future intermodal transit facility to be located at what is now the undeveloped Sacramento Railyards.

Breaking ground on the Green Line to the Airport light rail extension is still years away, but RT will continue to develop plans that will be the foundation for the project's future.

Sacramento, CA:  What happened to the credit/debit capability to purchase a fare that was promised at the end of June? And any news about when RT is going to get new train cars?

Reply:  Twelve fare vending machines have been installed throughout the system that have the ability to accept credit/debit payments. The functionality has not been turned on at the moment, but will be activated once materials are prodcued to help customers identiy and use the machines.

The light rail stations where they are located (one at each station) include: Sacramento Valley Station, Cathedral Square, St. Rose of Lima Park (7th & K), 16th Street, Watt/Manlove, Mather Field/Mills, Sunrise, Iron Point, Watt/I-80, Arden/Del Paso, Florin and Meadowview.

Once the capability is activiated, only one fare vending machine at each station will have the ability to accept credit/debit payments.

Regarding light rail vehicles, we are working with SACOG to identify funding for new vehicles and our plans are to start procuring them towards the end of the decade.

Sacramento (Natomas), CA:  I live in an apartment by West El Camino and Truxel and currently drive to Sleep Train Arena for all kinds of events. Will Bus Routes 88 (West El Camino) and 11 (Truxel) perhaps be two routes with later operating hours once the Downtown Facility opens? I do not want to fight the downtown traffic, nor do I want to be forced into paying downtown parking rates, solely because bus service hours are not available late at night in 2017, which is the case here in late 2013.

Reply:  One of the major goals of RT's plan to serve the Arena is to ensure that the entire RT service area has the opportunity to get to and return from events at the Entertainment and Sports complex. While we have not developed specifics yet, be assured that we will consider convenient service from the Natomas area.

Folsom, CA:  I'm excited for the opportunity this Region is getting in building a Downtown Entertainment Sports Complex. Your Gold Line schedule, however prohibits us in Folsom from using the Gold Line to get back after an event. Has this matter been brought to the table yet, along with input from Folsom City Officials as well, so that there can be a cooperative and sensible resolution for us riders and public agencies to both be winners on this topic?

Reply:  We are currently working with officials of Arena to determine the relationship between RT service and events at the Sports and Entertainment Center. A transit service plan will be developed to meet the schedule of events. This service plan will include the consideration of rail service to and from Folsom. Thank you for your question.

Sacramento, CA:  Is the Lightrail expansion on schedule from Meadowview to CRC? And will there be any more Lightrail expansions?

Reply:  The light rail extension to Consumnes River College is on schedule to begin service in September 2015. Work is beginning on the environmental analysis for the Green Line to the Airport. This work will take us to the point of final design and construction. Construction on this project cannot begin until a new funding source becomes available to help RT expand the transit system.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Many of the Light Rail stations are absolutely filthy! I'm talking blowing trash, rats, cockroaches. Some have burned out lights in fixtures. This is an even bigger issue now that it gets dark earlier! I've even had your own guards and police officers remark to me about how much trash there is and how unkept the station looks as they stood nearby while waiting for a train. Come on RT, all it takes is some minimum wage trash picker uppers to get this taken care of, or are you another bloated public agency that has to have overpaid, lazy union workers not do their jobs and leave our waiting areas looking horrible??

Reply:  As we reduced service during our fical crisis, we cut the number of employees and contractors taking care of our light rail stations. We've recently added a few position to assist with cleaning. These positions are inexpensive entry level positions whose pay is in line with their work. We also are using Pride Industries and InAlliance to assist with station cleaning. These contracts were cut way back during the crisis. We are now moving to restoring these efforts. Please be aware that RT is in an ongoing effort to stretch every dollar and that we are working very hard to provide the best service possible within our available resources.

Sacramento (Pocket/Greenhaven), CA:  My family and I attended the Arena Town Hall put on by Councilman Steve Hansen Last week, and I want to thank you for serving on the panel. Do you anticipate holding in the near future a transit town hall focusing on bus and light rail service to the arena? We appreciate your expertise you bring to the table and also appreciate the Here We Ride leader as well. That grassroots seems to be major advocates of transit to the Arena from a broad spectrum of jurisdictions from the Sacramento area.

Reply:  We have not planned a "transit town hall" to discuss the arena, but it is certainly a good idea. In the meantime, we are available to attend meetings of organizations wanting to discuss transit service planning.

Sacramento, CA:  Is the arena group working with RT to make transit access easier and more convenient than driving? Like at the Oakland Arena and BART? I am concerned that the arena planners will build the arena then after the fact ask RT what you are going to do for them. And I suspect you would tell them nothing because you have no money to do anything.

Reply:  RT is working with the City, the Arena Consultants and the Arena Architects on the development and siting of transit options for serving the future Arena in downtown Sacramento. Experience in other communities with similarly located Arenas and with similar travel behaviors to Sacramento have demonstrated that transit is an excellent and well-used option for many patrons of these types of vehicles. We are working with the Arena developers now to develop strategies and documentation of the transportation impacts and these strategies is expected to be published beginning later this year and into spring with the environmental documentation being prepared.

