Transit Talk with the General Manager

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

Thank you to Diane Nakano, Assistant General Manager of Engineering and Construction, for hosting the GM Chat in September. Her insight on the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College light rail extension was invaluable. If you would like to learn more about the project, please attend the open house scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, at the Valley-Hi/North Laguna Library at 7400 Imagination Parkway.

RT is also celebrating Ride Transit October this month with events and promotions to thank our riders and encourage others to try transit. Visit for more information about the campaign, including customer appreciation events; a "Why Do You Ride Transit?" social media contest; and my annual "Ride with the GM" promotion, where I'll tour the bus and light rail system on scheduled dates to answer questions and listen to your feedback about RT's service.

Riders also need to take notice of plans to suspend light rail service on the northeast portion of the Blue Line, scheduled from 8 p.m. on Friday, October 17 through Sunday, October 19. During the service disruption, light rail trains will not operate between the Watt/I-80 and St. Rose of Lima Park stations. Regular light rail service will resume at the start of service on Monday, October 20, 2014.

RT will provide special shuttle buses that will travel between the affected stations during the service disruption.

The closure will allow RT contractors to complete the connection of fiber-optic cable to four light rail stations on the Blue Line: Arden/Del Paso, Globe, Royal Oaks and Swanston. The new fiber-optic cable will improve communication capacity for a multitude of transit projects. The temporary closure will also be timed to coincide with Contagious Color, a local public art project which will be painted in the car and light rail tunnel (underpass) on 12th Street near D Street.

For more information about the light rail service disruption, including specific instructions on where passengers should board the special shuttle buses, visit

Let's begin today's session.

Sacramento, CA:  When RT opens the Blue Line to CRC, will the new stations charge for parking? And why does RT mostly charge for parking on the Blue Line (only one Gold Line station) in the low income neighborhoods and not in the affluent neighborhoods like Folsom?

Reply:  The RT Board of Directors previously approved charging for parking at the new light rail station that will open with the Blue Line to CRC. In addition, the parking at the new CRC station is managed by the community college and the parking charge will be consistent with campus parking. The decision to charge for parking at some stations and not others is a policy decision made by the RT Board of Directors.

Sacramento , CA:  I have a Lifetime pass do I need to have a new picture taken with the Connect Card to use the tap units on your buses?

Reply:  Yes. The process will be very simple and easy for you. You will be able to obtain one at the 1225 R Street sales center or you may be able to obtain one at the many events that the connect card bus will be at. As we get closer to the go live date, the bus will be scheduled at community centers and in other neighborhood locations to make the transition process easier for all.

Sacramento , CA:  I was sitting on the bus in front bench next to the aisle. I tripped and fell when I arose due to the wheel chair restraints on the floor in front of me. It is a dangerous and flawed design on the floor right in the path where passengers walk to sit and arise. What actions will you take to remove/prevent further accidents from occurring to passengers?

Reply:  Thank you for your message. I received your email message earlier this week and we are in the process of investigating in order to take the appropriate action. You should be hearing back form us soon.

Sacramento, CA:  I see on your website that a planned major service disruption is in the works from 8pm October 17th through the conclusion of service on October 19th on the Blue Line between Watt/I-80 and Saint Rose of Lima Park. I have a few questions on this planned disruption. Will the Blue Line temporarily operate from the Township Nine Station to the Meadowview Station during the hours of the planned service disruption instead? Will you need to have extra staff on hand throughout all RT Departments to direct riders to shuttle buses and Route 15 between Watt/I-80 and Saint Rose of Lima Park Station? Lastly, is the planned service disruption being done to add "scheduled time" information display signs at stations like Arden/Del Paso, which currently don't have these devices, or is it to put necessary technological infrastructure in for when the Connect Card goes live, sometime in the 2015 or 2016 Calendar Year, or both?

Reply:  During the service disruption planned for 8 p.m. October 17 through the conclusion of service October 19, the Blue Line will run operate from Meadowview Station to the 7th and K/ St. Rose of Lima Park Station. The Blue Line will not run to Township 9. RT will have additional personnel on hand to direct passengers to shuttle buses and signage to direct foot traffic. The closure will allow RT contractors to complete the connection of fiber-optic cable to four light rail stations on the Blue Line: Arden/Del Paso, Globe, Royal Oaks and Swanston. The new fiber-optic cable will improve communication capacity for a multitude of transit projects, including allowing for installation of electronic message signs at the four stations and will provide the infrastructure needed for the Connect Card smart fare payment system. The temporary closure will also be timed to coincide with Contagious Color, a local public art project which will be painted in the car and light rail tunnel (underpass) on 12th Street between North B and C Streets.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  In some recent Transit Talks, you have answered questions about the Connect Card. I noticed that there are hardware issues, software issues, and most recently issues with Corporate Accounts like the State of California. Where is the region now in terms of resolving all of the outstanding Connect Card issues, and does it look like major public outreach can begin on transition from paper to the Connect Card in November/December or January/February? I was one of about roughly 200 folks that pilot tested the Connect Card on Regional Transit back in May of this year. I am so eager to transition to the Connect Card. I found it to be much easier to use than paper tickets and paper passes. Thank you.

