Transit Talk with the General Manager

February 07, 2014
RoseMary Covington, Assistant GM of Planning
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live Friday, February 7, from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions now 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.

To begin, I wanted to begin by outlining two new programs recently launched by RT aimed at incrementally improving the overall customer experience. First, RT's "No Smoking" policy has been expanded. Second, fare vending machines (FVMs) at select light rail stations now accept credit/debit card payments.

The new smoking policy expands the limited restrictions that banned smoking from covered areas of an RT bus shelter and light rail shelter to include the entire bus stop and light rail station.

Installation of "No Smoking" signage and enforcement of the policy will be implemented in phases. The first phase includes six of RT's busiest light rail stations: 13th Street, 16th Street, 29th Street, Meadowview, Arden/Del Paso and Watt/I-80.

These changes to RT's policy are a key strategy in reducing community exposure to second-hand smoke and tobacco-related health problems. Tobacco use also creates litter and sanitation problems in the form of cigarette butts and waste from chewing tobacco.

Under the new policy, RT has authority to prohibit smoking under Penal Code Section 640(b)(3) and to issue citations to individuals smoking in prohibited areas (an infraction punishable by a fine of $250).

For more information about RT's No Smoking policy, visit For links and free resources to help quit smoking, visit or call 1-800-NO-BUTTS (1-800-662-8887).

RT also recently installed 12 new FVMs that accept credit/debit card payments at select light rail stations. The stations include: Sacramento Valley Station, St. Rose of Lima Park (7th & K), Cathedral Square (11th & K), 16th Street, Arden/Del Paso, Watt/I-80, Florin, Meadowview, Watt/Manlove, Mather Field/Mills, Sunrise and Iron Point. Although there may be multiple FVMs at a station, only one will accept credit/debit card payments. The FVM is easily identifiable by a decal above the card slot that displays the types of credit/debit cards accepted. The new FVMs will accept American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

The ability to use a credit/debit card increases the convenience of buying fare at light rail stations for passengers. RT also hopes to lower maintenance costs by decreasing cash transactions.

RT is working to secure funding to install the credit/debit feature at all light rail stations.

Feel free to ask questions about the expanded "No Smoking" policy, the credit/debit FVM program or other transit-related issues. Let's begin today's chat.

sacramento, CA:  When will the message boards at the train stations start displaying real time train info? ETA?

Reply:  We are currently working on the equipment procurement. As soon as the purchase and installation is complete, we plan to turn on the new system. The new equipment will enable us to update the digital message signs, the mobile application and our web system with realtime train information. Our goal is to have this on line this fall. Just in case you don't recall, we are already doing this on the bus system.

Sacramento, CA:  WIll you charge an extra $1 for Connect Cards as LA does with TAP? Will it still be possible to pay a cash fare for single rides without buying a Connect Card?

Reply:  Initially they will be free as part of the kick off for the Connect Card. Later, we plan to charge the cost of the card. Customers will always be able to pay cash when they board a bus or at the fare vending machines on the light rail platform. With the Connect Card, customers can load cash or passes onto their cards. If you choose to load cash on a card, it works much like the Starbucks card. When you tap as you board, your cash is decremented by the cost of a ride. The pilot begins this April and RT plans to go live the 1st of July. The other transit systems using the new card begin operating between September through December of this year.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I am a rider of Route 21. I would like to see weekend schedules of the early morning trips out of the Mather Field/Mills Station not end at Sunrise Mall, but rather at Louis/Orlando. What would need to occur to make this happen? Let me mention, if it does help you out, that Route 93 already does have early morning weekend service out at the Louis/Orlando Transit Center. Riders on this route have early morning options on weekends to transfer to Roseville and Placer Transit Systems.

Reply:  This is a priority improvement for us, but even small increases in service cost money. We will be considering this as a high-priority option in our budget preparations for the coming year.

