Transit Talk with the General Manager

February 06, 2015
Mark Lonergan, Chief Operating Officer
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Good afternoon, my name is Mark Lonergan, Chief Operating Officer, and I will be the guest host for today's session of Transit Talk with the General Manager.

I'll begin the session with an update on today's Blue Line service disruption. A power outage was caused by a lighting strike at 47th Avenue. The strike damaged an AT&T wire, which then fell onto a light rail overhead wire and interrupted SMUD service to several of RT's substations. The AT&T wire is being removed and inspections made to RT wires to restore service.

A bus bridge is currently in place from 13th Street to Meadowview station and we expect to restore light rail service by 1 p.m.

Staff has been deployed to affected stations to alert customers who may not be aware of the bus bridge. Messaging has also been posted to the electronic message signs not affected by the power outage and to RT's social media channels to alert passengers.

In my original messaging for today's chat, I had planned to discuss my oversight of the Police Services department (RTPS) and the reduction in crime statistics on the system in 2014 when compared to 2013.

In 2014, RTPS reported that 69 thefts to persons occurred on trains or at stations, a reduction of 25 percent compared to 2013, when 92 thefts were reported. RTPS also made arrests in 39 percent of incidents when thefts did occur.

These accomplishments were made possible by a robust surveillance camera system and changes in staffing of officers and guards to cover most RT trains, especially on nights and weekends.

In addition, the lower crime numbers and high arrest clearance rate can be attributed to RTPS officers following up on all theft incidents with vigor. Their hard work led to quicker identification of suspects, which helped prevent further crimes.

RTPS would like to remind all riders that personal electronics (phone and tablet devices) are coveted by thieves. By taking precaution and making small changes in your riding behavior, you are less likely to be targeted by criminals. It's important to be aware of your surroundings, use the text tip line to report suspicious subjects, and to not leave your valuables unsecured. RT encourages riders to "See It - Hear It - Report It." To text a tip to RTPS, text to 67283 and begin your message with sacrt.

RTPS, which consists of full-time Sacramento Police Officers, Sacramento Sheriff Deputies, Transit Fare Inspectors and uniformed security guards, can also be contacted by calling 916-556-0275.

For more information about the "See It - Hear It - Report It" program, visit

Let's begin today's chat.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I am curious about what is being referred to as the "Connect Card Project." I attend school, and will continue to due so when August rolls around after the Summer Break. When I return to school this August, do you and Regional Transit strongly believe that even as soon as July 1st (Fiscal New Years Day) that folks like me will be able to use a brand new electronic Connect Card, rather than paying with paper or stickers? Are there still many outstanding items needing to still be resolved that there will be any doubt that Connect Cards will be fully operational and functional by August 1st? Lastly, as an area college student, I wonder if folks like me will need a separate Connect Card versus our existing Student ID with proof of being currently enrolled as we do now. Can you please elaborate a bit on what will change with Connect Card launch for both area Community College Students as well as for Sacramento State Students? Thank you.

Reply:  The Connect Card roll out has been delayed because the vendors system has had a number of problems that have been difficult to resolve. At this point, most have been resolved and we will start full testing in March. When everything works properly, we will go live for the public. The plan is to move the Colleges to the new system beginning with the fall semester if everything is working correctly. We are in discussion with Sac State over including the Connect Card functionality on the "One Card". When we are closer to the roll out there will be communications about the details. The Connect Card allows patrons to purchase passes and to carry a cash value for rides on the card. The college student versions will hold their passes for the semester. If a student drops out, the card will stop working because they are no longer eligible for the college pass.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the most recent update you have regarding message signs going up at light rail stations that do not have them yet? I don't see signs along the three stations in the Woodlake Neighborhood as well as at the 9th and K Saint Rose (to Watt/I-80) Station.

Reply:  Most of the signs are already installed. A few stations did not have network connectivity until late last year. The infrastructure and signs are in the installation process. Over the next two months, you should see the signs installed at Globe, Arden-Del Paso, Royal Oaks and Swanson light rails stations.

Rancho Grdora, CA:  We love light rail and easy to use it to goto old town. After an incident on the train where a punk kit trying to get my all phone, and NO one including operator said anything to help me, we concluded that light rail is not safe andofeourse more expensive than driving our car there. Do you have any plans to change those two major items? security and cost.

Reply:  We are sorry to hear of your negative experience on board our system. We are aware of the safety concerns and are in the process of improving security across the system. RT has a team of security professionals consisting of full-time Police Officers, Sheriff's Deputies, and private security guards to patrol RT's vehicles and facilities. Recently we added a non-emergency crime tip line available for passengers to contact security services directly. The number is 916-556-0275 and is staffed from 5:00 AM to midnight. We also have a text number that you may use to alert security personnel if you prefer to be more discreet. The number is 67283 and all texts sent must begin with "sacrt."

