Transit Talk with the General Manager

September 05, 2014
Diane Nakano, Assistant GM of Engineering & Construction
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Diane Nakano, Assistant General Manager of Engineering and Construction, will guest host the September session of Transit Talk with the General Manager on Friday, September 5 from noon to 1 p.m. The system will accept questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Diane Nakano: 

Hello and thank you for joining me as I guest host the chat today.

My name is Diane Nakano, Assistant General Manager of Engineering and Construction, and I am responsible for the management and design of construction projects associated with RT's bus and light rail system.

I'm currently focused on the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (CRC) light rail extension, which will extend light rail 4.3 miles from the existing terminus at Meadowview Road to CRC.

Construction is underway and I am pleased to report that the project is on schedule to begin revenue service in September 2015.

Recent accomplishments include the installation of the first of two pedestrian bridges. The first bridge is located at the southern end of Valley Green Drive and will allow residents of the Valley Hi neighborhood to cross Union House Creek to access to the future Center Parkway light rail station. The second planned pedestrian bridge will provide a shorter, more convenient path for people traveling to the future Franklin light rail station from neighborhoods north of Union House Creek.

Station and track work at the East Entrance of CRC continues. The entrance was reopened to vehicle traffic on August 20, coinciding with school returning to session. Parking lot F will be reopened on Friday, September 19.

Crews continue to work on the traction power substations near the East Entrance of CRC, near the intersection of Cosumnes River Boulevard and Center Parkway, and at Franklin Boulevard.

Irrigation, drainage and electrical work are complete in the future Franklin light rail station park-and-ride lot. Crews have poured curb, gutters and sidewalks, and will continue paving the lot.

RT's contractors are also working south of Meadowview Road in the Union Pacific Railroad corridor, finishing the retaining and sound wall construction in preparation for track work.
BR> Overall, work on the new extension is approximately 60 percent complete, and with ballast and rail beginning to be pulled into place, the Blue Line to CRC is looking more like a light rail line.

If you are interested in more information, please plan to attend the public meeting that will provide an update on the Blue Line to CRC project on Thursday, October 23 at the Valley-Hi/North Laguna Library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Citrus Heights , CA:  How does RT expect us to pay for parking at the Roseville station when you can’t see the stall number, do you plan on re-painting the numbers anytime soon?

Reply:  The initiation of the Park Pay and Ride lots helps to offset RT's ongoing costs to maintain our parking lots. We do have plans to restripe and repaint the numbers in some of the lots.

Sacramento , CA:  Why are operators allowing on dogs? A pregnant pitbull got one the other day at Zinfandel in the middle of the day.

Reply:  Guide dogs, signal dogs and other service animals are allowed to board RT buses and light rail trains. A service animal is any animal specifically trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. If an operator is unsure that an animal performs a service function, the operator may ask the passenger what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. However, persons boarding with service animals are not required to have a certificate or license - nor is a photo of the animal required on the passenger's RT Disabled photo ID card.

The animal must not interfere with other passengers, and must be under constant supervision and control of its owner. If you have concerns while riding about an animal, please bring it to the attention of the operator, security officer or other RT personnel.

Sacramento , CA:  How often are the train cars mechanically maintained? and can you provide me with a description how they work and how they actually stay on the rail? (kind of a marvel)

Reply:  Thank you for your interest in our system. RT has a robust maintenance schedule for its light rail vehicles and buses. For trains, scheduled maintenance/inspection is performed daily (when the trains are pulled-out of the yard), weekly, and on mileage-based intervals. Non-scheduled maintenance is performed as needed. The trains are powered by electricity drawn into the vehicle from overhead power lines through the pantographs on top of the vehicles. The trains stay on the rails as the result of the combination of flanges on the train wheels and a very precisely constructed and maintained track guage.

Sacramento , CA:  When do you cut down to two cars leaving Central Valley Station (gold line) in the late afternoon, and is it a consistent time?

Reply:  Generally, we run 4 cars from Sac Valley in the afternoon starting at 2:23 p.m. through 5:38 p.m. It can change from day to day depending on availability of cars, schedule issues that come up, etc.

Sacramento , CA:  When will you complete the seat recovering on light rail? Some of those seats are nasty if not broken

Reply:  We are working diligently on completing this project as funds allow. If you find a seat that is in significant disrepair or appears unsafe, please notify RT and we will prioritize a repair.

Sacramento, CA:  Are the current trains going to be refurbished too? Like the paint on the outside or the inside seating?

Reply:  Yes. We have plans to use a vinyl wrap on our oldest trains to improve their exterior appearence. We are also replacing the cloth seating with vinyl to make it easier to clean the interior of the trains.