Reply:  We received a new update earlier this week that resolves many of the software issues. We are testing to confirm that the correction works properly. The Corporate Accounts module is scheduled for delivery in a few weeks. The hardware issues are down to just a few issues as well. We should be able to make a determination over the next 30 days of when to go live and then will begin our marketing and out reach transition to the Connect Card. I hope to go live February 1st, but cannot quite yet make that call. Thank you for being a tester. As you noted in your question, the system makes riding and paying very easy.

Sacramento, CA:  Whats the status of the green line to the airport and why can't we just expand bus service from downtown to the airport in the meantime? It seems like if we have money for environmental analyses we have money for expanded service times for one bus route.

Reply:  We have looked into an airport bus several times over the years. As our riders know there are a lot of other areas where we need bus service or increased levels of service. We have generally found that adding an airport bus, when there's already Yolobus service to the airport, just wouldn't make sense to prioritize over filling other gaps in the system. We've looked at the ridership that Yolobus gets on their airport route and although it does provide a valuable service, there's not the kind of ridership that would make it a "money maker" for RT, especially when it would be partially redundant with Yolobus. Yolobus already has to go back and forth between Woodland and Sacramento, so it wouldn't really make sense for them to stop running their service just to avoid redundancy. The funding that we have for the environmental review on the Green line is restricted and cannot be used to fund the operation of bus or rail service. This work is also critical for us to complete to take advantage of capital funding that can be used to construct improvements to all or portions of the Green line

Sacramento, CA:  As a frequent rider of the light rail, there is a big problem with bicycles. Often they are stacked in the front and back of a car with 4-6 bikes in the doorways, more during peak hours. If there's no room, they seem to overflow to the regular seats in the middle of the car and leave their bikes in the aisle. Considering that this is potentially a safety hazard, is there something RT can improve this.

Reply:  We are looking for ways to accommodate more bikes in a safe manner. As you noted, during peak demand, we often have bicycle riders trying to squeeze onto trains that already have the areas at the front and rear of the rail car full. Our rules require that bicyclists board at only the front and rear doors. Our staff will enforce our rules when they see the problem, but they are not able to monitor every train. We recently began looking at ways to safely accommodate more bicycle on our trains without disrupting other riders. We have initiated a process to adjust the seating configuration that will create more space for both wheelchair users and bicyclists. Over time you will see this change on more cars.

Sacramento, CA:  By most indicators (I.e ridership numbers and routes that are consistently on the list of sunset routes), the buses that service Natomas are some of the least used routes in the whole system. The Natomas Flyer routes rank at the bottom every month. Why do we think a light rail line through the Natomas area would do any better?

Reply:  It's important to keep in mind that the Natomas Flyer routes are routes we operate through a contract--the North Natomas TMA pays RT and we run the service. Another thing to keep in mind on the Flyer routes is that they use smaller buses. On a per-hour basis, ridership may be fairly low, but in terms of capacity utilization, many or most of these trips are near the limit. With large buses, we'd probably get more riders on these routes; but based on the funding realities for the TMA, we're using the buses that we can afford. If you take that into consideration, I don't think you'd find that Natomas really has any more low-ridership routes than anywhere else. Route 11, in fact, has been one of our fastest growing routes. Route 11 goes right along Truxel, the same alignment the Green Line will have. If our experience in Natomas ends up anything like our experience in Rancho Cordova and Folsom replacing bus lines with light rail, I think this bodes very well for the Green Line. It is also important to remember that development in the North Natomas area has been at a standstill for many years and that once the building moratorium is lifted there will be a significant level of growth with thousands of more residents and businesses.

Sacramento, CA:  In just two years from now, a brand new Entertainment Sports Complex will be part of the Downtown Sacramento Skyline. Two questions, how much progress has Regional Transit made at least in the planning of late night bus and light rail service in anticipation of opening day and beyond? What effort in terms of transit service can Sleep Train Arena attendees expect for the next two years, beginning with this month until the day that building closes in the Summer of 2016?