Sacramento, CA:  Last month or two a question came about through this very forum regarding the difference in the Blue Line 30-minute frequency schedules on weeknights versus weekends. I don't know who to talk to, but after reading the comment on this particular subject matter, I would also like to join the conversation and say that there is a major waiting issue occurring now on weeknights, all because of the Blue Line Night Schedules. As you may likely be aware, to transfer from the Gold Line heading towards Sacramento to the Blue Line heading towards North Sacramento at the 16th Street Station, riders have to wait 28 minutes on a weeknight. On weekends this wait is just 13 minutes. Will Regional Transit please take note of this and consider "repairs" to the weeknight schedule at the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year? Thank you for noticing this.

Reply:  We are aware of this issue and we're working on solutions. It requires changing not only the light rail schedule, but also all connecting buses in the evening, as well as all our printed customer information. We want to make sure that if we are changing all our printed materials and signs, we also incorporate any changes we need to our downtown routes as a result of the arena, which is still somewhat uncertain, so as you can see, there are some timing and coordination issues, but we are working towards closing these issues.

Woodland, CA:  Good Afternoon Regional Transit: I ride both YoloBus and Regional Transit to get to and from work. My concern or issue that I am having occurs every January and February because neither Regional Transit nor YoloBus can agree on the same schedule for Martin Luther King Day and President's Day. In other words, one system will operate a Weekday schedule while the other will operate a Holiday Schedule. All other holidays, however, the two transit systems do agree with each other. For the two holidays mentioned in this comment, when will both systems come to the table and discuss this matter and ultimately come to agree with each other? Thank you so much for looking into this and, hopefully, making life for riders of two transit systems a bit easier.

Reply:  Regional Transit follows the Federal Holiday schedule for the seven major holidays. I think this is the common approach with the other transit systems in the region. Our labor agreements are based upon the Federal Holiday Calendar for the major holidays. I've reached out the Terry Basset, the GM at YoloBus, and asked about their calendaring of holidays. Thanks for asking this question.

South Sacramento, CA:  What are the ridership numbers for Routes 5, 55, and 56? Also, when will we get a report on the numbers for 3rd Quarter?

Reply:  We are finalizing our 4th Quarter report right now and anticipate presenting results to our Board in March. For Q4, Route 5 averaged 306 daily boardings (+11%), Route 55 averaged 931 daily boardings (+19%), and Route 56 averaged 2,276 daily boardings (+6%). These numbers are compared to the same quarter last year.

sacramento, CA:  what are the plans for streetcar? how far will it go into west Sacramento?

Reply:  The streetcar will go to City Hall in West Sacramento, stopping at Raley Field across Tower Bridge to 3rd Street to the Sacramento Intermodal to 7th Street serving the new Entertainment and Sports complex and then to K Street to 12th, J, 19th and L Streets and circling back to Sac Intermodal and West Sac. The estimated cost is $135M-$150M. Fifty percent of the project cost will be requested from the Federal government (Federal Transit Administration Small Starts program) and 50% from local sources. The project is in the environmental review and engineering phase. It is expected to be operational as soon as 2017.

South Sacramento, CA:  When I take light rail during the weekend, it looks dirty inside. Are there any plan to have more workers coming into the train to clean up the trains inside?

Reply:  Our Operations team is working to provide additional cleaning. Our goal is to work out staffing to provide mid-day cleaning. As always this is constrained by the cost of staffing.

Folsom, CA:  Once the Downtown Sacramento Entertainment Sports Complex opens, will those of us in Folsom have the late night light rail service hours that the rest of those that use light rail already do have? My family and I want to go to Concerts and other Non - Basketball Events there, but at the present time are afraid that we would be stranded in Rancho Cordova if we were to use light rail, all for the reasons that folks like us are not in an area where your trains operate late enough.

Reply:  Operating costs for RT's light rail service to Folsom are dependent on contributions by the City of Folsom. We are prepared to run trains to Folsom after Downtown ESC events; however, this is not something we are prepared to operate 100 percent from our operating budget.

Sacramento, CA:  What's RT's position on the Kings putting up $500,000 for the street car project? Wouldn't light rail be a better option for transit to the arena?

