Transit Talk with the General Manager

January 03, 2014
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live Friday, January 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: 

Happy New Year and thank you for joining me for today’s Transit Talk with the General Manager session! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season, and is preparing for a productive 2014.

To begin, I would like to express my gratitude to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) for naming me their SACOG Salutes! Employee of the Year in 2013.

The SACOG Salutes! awards recognize outstanding and innovative land-use, and transportation and air quality planning, programs and activism throughout the six-county SACOG region.

I’m humbled that they saw fit to recognize the work being done at RT to improve public transportation in our region over the past year.

In 2013, RT celebrated the signing of a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to provide 50 percent of the $270 million needed to build the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College light rail extension now under construction.

RT also worked to advance components of TransitAction – RT’s 25-year Transit Master Plan – to secure additional revenue.

A third major accomplishment was assisting the Office of Governor Jerry Brown in drafting legislation to keep FTA funds flowing after challenges to California’s 2012 Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) put nearly $2 billion in FTA funding statewide at-risk.

Thank you again to SACOG and to all of the RT employees who made this award possible.

This month, RT is also accepting nominations for our TransitAction Awards, which will be presented during the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s 2014 State of RT Breakfast on Friday, April 4 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento.

These annual 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.

Nominations for the TransitAction Awards must be submitted by Friday, February 7, and can be submitted for the following categories:
  • Business of the Year
  • Organization/Agency of the Year
  • Transit Oriented Development of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Individual/Transit Advocate of the Year
For more information about the TransitAction Awards, visit

Rio Linda, CA:  I have been reading in articles over the last month that Sacramento County's Watt Avenue project will be done this calendar year. Will you be able to improve Watt Avenue corridor bus service in September including shortening Route 19 to where Route 84 currently terminates off of Big Sky Drive in North Highlands? To clarify the Route 19 portion of my question, I think it should travel from the Arden/Del Paso Station to Big Sky Drive via its current alignment through Rio Linda and Elverta. Watt Avenue service would be eliminated so that Route 80 and Route 84 would operate at 30-minute frequencies each rather than their current 60-minute frequencies each. Thank you.

Reply:  Our plan has been to eliminate Route 19 service on Elverta Road and on Watt Avenue. Your suggestion would retain the Elverta Road service and provide a connection between Route 19 and Route 84. I think this may have some merit. Overall, what we do will depend on our budget situation. The headway improvements on Routes 80 and 84 are a very big-ticket item, so we may not be able to afford them this September. We'll probably hold off on any changes to Route 19 until we can make the Route 80/84 improvements.

Sacramento, CA:  I see that RT has a new procurement ordinance with changes that started on January 1st. Will these changes help or hurt small businesses trying to work with RT? How?

Reply:  The changes should not directly impact small businesses. The changes are focused on speeding up our procurement processes by delegating more authority to the GM and by incorporating other industry best practices into the new ordinance. The changes do not impact our local and small business preference programs. Because of the way the preferences work, small and local businesses may see an increase in opportunities. Staff will monitor the programs as the year progresses to determine the actual impact.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT be able to add service in 2014?

Reply:  Yes; effective Sunday, January 5, 2014, RT will implement service improvements that will extend night service on 10 bus routes and restructure one bus route to better serve riders. You may find detailed information about route specific changes on our website at under the 'January Service Improvements' link.

Sacramento, CA:  I want to thank you for the service improvements going into effect on January 5th. Will you be able to implement more service improvements this calendar year, but especially on your Sunday/Holiday Schedule? Even with what you are doing this Sunday, it still seems to me that the Sunday/Holiday services offered today could use some further looking at for improvements this calendar year.

Reply:  We are still looking at improvements we might be able to make later this year. Sunday/Holiday headways on Routes 23 and 56 are near the top of the list. We are also looking at fast-tracking restoration of Route 8 - Power Inn. This is an improvement that has been on our list, but due to numerous requests, we are trying to find a way to make this happen sooner. However, service improvements are always balanced against our funding availability. At this point we are unable to commit to additional service until after we get a better picture on our financial situation for the remainder of the fiscal year and next year.

Sacramento, CA:  I was watching the RT Board meeting on television the other day and one item came up on charging to hang banners in Rancho Cordova. It wasn't clear what happened to the policy. Was it adopted?

