Transit Talk with the General Manager

August 01, 2014
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live on Friday, August 1 from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Hello and welcome to the August session of Transit Talk with me, Mike Wiley, RT's General Manager/CEO.

You may have noticed RT's current pre-paid tickets and passes include a September 30, 2014 expiration date in the top right corner. Effective Wednesday, October 1, 2014 RT buses and light rail fare vending machines will not accept these tickets and passes.

Starting next month, from September 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014, RT will allow customers to make even exchanges of Basic and Discount single fare tickets or daily passes for new fare media (June 30, 2016 expiration date). RT fares will remain the same.

Tickets can be exchanged at the RT Customer Service and Sales Center at 1225 R Street (adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station).

Let's start today's chat.

South Natomas, CA:  Now that demolition has finally begun as of 6am today at the Downtown Plaza for the Entertainment Sports Complex, what date do the L Street Service Changes take place where your bus routes shift over to Capitol Mall?

Reply:  RT will implement service changes that affect Routes 11, 30, 38, 62, 86 and 88 to accommodate construction activities for the future downtown Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Center. Bus stops on L Street between 10th and 5th streets will be discontinued. Routes 11, 30, 38, 62, 86 and 88 will be re-routed to travel on Capitol Mall. A new bus stop will be located on Capitol Mall between 7th and 8th streets. When construction is complete on the new stop, which is estimated to occur in mid-August, we will implement the change More details on the service changes can be found at

West Sacramento, CA:  My transit agency, YoloBus, does not have a "Transit Talk" like Regional Transit does. What date, if you know, does YoloBus shift off of L Street in Downtown Sacramento to Capitol Mall, and how many of their routes will be changed due to the construction of the Entertainment Sports Complex?

Reply:  Yolo will relocate their service at the same time as Regional Transit. That is expected to occur in mid-August.

Folsom, CA:  What progress is being made to allow the operating of Light Rail Trains in our city between 7pm and 12am, especially with Downtown Sacramento now building the Entertainment Sports Complex?

Reply:  Thanks for the question. To properly serve the new arena Light rail will need to operate past midnight to Folsom. RT and Folsom have had discussions over the years about the possibility of later service into Folsom. Discussions are currently ongoing. In the meantime, if you are a Folsom resident, express your desire for late night service to your City Council.

North Sacramento, CA:  What is the status of getting "Scheduled Time Information" signs up at light rail stations like Arden/Del Paso, Globe Avenue, and Royal Oaks if they are not up already?

Reply:  We have been unable to implement the electronic signs due to a lack of fiber serving those stations. Fortunately, the fiber installation contract to install data communication to the 3 stations you mentioned was recently awarded. When that work is complete, the signs will be hung. This should all be complete by the end of September. This will allow all light rail stations to have electronic message signs.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Our City Council is going to continue discussions regarding moving City Hall to 7625 Antelope Road (between Auburn and Sunrise) and constructing a medical office building at the current City Hall location along Greenback Lane at Fountain Square Drive. If the City Council approves of this matter going forward, how will Regional Transit change service to serve the new Citrus Heights City Hall location? I did watch your board meeting the other night on TV, and thought that a gentleman dressed in purple addressed the issue quite well, while also addressing late night service back to Citrus Heights from the future Downtown Sacramento Entertainment Sports Complex. Did you and your staff agree with the speaker's research, or do you have other service plans to address the City Hall situation?

Reply:  The suggestion at the Board meeting was to change around Routes 21 and 93 so as to cover Antelope Road without losing coverage on Sunrise Blvd. and Twin Oaks Blvd. Putting aside some minor construction work that would be needed in order to locate bus stops, the routing would basically work in principle, although it could end up forcing some existing riders to transfer more. Cost is another matter. Time is money and minutes matter for transit, so adding mileage to each of these routes would not be a trivial matter and could be very significant. We will probably take a look at this option, because it may be the best choice, but we will also be looking at some other alternatives as well. We are working closely with the Citrus heights City staff to make sure that the new location is properly served.

Elk Grove, CA:  What is the latest on getting Regional Transit, E-Tran, and YoloBus to launch the new regional smart card. In one "Transit Talk" session, earlier this year, Regional Transit described that there were between 50-60 errors being resolved, with some of the major errors on the monthly pass. Are your staff members any closer to closure on these errors and are almost, if not completely ready, to release a launch month for this new card. I for one, do not want to keep track of paper fare media for much longer. I would rather know that all my fare media are available to me electronically on the new Sacramento Smart Card.

Reply:  We are working through the punch list of problems found during the pilot test. When we get through those items, we will do some retesting to confirm that the fixes work. Because of the delay, it is possible that all of the transit systems will go live together. This week, we made significant progress toward resolving the open issues. I agree with you on how nice it will be to manage your fare media on a single card. At this point The system will not be fully introduced until January 2015, at the earliest.