Reply:  We've already done considerable work planning for the arena. It was just about a year ago that the draft environmental work was released, which we provided detailed responses to. We generally agreed with the findings in the environmental work that there won't be tremendous demand for late night buses, but that light rail is likely to play a major role in getting people to and from events. Similarly situated arenas have been generating between 2,000 and 4,000 riders both to and from on comparable light rail systems. The location couldn't be better for attracting riders. Our big issue will be capacity at the stations, on the wheelchair ramps, and at the ticket machines. Train capacity won't be an issue because at that time of night, we'll have plenty of vehicles available. We have already had considerable dialogue with the City and Sac PD on some creative ways to handle the crowds at our stations and our experience with the Republic FC soccer matches at Hughes Stadium this year have given us some great experience with regard to ticket sales. There are also some budding technological solutions to ticket sales that we may pursue. We also anticipate partnering closely with the Kings on marketing, distribution of media, and other logistics.

Sacramento, CA:  How is RT doing meeting its budget objectives? Will the decline in reserves you were projecting actually be required?

Reply:  RT's FY 2014 projected year end actual results will require the use of some reserves, we are currently projecting in the range of $2.5 million to $3.3 million. Approximately $600,000 of this amount we are hopeful will be a temporary use of reserves, as we expect that the Federal CNG tax rebate will be extended by legislation at some point in the near future. If the CNG rebate is extended the $600,000 of revenue that RT would have received in FY 2014 will be received in FY 2015, and restored back into reserves for RT. The FY 2015 budget is balanced, and we have two months of actual results, we are monitoring the budget closely, and expect that we will meet budget objectives for this FY.

Sacramento, CA:  When will route 8 be restored? We've been waiting and asking for a long time now. Can you give us a date?

Reply:  Staff has been working diligently on a way to accelerate the restoration of Route 8. As you may know, our 2012 TransitRenewal study identified this as an important need, we just have not had the money to make it happen yet. We have been "getting creative" trying to find ways to bring this route back on a cost-neutral basis. It can be challenging to pull these kinds of projects off without impacting other nearby routes; however, we think there are some promising options, and we will be briefing our Board of Directors on October 27. We have also been working closely with a community organization, CROP, to develop options that are cost neutral and meet the community's needs. You're welcome to attend the meeting at 6:00 p.m. at 1400 29th Street or just view the presentation materials, which will be posted online prior to the meeting.

Sacramento, CA:  How much new service will RT add this year? Where will it be added? How about next year?

Reply:  There are no service changes planed for this calendar year. In January, small adjustments are planned for routes 28 and 93 but no additional service will be added. Any service additions made throughout the year will dependant upon available funding. We are also expecting to reroute bus routes #80 and #84 at some point to utilize the new exclusive bus lane on Watt Ave. over Highway 50. Along with this change we are evaluating options to serve the library in Rancho Cordova on Folsom Blvd.

Rocklin, CA:  When will the Blue Line connect to Roseville and Rocklin? Is there even a project on the books for it?

Reply:  There is a project in our capital improvements plan to extend the system to Roseville. The project is in the out years without specific funding. When the cities of Roseville, Rocklin and others in the area are ready to make financial commitments and partner with RT on the extension, we will have a better chance of funding and building this extension. You might remember how Folsom was very involved and committed to the extension to Folsom. That model is the template for successful partnerships that allow these extension to be funded and built.

South Sacramento , CA:  Are you planning to make changes to Route 47, 56, and 65?

Reply:  In the immediate term, we don't have any plans to change any of these routes. We do have plans to add service on Route 56 as soon as we can find the money. Route 56 needs more service on weekdays and weekends due to demand, overcrowding, and schedule adherence. The changes we are considering in order to restore Route 8 (discussed earlier) could have some incidental impacts on these routes. Route 47 has been a low-productivity route for us, so we are always looking for ways to improve that situation, including restructuring it completely, but to date, we have mostly found that it provides a valued service to its existing customers, and there are not any alternatives that would be more productive.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I attended a couple Sacramento Republic FC matches this year at their new Bonney Field, but would always wind up getting home from a neighbor because RT did not have late enough service when matches were over. For next season, are you and your team of transit professionals sitting down with Championship Republic FC Staff to devise a transit and circulation plan so that when next season rolls around, transit will be an option for us to enjoy from matches to home next season?

Reply:  We've met with the Republic FC management staff on this topic and we of course had enjoyed a great relationship working with them on the light rail service we provided to their matches at Hughes Stadium. The Bonney Field location is not nearly as ideal for transit as the Hughes Stadium location was. We understand though that Bonney Field works better for them for several reasons. In the long run, we think their future home in Downtown Sacramento right along the Green Line will be terrific. For the time being, we have discussed running some extra later night buses for matches at Bonney Field. We will continue to work with Republic FC staff to provide the appropriate level of bus service to the current temporary site.

South Sacramento , CA:  Any future changes to Route 5?