Reply:  No. The board continued the item until the second meeting in January. The policy was more global and was not focused on Rancho Cordova. It is focused system wide because of the number of bridges the district has built. And the charging issue was related to avoiding costs for the district when there are problems with the banner provided to the district. It is not our intent to charge to hang banners. However, if there are added costs with a particular banner, the policy will allow us to be reimbursed for those costs.

Sacramento, CA:  Has RT thought about decreasing fares during commute times to encourage transit ridership? Or otherwise varying the fare depending on the route? For example, charging a little more on the routes that tend to be overcrowded, and charging a little less on those that struggle to retain riders?

Reply:  RT staff has a number of ideas regarding fare structure and pricing. However, in order to consider any changes we must first successfully implement the new Connect Card, our new electronic fare card. It is scheduled for implementation July 1, 2014. Once that is accomplished we will be able to consider numerous fare changes to both the structure and pricing.

Folsom, CA:  Will RT add later night service to the Gold Line to Folsom when the new arena opens downtown?

Reply:  We anticipate a great deal of demand for transit service to and from the proposed Entertainment and Sports Center and we're excited for the chance to introduce new riders to RT. The fact remains, however, that the crowd control, customer assistance, security, and fare collection activities that this service will entail will be quite expensive for RT, so we cannot commit at this point to what we'll run before we know what kind of support we'll have from potential partners. We have been reaching out to the City of Sacramento, the Entertainment and Sports Center developers, and others to help make this project great. Later evening service to Folsom is one of the many ideas we are pursuing.

Sacramento, CA:  Now that half a year is over, how is RT doing staying on budget for FY 2014?

Reply:  RT Staff will be going to the RT Board of Directors in February 2014, with our Mid-Year Operating and Capital Budget revisions for Fiscal Year 2014. At this time fare revenues are trending less than the budgeted amount and we anticipating a reduction in this revenue source, and there may other revenue adjustments as well. We will also revise expense accounts to better reflect our budget to actual position with six months actual (July to December 2013) under out belt. RT is expecting to reduce expenses where needed to re-balance the FY 2014 operating budget. RT will also review and make necessary adjustments to the Capital Budget revenues and expenses as well.

Sacramento, CA:  When are the electronic fare cards going to begin use? Will distance-based fares become the norm rather than flat fares?

Reply:  Our plan is to go live with the Connect Card on July 1st. You will see a good deal of media outreach and staff work leading up to that date. For the first year, the new Connect Card will replicate our current fare structure. The new system has been built to allow variety of fare options, including distance based fares. Your question did not note that the new card will work on most of the transit providers systems in the region. This will be a huge benefit to anyone riding the other systems and transferring to RT's trains or buses.

South Sacramento, CA:  With our weather being dominated by a dry pattern with 2013 going down as the driest calendar year on record, has this been a huge advantage to construction of advancing the Blue Line to CRC? If the mainly dry pattern continues, could you forsee the Blue Line to CRC opening in June of next year, instead of September?

Reply:  So far we've had a dry year, which is good for construction. The project has a specific number of rain days built into the schedule for our contractors. In the event that they don't have the expected rain, this is an advantage for the contractors. It doesn't work out to be a day for day saving however. The construction materials and subcontractor schedules are scheduled well in advance of the activities. Both materials and subcontractors are queued well in advance and are often difficult to move. With this in mind, it is much too early to predict an earlier completion date. However, at this point we are on schedule and under budget.

Sacramento, CA:  Many Green Line riders in the River District are still having difficulty making connections downtown with other transit operators due to the 30-minute schedule. Could there be a 20 minute schedule just during a couple hours in the morning and afternoon commute (e.g., 6:00-8:00 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.)? Thank you for your consideration.

Reply:  We unfortunately don't see the ridership on the Green Line at this point to justify additional service before we improve many of our other routes. I would anticipate that we will re-evaluate the schedule once we see completed new development that increases demand. Probably in about a year.

CA:  Thanks for restoring evening buses

Reply:  You're welcome! Thanks for riding!

Sacramento, CA:  Why do so few buses serve the Amtrak station? This would make our system more user friendly and fluid than it currently is. For example, the routes that end at 7th and G could pull up along the east side of the station on 5th street.