Sacramento, CA:  At the last Board meeting part of the GM report showed a deficit for last year on the performance report. How will RT cover the shortfall?

Reply:  There is no easy answer to this question. You are correct, the initial pre-audit close for FY 2014 does indicate that there will be a fiscal shortfall, or deficit of revenues over expenses. At the previous board meeting, I reported to the Board that reserves would be required to cover the shortfall for FY 2014 and that since many adjustments would be made during the audit process that is now underway, we would wait until the audit was completed to seek formal approval to formally move reserves to cover the shortfall.

Sacramento, CA:  Will RT make more money when the Connect Card is in place? If so, how?

Reply:  Yes. Other systems who have implemented a smart card have seen 4 to 7 percent increases in fare revenue. This is primarily due to a reduction in fare evasions and ease of use (of the smart card). Additionally, other systems have experienced a near elimination of counterfeiting

Sacramento, CA:  Why don't we hear any positive news about RT? What is the next best thing coming up about RT that we should look for in the news?

Reply:  RT works to promote our projects and policies in the community. Unfortunately, the local news media is not inclined to report positive news. Occasionally, the media does provide positive coverage. Stories on our work to increase service during the Fix 50 highway construction project and recent increased security measures on light rail are two examples. Positive news on the horizon includes increased service in the fall on Routes 11, 23, and 93; real-time train arrival information to be displayed on the light rail station electronic message signs in October; launch of the Connect Card electronic fare media system and more. one of the biggest stories is that our extension of the light rail Blue Line to Cosumnes River College is 50% complete, on time and under budget. It will open for service in September 2015. Thank you for being interested in seeing RT portrayed in a positive light in the community.

Folsom, CA:  When will Folsom and RT get their act together and run trains after 7:00 pm?

Reply:  Please see my answer to this question earlier in the chat. Thank you.

Woodland, CA:  When will RT take over running the bus service in Yolo County?

Reply:  Interesting question. RT's enabling legislation does allow for the provision of transit service throughout the region, including Yolo Country. However, we have not heard that Yolo County was interested, so there are no plans for RT to operate Yolo County bus service. We are expected to operate the new Downtown River Front Street Car that will connect the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento.

North Highlands, CA:  Can something be done about the unsanitary conditions of the Watt & I80 light rail station? It constantly smells like urine and feces in the elevators and stairways. I see the sanitary workers there in the morning power washing but it’s not helping. This is the only major light rail station that has this problem and seeing as me and my daughter are there 3 times a day it’s noticeable. That light rail station needs major TLC. Might I suggest an automatic air freshener for the elevators that spray through the day? Hopefully soon it will be able to look as new as the other BIG stations.

Reply:  Watt I-80 is cleaned twice as often as any other light rail station. We have also had the concrete ground and coated with clear epoxy, so that it is easier to clean. We have also been on a campaign to limit the bird population and installed netting to eliminate rousting areas for birds. The station is 27 years old and needs to be remodeled, which we are seeking funds to accomplish.

Sacramento, CA:  What improvements will there be for riders with the new bus lane under construction at Watt/Manlove?

Reply:  We're planning on using the new bus lane for Routes 80 and 84 to go directly to the Watt/Manlove light rail station. This will provide quicker service to the station and better schedule adherence. We're working right now on how we'll provide service to La Riviera Drive when the #80/84 buses are using the bus lane.

South Sacramento, CA:  I see that in the updated Transit Renewal document, you have spreadout the service changes in the next 10 years, but the document also stated possible service changes for September 2014, specifically Route 55. Can you confirm the changes?

Reply:  Due to budget constraints, no service additions are included in the FY 2015 budget. This does not mean that service changes within the system will not occur, they just need to be net zero in cost. At present, no changes to Route 55 specifically are planned for FY 2015.

North Highlands, CA:  In regards to bus 93, is it possible the board can look into making the route more frequent i.e. every 15 minutes? If that is not feasible maybe every 15 minutes peak hours and every 30 minutes any other time? Having it run every hour in the morning and every hour after six doesn’t seem right since that is the only bus that runs down Madison and Hillsdale.

Reply:  Going to 15-minute headways is prohibitively expensive at this time; however, in September we are adding at 9:14 p.m. departure from the Watt/I-80 light rail station, since the last trip is currently only 8:14 p.m. We may take another look at extending the 30-minute service a little later into the evening.

South Sacramento, CA:  Also, there was summer school for some schools in the Elk Grove Unified School, specifically both Valley Hi and Florin High. Is there an indication of increases in ridership for both Routes 54 and 55?

Reply:  July ridership stats aren't available yet, but for June, Route 54 was actually down just a little (3 percent) from last year. Route 55, on the other hand, was up 19 percent or about 115 riders per day. We did add a couple hours of evening service to Route 55 back in January, so the increase probably has something to do with that, although summer school could be a factor as well.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there going to be new maps online for the Routes effected by the L Street detour?