Elk Grove, CA:  Will I be able to pay for park and ride with the Connect Card?

Reply:  Great idea. Connect Card will most likely be limited to just the payment of fare when first implemented. As time goes on, we would like to incorporate other types of payments, like paying for parking, but we will need to work out the technical details. Our first priority will be assuring that Connect Card works well for fare payment before expanding to other things.

Folsom, CA:  Regarding Gold Line Schedule, is there any way you could revert back to old schedule, (Folsom train leaving downtown on the half hour?) When you switched to leaving Sac Valley Station at 23 minutes after, it forces us that have a 7-3:30, 8-4:30 tour of duty to leave work early to catch train. Would it be possible to leave Sac valley closer to the hour/half hour?

Reply:  The train schedule for both the Blue and Gold Lines is complex because of scheduled bus connections at a number of rail stations and a connection between the Blue and Gold Line at the 16th Street Station. The addition of the Green Line service also added an element of complexity. We understand your issue and will take a look at it.

Sacramento , CA:  Occasionally, a driver on various routes will tell me I need to get a RT Senior ID card or disabled ID card to receive a discount fare. Currently we use a driver’s license (my wife, 62), or a driver’s license with a Medicare card for the discount fare. What is the correct ID needed to receive the discount for 62 and over & for a disabled person?

Reply:  Seniors age 62 and over, individuals with disabilities, and medicare cardholders are entitled to the discount fare. Proof of identification can include an RT senior or disabled photo ID card, a senior or disabled photo ID card issued by another transit agency, a driver's license, a State of California ID card, a passport or identification card issued by any governmental entity containing a photo of the cardholder (plus age for seniors).

Sacramento , CA:  This was the second time in a week that there was only a 2 car train running during the middle of rush hour toward downtown. The main issue that I would like to address is the impact on cyclists, who are used to having 4 car trains at this time of day. With a 2 car train, the impact on cyclists is pretty severe, in terms of the number of cyclists who can fit into a car. At the back of the train, where I was, there were 7 bicycles crammed in. We are commuters of different stripes but having only 2 cars on the train makes it very difficult for those of us who bring our bikes on the train for our regular commutes. Why does RT operate two car trains during peak hours?

Reply:  We don't normally operate 2-car trains during peak hours, so if you see a 2-car train during peak hours, it's probably due to an incident. If your schedule is not overly tight, you may want to wait for the next train which will only be 15 minutes later and will probably have a lot more room.

Sacramento, CA:  With the unbelievably dry conditions Sacramento and California have been going through of late, do you anticipate a potential early opening of the Blue Line to CRC if these weather conditions continue in the months ahead. It was brought to my attention that the Blue Line to CRC is scheduled to open on September 6th of next year. If it can open on Father's Day 2015, or the start of the FY 16 year, then that would be even better.

Reply:  The September 2015 Blue Line to CRC opening date will most likely not be advanced because of the winter weather being dryer than usual. Although some construction efforts may be advanced as weather permits, other activities, including testing, training and staffing are scheduled for the Summer of 2015 and would not allow a significantly early opening.

Sacramento , CA:  When is RT going to figure out a system to better carry bikes on light rail? (There were 6 bikes on one side of one car the other day )

Reply:  We have had good feedback from our test vehicles where we've removed a row of seats to to add space for bicycles and standees. We are planning on making this change to the remainder of our Siemens fleet of LRVs.

Sacramento , CA:  After six, don't you have at least one cop per train? Missed them a couple of times the last couple weeks (and found myself sandwiched between two people nearly coming to blows the other day).

Reply:  We generally do have a security guard on every train in the evenings. The guard may not be on the car you are riding but is insturcted to move between cars as often as possible. If you see a problem while riding, you can inform the operator through the intercom, or you can text your concern to us at 67283 with your message beginning with sacrt. These texts go to our security operations center where they are reviewed and responded to. Providing information about the light rail vehicle you are on will assist us in locating you or the vehicle you are one. All light rail vehicles have a 3-digit numerical ID located at the ends and middle of the vehicles. Of course always call 911 if it is an emergency.

Sacramento , CA:  The $100 monthly pass is excessive. It is very expensive, and it would be nice to see a discount for service members (Army, Air Force, etc.). Amtrak gives a discount, as well as most other common carriers. Considering the Joint Forces Headquarters as well as Mather, McClellan and Beal are all nearby, this might encourage service members to make use of public transit. That in itself would go a long way to increase safety for all other passengers. So it is a double benefit. I would like to start a campaign to put pressure on the transit system to give a discount to Military members. Is RT able to give discounted fare to military service members?