Reply:  The main problem is that there is not sufficient space for several bus routes to layover at the Sac Valley station, especially if they have significant time for an operator rest break or schedule recovery. As you may know, we are working closely with the City of Sacramento on improving the intermodal station which will have more space for transit buses. The long term plans will allow and other operators to bring numerous bus routes into the facility. It will also allow us to operate both the Gold Line and Green Line trains to the facility.

Sacramento, CA:  Is it possible to view ridership data for individual bus routes?

Reply:  RT Staff produces a quarterly ridership report for the RT Board of Directors that includes ridership data for individual bus routes. The report is available on RT's website prior to each Board meeting. The most recent ridership report can be accessed at by going to the RT Board Information and Board documents link for the December 9, 2013 meeting; the report was agenda item #19. In the future we will have a location on our web site that contains the quarterly reports for easier access.

Sacramento, CA:  What is RT’s plan to bring service to the airport from Carmichael, Arden-Arcade, Natomas, Pocket, South Sacramento, etc.? Even with the Green Line, it still means that if you want to take public transportation to the airport, you either have to originate downtown or in more remote areas of Natomas along the proposed light rail route.

Reply:  Federal funds for light rail extensions are highly competitive so we have to focus on corridors that will carry the most riders. That tends to mean that our rail network will be built out from Downtown Sacramento as a hub. That doesn't mean there can't be good options to get to/from the airport from Carmichael, Arden-Arcade, etc., but you probably will need to make a connection. One of the key features of our long-range plan, known as TransitAction, is much greater emphasis on high-speed cross-town bus routes. We can only really afford service like this under a scenario where we have a higher local sales tax rate, however.

Sacramento, CA:  More than likely, ridership will be fairly large on the Blue Line going and coming from CRC once the extension opens. However, when CRC is not in session (mid-May to mid-August and mid-December to mid-January), ridership will probably fall fairly flat for that segment. What is RT’s plan to deal with seasonal ridership that might occur on the Blue Line extension?

Reply:  The end of line typically has very good commuter ridership. There is no reason to expect less at CRC. We experience similar ridership fluctuation at each of the college stations and bus stops. One of the benefits for RT is that the student riders are more diverse on their schedules. Spreading the ridership over more time is very positive for the commuter. We will continue to serve CRC year round with the same schedule and train capacity.

Sacramento, CA:  A bus linking the Amtrak station to the airport (possibly a modification of the Yolobus routes 42A and B) would be an easy, consumer-friendly fix to improve cohesion between transit services in Sacramento. Might this be in the works for the near future?

Reply:  This may be a worthwhile suggestion, but it probably should go to Yolobus, as they operate Routes 42A and 42B to/from the airport.

Sacramento, CA:  The Natomas Flyer routes were implemented quickly and without seamlessly, providing supplemental transit access to natomas from downtown. The green line light rail to the airport will take years to complete, and will be pretty expensive. Will RT help Yolobus expand bus service to the airport, at least in the interim?

Reply:  Yolobus provides this service to the airport and the funding for this service. RT is always looking for creative ways to fund more service and would be more than willing to participate in providing more service if additional resources were identified. One potential source of funding is the Airport itself. RT is hopeful that a much needed transportation sales tax measure will be approved by the voters in the next several years, which would assist in fully funding the project and expedite the completion of the Green Line to the Airport.

Sacramento, CA:  Many of the light rail stations are absolutely filthy, and have been absolutely filthy for at least 6 months Few people who have a choice are going to ride RT if the stations aren't aesthetically pleasing. I notice that the downtown stations are always relatively clean and get serviced frequently, yet Fruitridge station has been littered with trash since I started working down there in July. Why do some stations get cleaned while others don't?.

Reply:  All of the stations are on a weekly cleaning schedule. They are pressure washed at least twice a week. All stations receive daily cleaning and trash pick up both in the morning and after lunch. We are slowly bringing our cleaning support team back to the pre-recession levels. Whenever you notice unclean conditions, please call 557-4545. They will dispatch RT Staff to take care of the problem.

Folsom, CA:  Is your "Connect Card" going to be compatible with anybody else outside the Sac area? Thinking of, for instance, the cards in the Bay Area and LA.