Rosemont - La Riviera, CA:  I was not available due to a schedule conflict to attend the last Board Meeting in which a public hearing took place on proposed service changes for September. In watching the replay on Cable Access, I see that there are public and board member concerns regarding La Riviera Drive. When the service changes item comes back to the board later this month, will staff be bringing back anything as a result of the La Riviera concerns that were either addressed at the meeting, or through written testimony received up until Noon a couple of days ago?

Reply:  We will be responsive to the public testimony and Board discussion and RT staff is currently reviewing public input and revisiting alternative service options in this area. Any modifications to staff recommendations will be available for public review on February 19th on RT's website at

Sacramento , CA:  Was there a power outage on the light rail system on 2/6/15 at 9:30AM that caused a stop in service?

Reply:  Yes, please see the announcement and update in the opening comments. Basically, we had a significant lightening strike near 47th Avenue that caused an AT&T line to drop over our electrical overhead and the lightening strike interrupted SMUD service to several of our electrical substations. We hope to have full light rail service resumed by 1:00 PM.

Sacramento, CA:  What is being done or looked into regarding frequency improvements on Sundays/Holidays? I see that only Route 1 and Route 51 are twice an hour. Would twice an hour service be of high priority for the RT District on Routes 23, 30, 81, 56, and perhaps the addition of hourly service on Route 11 and Route 84, which, if added, would compliment the already once an hour Route 80?

Reply:  RT completed a comprehensive review of near-term service improvements, including increased service coverage and frequency on Sundays/Holidays as part of the Transit Renewal study that was adopted in 2012. Current budgetary constraints make it difficult to implement improvements that require additional resources and funding. We will continue to consider additional service improvements such as increased service frequency on Sundays/Holidays as additional resources become available

Sacramento, CA:  Mark, I am a transit coordinator for one of the State agencies. We provide our riders with vouchers that they can purchase either tickets or monthly passes at one of the named vendors on your list. My question is this: with the new system that is being installed at light rail stations, what are your plans/procedures to equip the vendors where these passes are purchased to "upload" vouchers/checks onto the cards. For instance, are you providing vendors such as my credit union, Raleys, Belair, etc. with the equipment to do so? When will you be having the system on line with plenty of notice. Am I assuming that you will include other transit systems: Yolo, Placer, Roseville? And will will this system be on line with plenty of outreach. As you are aware, the Bay Area has had a system very similiar to this for quite some time.

Reply:  Briefly, the 8 other transit systems in the region are part of the Connect Card. So your agency employees will be able to take advantage of the card for all of the local systems. As the transit coordinator at your agency you will be able to issue new cards and add your subsidy to the card. Raleys, Belair and other retailers will be able to sell cards and add fare to cards. In addition, cards can be managed via our Connect Card Website, via our phone system, at Light Rail Stations (with the new machines) and at RT's sales center (1225 R Street). We are waiting until testing is complete and the system works correctly, before selecting our go live date. The Clipper Card in the bay area had quite a few problems during there roll out. We are attempting to avoid those problems by thorough testing and validation of operations.

Sacramento, CA:  When is the last time you really scrutinized performance of the management and took appropriate actions?

Reply:  We have monthly, detailed reviews of our performance. Our challenges have primarily been the result of a lack of funding to perform at the level that we would deem satisfactory. Just to understand the scale of the Challenge, our budgets have decreased in both real and adjusted for inflation terms substantially since 2010 while we have expanded the system and decreased staffing levels. While the economy is rebounding in the region, RT is lagging in seeing the benefits of this recovery.

Sacramento, CA:  Does RT have any plans to install the flashing train icons (the same ones that currently used on the Green Line) within the entire downtown area where trains and automobiles cross? It's a great way to let people and cars that the a train is approaching.

Reply:  A significant part of the light rail system in the Downtown dates back to the opening of Light Rail in 1987 and the older construction does not easily support the installation of these types of warning signs. We are including them, as appropriate, on all extensions. At this point we do not have any plans to add these signs to the Downtown area. We also do not see an accident history that would support the need for these types of signs in the Downtown.

Sacramento, CA:  I noticed several of the old 50E busses in 29th and Q yard. Are they being retired?

Reply:  Yes, you are correct. They are still in service and are scheduled to be replaced in 2020, after they have met their life expectancy and subject to the availability of funding.

South Sacramento , CA:  Besides the service changes coming for both Aprl and September 2015, do you have any other bus service changes that we do not know about?