Reply:  Yes. They are already on line at Once we have an implementation date, we will issue new time tables.

Sacramento, CA:  I noticed a UTDC light rail vehicle with the RT paint scheme a few weeks ago. How close are they to operating for passenger service?

Reply:  The light rail vehicles are being completed in series. The 1st one is complete. There are some station modification needed before they can operate on the system. That work is scheduled during the next few months. As soon as the station work is complete, we hope to operate the newly reconditioned vehicles.

Sacramento, CA:  Is J St & 6th St (EB) stop effected by the Arena Construction? Sidewalk closures on J Street is unclear. What stop should be used?

Reply:  J and 6th is not supposed to be closed or directly impacted by the arena construction. Some nearby work this morning was causing some difficulty approaching the stop; however, it was still accessible as of this morning. We're checking into what's going on there.

Sacramento, CA:  I heard Sacramento and West Sacramento are seriously looking into a street car system connecting both cities. I read that Federal funds were available and many cities were vying for the available funds, do you think Sacarmento and West Sacramento are contenders.

Reply:  You are correct. The Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento as well as RT and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) have entered into an agreement to develop a Streetcar that will run between West Sacramento and Sacramento. RT will likely operate the new streetcar but operating decisions have not been finalized. The estimated completion date for the Streetcar is in 2017, about a year after the Entertainment & Sports Complex opens in downtown Sacramento. As for the question on Federal funds, there is always considerable competition for federal funds, however, we believe this project will compete very well because it is a multi-jurisdictional project and has already garnered congressional support and is expected to have high ridership.

Sacramento, CA:  What does the very recent action in Congress and the Administration on the Highway Trust Fund mean for Regional Transit going forward. If I am not mistaken, it is a so-called patch that lasts only until Sunday, May 31, 2015. What happens next? Will the November Elections have heavy weight in terms of transportation going forward?

Reply:  The recent congressional action will enable RT and other transits to continue to receive much needed funds for projects, although, as you noted, for a shorter period than hoped. Proposals for transportation funding differ between the House and the Senate. Given that, the November election will definitely affect the outcome of funding for transportation, depending upon the results. The prevailing majorities in the House and Senate will determine which proposals are approved.

Rocklin, CA:  Is it legal to carry guns on RT trains? It seems like we need to if we believe the news about violence on or near the trains.

Reply:  Law enforcement and licensed concealed carry permit holders are legally able to carry on the system under California laws. All others, would be violating the law. In recent months, two high profile incidents occurred on the train which hadn't previously occurred in our agency's history. These incidents prompted an increase in security measures to enhance the safety of our riders. The changes include:

- Adding security officers on every train during the evening hours

- Security officers will be more customer service-oriented at stations by checking fare, assisting with the use of fare vending machines and working in partnership with RT Police Officers to resolve problems

- Adding a security officer to monitor station cameras to proactively address nuisances and criminal behavior

- Increasing security officers to patrol stations and trains

- Adding RT Police Officers during the evening hours

I would also like the public to keep in mind that RT has a track record of safety and statistics show crime on RT is very low. Security statistics from RT's Police Services indicate a total of 19 reported crimes for the month of June. FY 2014 year-to-date trend for crimes per 1,000 passengers is comparable to last year trend of 0.010 crimes per 1,000 riders. In the month of June, RT's Customer Advocacy department recorded 8 security related customer reports, which is the same number of reports as in May of 2014.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I am a regular rider of the Route 95. I have been on the bus in the last few months when you had drivers asking us for ideas on improving ridership, you did a paper survey that I filled out, and some riders talked to some lady from the city that was riding and asking questions. All of us riders have unanimously told you guys over and over that ridership is bad because the route ends way too early!! The last 95 leaves Sunrise at 5pm. How are people with normal jobs supposed to ride if the bus stops before they get off work? I know several people that would ride if you ended at a logical time. At least run til 7! Now I hear the route is too low of ridership and RT may cut it? Why ask for our ideas, and when we tell you why it is badly performing, instead of fixing it you consider cutting it? I don't understand you guys sometimes.

Reply:  Actually, we got the same message from the customer surveys, that evening service is badly needed. We heard other things too, especially the need for weekend service, but evening service appears to be Step 1. Adding service is an issue right now both due to our district-wide budget and due to specific issues with the City of Citrus Heights and their contribution to service; however, we have continued to work with their staff to make preparations for extra evening service. Although ridership on the route is below our goal, we have recommended to our Board that this route be given some additional time so that we can improve it rather than cutting it. In other words, we are not planning on cutting the route. Please understand that just because we do a survey on a route doesn't mean we are eliminating it. But when we roll out new routes, there is always work to do adjusting it and making the route better. And we also have a duty, if the route just isn't going to work, to consider whether or not we're better off trying something else.