Sacramento, CA:  Is anyone at RT paying attention to the graffitti at stations? Some of it is pretty bad, especially in Rancho Cordova.

Reply:  Yes. We try to sweep the system monthly. In the past, there was vendor support to assist with this work. Although we are thinkly staffed, we want to remove grafitti as quickly as staffing allows. We are also working to procure additional assistance as funding is restored. When you see graffiti, please report it to 557-4545.

North Highlands, CA:  A follow up to the most recent question regarding station conditions. If you are truly trying to stretch every dollar and provide the best service possible, you are seriously saying that the late night service you are adding in January is more important than making stations not smell like urine? How can someone help with your priorities?

Reply:  Both issues are extremely important and we are addressing them concurrently. We always include customer comments when considering priorities.

Sacramento, CA:  As a follow up to the Folsom service question, will RT be able to extend service after 7:00 pm whethr the City of Folsom agrees to pay more or not, if it is somehow attached to service for the new Arena?

Reply:  We cannot extend or expand any service without being sure that we have enough revenue available to cover the operating cost. We will be in conversation with both the Sports and Entertainment Complex as well as the CIty of Folsom regarding funding for transit service.

Sacramento, CA:  When will we see vinyl seats beginning to appear on the light rail vehicles?

Reply:  The use of vinyl seats on the light rail vehicles is under consideration but has not been firmly decided. We expect rehabbed light rail vehicles to enter service during FY 2015. If we decide to use vinyl, these would be the vehicles to have vinyl seats.

Sacramento, CA:  My fellow riders tell me that there will likely be some minor service changes and/or service improvements being implemented in January. I went to your website on my AM break at work today and the "NextStop News" to be downloaded is for last month, not this month. Also, existing schedules page on your website does not yet reflect an Icon to click onto to view the January 2014 changes/improvements, if any at all. Where can I find on your website, this information, and if I am looking in the right places, when will it be updated?

Reply:  We will have descriptions of the January service changes online at by the close of business today. The full PDFs of the new timetables we be post online next week.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the aerial structures now under construction as part of the extention to Cosumnes River College be completed?

Reply:  Construction is scheduled to be complete on the light rail bridges included in the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College light rail extension in early 2014, with the entire project scheduled for completion in fall of 2015.

Roseville, CA:  I see that a lot of work has been done at the Louis Orlando Transit station in Roseville by RT. Does that mean RT is planning to move service that way? It would be nice to have more service in the North area. Is anything planned?

Reply:  Roseville, Placer County and RT have been working on designs for a new and improved bus transit center at Louis Orlando. Roseville is the lead agency, RT has been providing the design team support. The designs are nearly complete and Roseville has begun seeking funding to build out the transit center. I think you will be impressed when the designs are shared. Mike Wixon of Roseville is leading the project. The design includes a park and ride, lighting and seating in a landscaped space. The bus access is greatly improvded for each of the three agencies.

Sacramento, CA:  I hear you are buyiing new buses. Will these buses have BRT capabilities?

Reply:  We are currently in the early stages of buying replacement buses to replace older RT buses nearing the end of their useful life. When we begin providing BRT service, we expect to purchase destintively flagged buses designed for BRT service.

South Sacramento, CA:  Will there be any expansion of routes 55 and 56 in the near future?

Reply:  In January 2014, on Route 55, we are adding three additional evening trips. We're also adding two evening trips on Route 56 on Saturdays. Announcements of these and several other improvements will be made very soon. We were not able to make large changes this year, but we will be making several other similar low-cost improvements to the system.

Sacramento, CA:  How long does it take for a train that is slowing down moving toward a station to actually stop?

Reply:  It depends on how fast the train is traveling, but you should NEVER step in front of a moving train. In light rail stations, always be aware of your surroundings, don't be distracted by headphones, pay attention to the crossing gates, don't ride your bike or skateboard, and wait behind the yellow safety tiles for trains to arrive.

Sacramento, CA:  Why is RT involved in a project like the Streetcar when you can't do more for light rail because you don't have any money?

Reply:  The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) is assessing the feasibility and costs of a streetcar. As we never know when or if new or additional revenues might occur, it is important for the region's mobility that we continue to work with our transportation partners in planning for the future.

Roseville, CA:  Does RT have plans to advertise the ability to sell CNG fuel to others? Will there be any limits?

Reply:  RT recently received permission from the FTA to sell Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) from our new CNG fueling system at McClellan Park. Since receiving permission, RT staff has reached out to other public agencies and CNG fleet operators with the offer to fuel at this location. So far we have five contracts in place and are working on another handful of contracts. There are 4 large fueling stations and 1 public fueling station at this location. Over time, we hope to have a 3rd party manage to public fueling station.

Comments from RoseMary Covington: 

Thank you for your questions today. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager is scheduled for Friday, December 6, 2013.