Reply:  Thanks, this is a timely question: RT staff is currently checking into the feasibility of offering a Military discount. This was discussed at a recent Board meeting. Staff is currently researching this topic and plan to bring this item back to the RT board in the near future with options to consider that might allow for a Military discount.

Sacramento , CA:  When are the lights going to be fixed at the Sunrise Station? It's pretty dark at 5:30 AM, its been like that for months.

Reply:  I just e-mailed RT's Director of Facilities about this issue. If you don't see the lights fixed in the next couple of weeks, please contact our Customer Advocacy Department at 557-4545.

Elk Grove, CA:  You need to operate the 56 more frequently. Sometimes it gets so crowded between CRC and the light rail to where there isnt even standing room. Something should be done in the meantime before the blue line opens.

Reply:  Thank you for riding RT. We would like to add extra buses on Route 56 to help handle the heavy loads; it's simply a matter of cost. We regularly re-evaluate service frequencies and ridership. Unfortunately, RT is in a very tight budget year with and unable to increase service frequencies at this time.

sacramento, CA:  If the city of Roseville isnt cooperating for a light rail extension to their city, have there been talks of expanding more north along the 80 corridor but just not to Roseville?

Reply:  RT currently has light rail projects in our long term Capital Improvement Plan that expand further north along the 80 corridor. However, these projects are unfunded and there is not currently any strong interest from Roseville or Placer County to assist in funding these projects, which would be needed before these projects could ever become viable projects.

Sacramento, CA:  Have all issues been worked out with the Connect Card, and if so do you now have a go live date?

Reply:  We are still working out implementation issues with Connect Card and have not set a "go live" date at this point.

Sacramento, CA:  In terms of the Blue Line to CRC, once open, are schedule changes anticipated? Let me be more specific on two fronts in terms of my original question? Will weeknight 30-minute service change so that it is like weekend service and we don't have to wait 28 minutes on weeknights when switching from a Westbound Gold Line to a Northbound Blue Line at the 16th Street Station? My second schedule clarifying question is regarding Sunday Nights. Will Sunday evenings gain the same span of hours as Saturday evenings now get on both light rail lines once the CRC Extension is in full operating mode?

Reply:  The answer to your first question is yes. Weekday evening schedules will be adjusted to improve train connections at 16th Street at that time. We do not, however, have plans to change service hours on Sunday nights.

Natomas, CA:  Shouldn't we be working on trying to get light rail to natomas and the airport? This streetcar project seems pointless because of all the new upgrades/streetcars required. Why cant we use that money to expand light rail to West Sac and then later on to Davis?

Reply:  Although they appear to be the same, streetcar and light rail actually serve different purposes. Streetcar helps people move around more easily over short distances, basically extending walking distances, while light rail takes people longer distances. Regional Transit is continuing to work on the extension of the Green Line to the Airport through north and south Natomas. The two projects are significantly different with respect to both construction and operating costs. Street car is much less expensive to build and operate than the extension to the airport. The streetcar project will also connect the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento. In addition to federal funding, the majority of the remaining funds will be provided by the two cities and the private property owners along the proposed streetcar line. The Green Line to the Airport is currently going through the environmental phase of the project and we are working to competitively position the project for future Federal funding. One of the most significant hurdles for RT is to find a new source of funding to operate the line which we will need to resolve before the line is constructed. As you can see, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Sacramento, CA:  When will the message boards be installed at the stations that dont have them eg 47th. And when will they start displaying real time info?

Reply:  We are in the process of installing display signs at many of the stations that currently do not have them. It is our intent to have a message sign at every light rail station as funding permits. We are also working on real time information using the same system that we are using to provide real time information for our buses. Unfortunately, we do not have a date yet for when real time train information will be displayed. It is an active project, but there are some technical difficulties that we need to overcome to use the same system for both bus and rail.

Folsom, CA:  I just wanted to make the comment that the train Out of Folsom which arrives in the downtown (Sac Valley) area at approximately 8:00 a.m. is overcrowded. Prior to fix 50 it was fairly full. However, since then, it appears that more people have adjusted to using the light rail system and now the morning train is so full that the entire cars are packed with the aisles and stairways full. By the Butterfield station passengers are already beginning to stand and fill the aisleways. Can there be another train close to this time added for the morning commute?

Reply:  We're glad people are riding more but there's not much we can do about capacity on the peak Folsom trains because the stations aren't built for trains of more than 4 cars and because every 30 minutes is the closest together we can run them (because of single track on the Folsom extension). Since 15 minute service is provided beginning at Sunrise Station, those boarding inbound of Sunrise have the option to catch the train 15 minutes before or after that train, which will tend to have fewer passengers.