South Sacramento, CA:  Back to summer school, did you see an increase in ridership for Route 5 due to Florin High School having it's summer session?

Reply:  We did see a gain of about 21 percent on Route 5 in June, which is about 40 riders per day. That's still down from what we normally see during the school year, but a gain like that could definitely be from summer school.

Sacramento , CA:  Mike...what does RT do to foster a positive work environment to produce such outstanding bus operators such as Tina...her excellent customer service skills really set the bar for her peers...she is truly caring and exceeds the highest of standards...I appreciate Tina

Reply:  Thank you for the comment about our operator. I receive many positive comments about our very dedicated RT employees.

Laguna, CA:  Now that the state will be scrapping Level-of-service and replacing it with the VMT (vehicle miles traveled) measure, what are the impacts to RTs future transit projects? Do you foresee projects with reduced planning/construction timelines?

Reply:  Recent changes to both Federal and State environmental requirements can have the impact of reducing the projects development timelines for some of our projects. I personally believe the change from level of service congestions to VMT reduction is a very positive step.

Carmichael, CA:  First,what schedule changes are anticipated this fall once the new book is out?Second,has the long-abandoned railroad right-of-way in Land Park(under consideration for an excursion train)ever been considered for a light rail line(southern Green Line extension perhaps)?

Reply:  Apart from the routing adjustments related to the Arena, which are actually taking effect later this month, there will only be a few minor changes. On Route 11, we're adding an outbound trip at 7:08 p.m. and an inbound trip at 7:18 p.m. We're adding a trip on Route 23 from Arden/Del Paso at 6:58 p.m. and on Route 93 from Watt/I-80 at 9:14 p.m. We'll also be cutting some low-ridership trips on Route 13 at 5:23 a.m. and inbound at 8:59 p.m., on Route 38 at 5:26 and 5:32 a.m., and on Route 61 at 5:03 a.m. These are more-or-less housekeeping items where we're trying to cut back very lightly used trips and add some trips on routes where ridership on the last trip shows a lot of demand for later evening service. The RT Board of Directors has declared the old SP rail right-of-way that runs through Land Park to be surplus property. We are currently in discussion with the City of Sacramento to dispose of that property.

Laguna, CA:  I saw this on the Blue Line Phase 2 Website: “Provisions for Electric Vehicle charging stations at all parking lots.” Is that still true? How many charger spots? Will existing stations get chargers also?

Reply:  Yes. We are working on ways to provide pay charging stations in the new light rails stations. Payment methods, maintenance and management of the systems are not fully resolved. We hope to expand this to all of the park and ride lots, when we solve the open issues. SMUD and some of their vendors are working using grant funds for charging stations.

Carmichael, CA:  Is it just me,or is the 22 no more productive than it was before being truncated to Kaiser Morse?

Reply:  Since we changed the route it has done well and is meeting our standards.

Sacramento , CA:  Hello, I've been looking at the absenteeism reports from the monthly RT Board reports and would like to know the specific criteria of what's included in the calculation(FMLA,Workers Comp, Union time off, bereavement, etc.) Thank you.

Reply:  This report is on unscheduled absenteeism. This is basically computed from any time taken off that is not pre-scheduled. Technically, this includes some things that are "scheduled" such as doctor's appointments and things that are basically known ahead of time, such as continued absences from workers' compensation. It also includes all time off for FMLA. The time off that is not counted includes vacation, floating holidays, and approved leaves of absence.

Laguna, CA:  Will there be bicycle lockers at the Blue Line Phase 2 Franklin LRT station? If so, how many? Will people be able to reserve them?

Reply:  Yes. Call 556-0354 between 8 AM and 5 PM. You can reserve a bike locker now for the future station. The details are on line and in the bus book.

Laguna, CA:  In the last Transit Talk, I saw a reference to upcoming low floor light rail cars beginning service. When will they begin service? What station improvements, if any, are being planned to accommodate the low floor cars?

Reply:  RT's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and internal discussions anticipate replacing light rail vehicles with low floor vehicles during the next replacement round. Planning for those replacements has already begun but funding is not expected to be available to begin replacements within the next five years. So replacements are scheduled to begin six to ten years from now depending upon funding availability At the same time, a CIP project is planned to retrofit all the transit stations to accommodate low floor cars.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I've been ridiing the light rail for 8 years, and this week is the first time I've seen the floors buffed. Is it because of the security review RT is having right now, or will RT continue to buff the floors regularly after the reviewing officials leave? Normally, the trains are pretty filthy.

Reply:  Thanks for noticing. The cleaning of the floors had nothing to do with the security review we conducted this week. We have taken a number of steps to enhance the quality of our service. We will continue to improve our system as funding permits.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation and please join us for the next session of Transit Talk scheduled for Friday, September 5, 2014.