Reply:  RT does not currently have any proposed service changes other than those that have been published for implementation in September of 2015. RT is currently proposing changes to routes 25, 61, 65, 80 and 84 for implementation in September of 2015. For more information about these proposed changes, please visit RT's website at Route 28 will be extended from its current eastern terminus at the Mather/Mills Light Station along Folsom Blvd to the Butterfield Light Rail Station in April. It's likely that slight schedule adjustments to RT bus service may be made in coordination with the initiation of light rail service to the Cosumnes College in September of 2015. While there are no additional formal proposals for near-term implementation, RT does have more near and long term service plans for future services changes that are documented in RT's Transit Action Plan, Short-Range Transit Plan and Transit Renewal Plan.

South Sacramento , CA:  I am very unhappy that the Blue line trains in the afternoon are 98% late. I notice that the Sunrise and Folsom trains arrive on time 90% of the time and wonder why the Blue line cannot do the same. I do hope this is not because of who lives in the direction of Sunrise and Folsom. I would like an explanation for the lateness of the blue line on a daily basis. If you want more people to use light rail it's imperative that the trains be on time some people have to catch a bus in order to make it to their final destination.

Reply:  According to RT's Quarterly Ridership Report for the period ending in September of 2014, the Blue Line was estimated to be on-time 98.8% of the time while the Gold Line was estimated to be on-time 99.1% of the time. This is a very minor difference in estimated on-time performance. Please note that "on-time" performance is measured at trip start points and is considered on-time if a trip starts 0-5 minutes behind the scheduled start time. RT gives careful consideration to distribution of resources to ensure equitable distributions of services and amenities. RT strives to provide reliable service on all routes and lines and understands the importance of on-time peformance. RT is committed to maintaining and, when possible, improving, on-time performance.

North Sacramento, CA:  I am on Twitter, which is where I read a headline in a tweet that due to renovations as well as expansion going on at Bonney Field at Cal Expo, that the Sacramento Republic FC will be playing an upcoming Soccer Match against the New York Cosmos FC on February 28th at Hughes Stadium on the campus of Sacramento City College. As a result of this news of change of venue, will Regional Transit be involved with Sacramento Republic FC and promote transit usage, at least to this one match? As a follow-up question related to transit and the Sacramento Republic FC, will Regional Transit be offering new late night scheduled trips on Routes 23, 67, and 68 once Bonney Field at Cal Expo reopens and matches for the remainder of the soccer season resume over there?

Reply:  We are still in discussions with Republic FC on the February 28th game at Hughes Stadium, but we look forward to another successful event. As you probably know, we had a lot of success moving many happy riders to and from the games at Hughes Stadium last season. We are still in discussions with the Sacramento Republic FC group on changes to bus service when the games resume at Bonney Field.

Sacramento, CA:  I noticed a refurbished UTDC vehicle in the 13th Street yard on Monday - is there an update on the plan to get these vehicles in service?

Reply:  We are working to have the first UTDC trains in service by the opening of the Blue Line extension to CRC in September.

Sacramento, CA:  With today's power outage, how many shuttles were sent out to get people to City College, and how often were they heading out? I heard they were running once an hour.

Reply:  We ended up with 7 buses on the bus bridge today. The number of buses that we can put out in these situations varies depending upon how many buses and how many drivers that we have available at the time of the incident. We do the best we can, but these are always difficult situations and we appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers.

Elk Grove, CA:  Over the last several weeks, I have tried multiple times to contact the bike locker phone number (916.556.0354) and have even left a message for the individual responsible (Robert Hendricks). I have received absolutely NO callbacks and every time I call the above number (which I got from RTs website as well as a previous Transit Talk session) there is NEVER an answer. I always call during business hours. I've called at 9:30 am, 3 pm, 1:30 pm etc. Nothing.

Reply:  His direct line is 869-1852 and his managers name is Lynn Cain and her line is 321-5375. He is out today, but she is on site.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Is there a possibility of extended service times and more buses? A restructuring of routes seems to be needed.

Reply:  RT adopted a plan for near-term service increases and changes in 2012. The plan is titled Transit Renewal and is available for review on RT's website at . RT's ability to add service and implement the changes identified in the Transit Renewal plan is dependent on available resources and funding. Current budgetary constraints limit our ability to increase service levels.

Sacramento, CA:  will there be sign clarification involving the difference between cigarettes and e-cigarettes/vape pens? No signage anywhere says no vaping is allowed.

Reply:  Our ordinance treats e-cigarettes the same as a tobacco cigarette we do not differentiate between the two.

Comments from Mark Lonergan: 

Thank you to everyone who participated today. The next session of Transit Talk will be held on Friday, March 6.