Reply:  We are not anticipating any changes to Route 5. It has undergone a few changes and ups and downs over the past ten years. Right now, ridership seems to be growing, so we'd like to see if that keeps up. It's never been a very high ridership route for us, so we're happy to see some improvements.

Elk Grove, CA:  I recently rode on Muni and noticed that folks there were using a tap card that looks similar to how the connect card will work. Is it the same service or similar? Also, since I don't have the Muni equivalent of a connect card, I was able to buy a paper ticket from the Muni operator that gave me 90 minutes of transit usage. Will you be employing something similar for folks from out of town? Or are out of town folks basically left out of the system?

Reply:  You captured the process very well. Riders will always be able to pay cash to ride, but most commuters and frequent riders should switch to the Connect Card for the ease and convenience it will offer.

Elk Grove, CA:  In a Board Meeting of yours, not too long ago, there was mention of workshops taking place known as "Unmet Transit Needs Hearings" for lack of a better term. Honestly, is it worthwhile to attend one of these workshops? If I do go to one, I saw through Internet Research that there will be one in Elk Grove on October 23rd, and/or the Regional Transit Auditorium on October 27th. I was under the impression from a fellow ruder of mine that all funding for these workshops goes to transit in your service area, and none of the money is to be used for streets and roads. Is that true, at least for Regional Transit? I need some clarity on this, and whether I should attend one of these workshops. Thank you.

Reply:  The Unmet Transit Needs hearings are required under California "Transit Development Act" Guidelines, which require that all transit agencies have these public hearings. The funding through the Transit Development Act, which includes Local Transportation Funding and State Transit Assistance funding are allocated to RT and other transit agencies in the State of California based on population, revenues and other criteria. Some agencies, such as Cities can use TDA Local Transportation Funding for Streets and Roads, assuming that there are no Unmet Transit needs for that Transit Agency. In the RT service area this is not the case. None of the funding can be used for streets and roads. If you have an interest in the workshop or know of an Unmet Transit Need for RT or any other transit agency, I would encourage you to attend one of the workshops.

Folsom, CA:  In a previous question to a participant regarding the Connect Card, you mentioned perhaps February 1st for a Go Live date, but were not quite ready today to make the final call. Perhaps you could answer my question with more certainty. When a "Go Live" is officially announced, how much lead time (days, weeks, months) would you be required to give public notice on this major item? I only ask so that folks have the preparation time necessary to transition from today's paper to tomorrow's electronic fare system across the Sacramento Region.

Reply:  RT is committed to providing the information needed to the public to make the Connect Card launch a success. Once a "Go Live" date is finalized, there will be at least two months of outreach conducted before it is implemented to inform passengers about the Connect Card, it's uses and the changes that will occur to RT's fare payment system.

Elk Grove, CA:  In last month’s transit chat, Diane Nakano mentioned that “all new stations that are being constructed today are designed to work with low floor cars.” Does this include the Blue Line phase 2 stations? What about the Richards Blvd station? She also said many of the existing stations need to be modified for the low floor cars. How many existing stations? Would it be all of them (except maybe Richards Blvd)?

Reply:  Yes, all of the new Blue Line stations will be built to accommodate low floor cars. Also, the stations at County Center, Sacramento Valley and Township Nine stations will accommodate low floor cars. The remainder of the stations will need to be modified.

Elk Grove, CA:  I noticed that the streetcar will go through downtown by way of 3rd, I, K and J/L Streets. I seem to recall (perhaps in the 2035 plan?) that the streetcar would also travel on Q/R Streets and Broadway as well as out to East Sac and up towards Cal Expo. Is that still in the plans? If so, in what phases/segments?

Reply:  Our 2035 plan does indeed call for streetcar on Broadway, out to East Sac, and up to Cal Expo, as well as in Rancho Cordova. These extensions are also in our capital improvement plan, although funding hasn't been identified yet. They are not yet in our financial forecast model, which we use more to forecast operating costs. This reflects the inspirational nature of these projects. Until Sacramento County voters approve an increase in sales tax or some comparable funding source for transit, we really wouldn't be able to contemplate running these more advanced phases of the streetcar network.

Sacramento, CA:  Just curious- is there a specific legal reason RT does have ad placement (and the corresponding revenue) inside lightrail cars? Even for other municipal, non-private initiatives or programs? Just thinking it would be prime space for info on local water and recycling regulations/education, if selling as space is not allowed. Thanks- love your service!

Reply:  We have included advertising on and in the light rail cars when we went out to bid in the past. However, it did not create any more revenue for RT. We will consider this in future bids for Ad revenue for RT.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation and please join us for the next session of Transit Talk scheduled for Friday, November 7, 2014.