Sacramento, CA:  When is RT planning to replace the 23xx busses? They don't seem to be running to well

Reply:  RT is in the process of procuring a total of 96 new buses that will replace the older vehicles in our fleet. The first 30 are scheduled to arrive in April and the bus order should be completed by January 2017.

sacramento, CA:  On prepaid ticket exchange webpage it states that "The new fare media with an expiration date of June 30, 2016 will not be exchanged or refunded." Does this mean that when the Connect Card goes live, people with prepaid tickets that expire in June 2016 will be unable to have RT exchange them for Connect Card stored value? If true, that is disappointing, as I was looking forward to using the Connect Card as soon as it went live, while RT is still providing the cards themselves for free. How long will RT provide the Connect Cards themselves for free? Even though the Connect Card is to replace prepaid tickets, I am guessing the tickets will still be valid through June 2016 if RT will not be exchanging them for Connect Card stored value?

Reply:  RT will not exchange pre-paid tickets and passes for stored value on the Connect Card. Before the project launch, RT wanted to be sure pre-paid tickets and passes were available to passengers for use with an extended expiration date. When the card is launched, we encourage the public to obtain their cards while they continue to use any pre-paid fare media they may have purchased prior to the launch. When the Connect Card is ready, the public will be given up to two months notice prior to program implementation.

South Sacramento, CA:  Are there any Blue Line to Cosumnes River College community meetings coming up? Community Meetings will allow us to see the project close up, while at the same time allowing us to meet with staff in-person without venturing far from our neighborhoods where the train line will be operating in. Some of us came recently to the understanding that you are providing updates to your Board of Directors, but for many of us, the Board Meetings are not at a convenient time or place. Therefore, community meetings giving project updates are much more sound and reasonable for most of us in South Sacramento. Thank you for your attention to this request.

Reply:  A Blue Line to Cosumnes River College public meeting will be held on October 23, 2014 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library (across from Cosumnes River College). The address is 7400 Imagination Parkway. The meeting will be an open house format, so people can attend anytime between the above hours to receive a Project update and talk to staff.

Elk Grove, CA:  Will there be a south line phase 3, going into the city of Elk Grove? If so where will the alignment be?

Reply:  The City of Elk Grove has completed a transit study to evaluate alternatives for a South Line Phase 3. Specific information on the preferred route can be found by contacting the City of Elk Grove. However, generally the alignment will continue south on Bruceville and end up near the proposed regional shopping center near Grant Line/Kammerer Rd.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Will RT ever provide wifi on buses or trains like they do in San Jose.

Reply:  We do not get a lot of requests for this service, as a result this is not a project at RT. Most riders are on the buses or trains for a relatively short period of time, this along with the technology changes in recent years, many riders use their phones and sources to connect to the internet.

West Sacramento, CA:  Will the streetcar be up and running by the time the ESC is built? Will it expand more later on or is it just between the two cities?

Reply:  The Streetcar is expected to open 1-2 years after the opening of the ESC. The regional transportation plan managed for the region through the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) includes plans for future expansions to the streetcar network in both cities.

Elk Grove, CA:  What is the current status of the Green "DNA" line? Are we any closer to breaking ground on the next segment?

Reply:  We are currently working on the environmental studies and planning efforts for the project. We are still several years out before we can even begin design and construction of the project. You should begin seeing more information on the project in the next year or two.

Elk Grove, CA:  What is the timeline for the streetcars/trams in downtown? When is the ground breaking expected?

Reply:  A number of hurdles still exist for the streetcar project. However, if things progress as planned, a ground-breaking would be held in 2016.

Elk Grove, CA:  I noticed that the street cars appear to be going through the southern parts of downtown. Why won't they be going through a major corridor like J Street?

Reply:  The initial streetcar line would connect West Sacramento through downtown Sacramento to J Street/19th St/L Street. More information can be found at

Elk Grove, CA:  Are there any plans to phase out the old Siemens trains? Will this be in conjunction with the eventual addition of the low floor trains?

Reply:  The Siemens trains reach the end of their 30 year useful life in 2017 at which point they will be eligible for replacement. RT is actively seeking funding to replace them, but at a cost of approximately $4,000,000 per car it will be a significant funding challenge. It is our intent to start our conversion to a low floor system with the replacment of the Siemens fleet. All new stations that are being constructed today are designed to work with low floor cars. We will need to modify many of the existing stations so that they will work with a new low fleet.

Comments from Diane Nakano: 

Thank you for your participation and please join Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO, for the next session of Transit Talk scheduled for Friday, October 3, 2014.