Reply:  The card used in the Sacramento Region will not work elsewhere. The card is of a similar type, but the encoding and transaction processing requires secret codes built into the cards to protect customer data and to prevent fraud. Because of the technology, over time we expect more universal compatibility.

Sacramento, CA:  One particpant, earlier today asked about more bus service to the Amtrak Station. I fully understand the answer you gave and where you are coming from. May I suggest for now, that other than Route 30, it would seem to make sense that the high frequency Route 51 be allowed to serve Amtrak. This would provide you with two routes at Amtrak with one heading to South Sacramento and one heading to East Sacramento. In the meantime, the remaining 7th & G Routes would wait until infrastructure improvements occur at the Amtrak Station. Would you consider this as an interim solution?

Reply:  I think that is a great idea and will ask my staff to check into it.

sacramento, CA:  How many buses does RT operate now compared with before the recession?

Reply:  RT currently operates 158 vehicles during weekday peak times, compared to 188 vehicles in operation prior to the service reductions in 2010.

Sacramento, CA:  What ever happened to wrapping the Siemens light rail vehicles with the new paint scheme?

Reply:  The first Siemens car is currently in the process of being wrapped at our light rail facility I expect that it will be complete in the next two weeks and we will be able to complete one every two to four weeks after that.

Folsom, CA:  Several times recently, the lights and bells at Iron Point Rd & Folsom Bl stayed on after the train left. The gates went up and traffic signals went back to normal, but crossing lights stayed flashing. It's clearly not a 911 emergency, but is definitely confusing - so who do we call? Can you post a contact # for security or grade crossing problems at the station as well as on the equipment shed (assuming there's one there, as there is on regular railroad lines)? Nobody's answering at RT's regular # that early in the morning.

Reply:  The crossing hot line number is 648-8433. When you see something like you related, please call the hot line.

Sacramento, CA:  My concern is in regards to the connection at 16th Street Station between Westbound Gold Line Trains and Northbound Blue Line Trains. On weekends, including weekend nights, it is just a 13-minute wait between one to the other. Weeknights are where the problem exists where a rider waits 28 minutes. Will you be able to look into an adjustment on this for weeknights on the Blue Line Schedule? As a footnote to this question, if you make this adjustment, transfers from Northbound Blue Line Trains onto Eastbound Gold Line Trains would be reduced from 20 minutes on weeknights to just 5 minutes. This short wait is currently in place now all day on weekends.

Reply:  We're aware of the problem with the weekday evening connections at 16th Street. When we change this, we'll also have to adjust many connecting bus schedules, so this will be a major change for us. We usually like to make major changes like this all at one time, so we can have one consolidated outreach effort, and so our public bus book will be accurate for as long as possible. For this reason, we anticipate doing it as part of a major change, potentially in September of this year.

Sacramento County, CA:  I serve as a staff person in a care home of individuals with developmental disabilities. The individuals do not have program to attend on Monday 31 March 2014 in observance of Caesar Chavez Day. Will your customer service and photo ID Office be open that particular day so that folks can get the all brand new Connect Card Photo taken? Will this transit program be at minimum, in its "beta" testing on this particular holiday if it has yet to go to full roll out by then?

Reply:  The Connect Card is scheduled for full implementation on July 1, 2014. Prior to that we will be testing the system. March 31st is not a RT holiday. Beginning in February, we will be issuing the new connect card to people receiving photo IDs. The new card will be used in place of our current photo ID and with a monthly sticker becomes a monthly pass. The electronic chip function will be turned on effective July 1st. So, essentially your clients will be able to come to our customer service center and receive their new connect card/photo ID on March 31, 2014.

sacramento, CA:  Will RT be able to restore the majority of bus service without the increase in sales tax?

Reply:  RT's goal has been to restore bus service to pre-2010 service levels by the FY 2017/ 2018 time frame. RT has restored approximately 8% of the 20% of service cut in June 2010. We hope to restore more Bus service in the near future. RT's TransitRenewal document is our plan to bring back service and we have implemented Phase 1 and part of Phase 2 of this plan. However bringing back all of the service is totally dependent on RT having ongoing sustainable revenues to support the service level increases. Our current plan is complete the service restoration by 2018.

Closing Remarks:
Thank you for your questions today. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager is scheduled for Friday, February 7, 2014.