Reply:  The $500,000 is a negotiated contribution based on an agreement between Caltrans and the City of Sacramento for I-5 mitigations and is a good example of supporting the Streetcar and ESC projects. The Streetcar will provide "shuttle" service between West Sacramento and Sacramento. It will connect other enterainment venues, shopping, resturants and parking to enable enable residents to take advantage of all the new development expected in Sacramento and West Sacramento as a result of the Sacramento Sports and Entertainment Center. The current light rail system provides excellent connections from areas beyond Downtown Sacramento to Downtown and the rest of the service area, from Folsom to Consumnes River College (by 2015). As noted in the DEIR, light rail service will be used to transport ESC patrons and help mitigate the impacts of the project.

Sacramento, CA:  I have been watching in the local news, the upcoming work that CalTrans is going to be performing on U.S. 50, I believe beginning in May 2014. What impacts will this work have in terms of "spill over" to transit. Was SacRT successful in receiving some funding for temporary additional service for rail as well as bus during the duration of the project? What else might SacRT be doing with service levels while the U.S. 50 project is happening?

Reply:  At this point, Caltrans has not agreed to provide any money to supplement transit service; however, we have existing capacity on our buses and trains that can take a lot of cars off the road. When Interstate 5 was closed in 2008, we saw a boost in ridership for just about a year afterward based on the positive experience that many people had trying RT for the first time. We also were able to run some additional special service trains during rush hour, in between our regular trains. If we see ridership levels getting close to capacity on light rail, this would be another option available to us to handle loads.

South Sacramento, CA:  I appreciate that all of the routes and schedules are available at, but I think that it may be convenient of there were a map of the entire system that can be viewed there too. Like I have seen in the schedule book and at Light Rail stations and select his stops

Reply:  We do have a system map online:

Carmichael, CA:  Will there be a timetable book update connected with the January service changes, or has it been deferred to the SLP2 opening?

Reply:  We won't be updating the bus book for the January 2012 changes; however, we'll probably be releasing a new bus book this year. Our South Line extension is not scheduled to open until September 2015.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Will the Roseville Road Light Rail Station soon have a fare vending machine that will accept credit/debit cards?

Reply:  That station was considered when we implemented the credit/debit feature. However, when analyzing past sales from all the Fare Vending Machines (FVM), Roseville Road sales didn't meet the criteria. RT has created a plan to implement credit/debit features at all the stations (at least one FVM per station), however the funding has not yet been identified. We appreciate any feedback on this topic as this helps with prioritizing our projects and funding. Another consideration is the Connect Card. RT has plans to implement the Connect Card on July 1, 2014. This will allow our riders to use their credit or debit card to buy either a monthly pass or put money on their connect card (as a stored value) that can be used to pay for their rides.

Sacramento (Pocket Area), CA:  I have been watching the questions today, especially about the Entertainment Sports Complex, and wanted to participate. My family and I live within walking distance of Bel Air at Rush River and Windbridge. There are three bus routes that travel directly downtown plus an express bus on Pocket Road and Windbridge. Are you suggesting, from earlier comments today that folks take light rail to Downtown Entertainment Sports Complex Events? We would prefer to take the bus and the options of downtown bus routes that are based in our Sacramento Neighborhood. Will we and our bus service, please be tremendously increased so that we can enjoy a night out in downtown, just like it seems that it will be for light rail riders? Thank you for looking into this.

Reply:  A lot of the planning focus to date has centered on encouraging people to use rail service, however, we are aware there may be a need to provide increased bus service. As always, providing any additional service will require additional funding. Additional riders traveling to the Entertainment and Sports Complex may provide enough revenue to support additional rail service. However, there are no plans at this time to increase bus services without additional revenues.

Sacramento, CA:  Several lights at the Power Inn Light Rail station have been out for a couple of months. I reported this weeks ago, and so have other people, but they're still out. The eastbound handicapped platform is completely dark, and at least 10 of the streetlights on the blue poles are out.

Reply:  We are working on the system wide lighting problems with staff, contractors and added support. Over the next few months we should complete the relamping project, including the Power Inn Station. We will report the street light problem to the city. The station and park and ride lighting is being worked by RT staff.

Folsom, CA:  How tall is the average bus driver

Reply:  We do not measure the height of bus drivers.

Comments from RoseMary Covington: 

That's all the time we have for today. The next session of Transit Talk is scheduled for Friday, March 7, 2014.