Transit Talk with the General Manager

March 06, 2015
RoseMary Covington, Assistant GM of Planning
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live Friday, March 6 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-range and long-range planning, major project planning, transit-oriented development, accessible services and customer advocacy.

On Sunday, April 5, RT will implement service changes affecting Routes 2, 3, 6, 7, 15, 28, 29, 34, 51, 85, 95, and 109.

I'm proud to point out that April 2015 service changes will include an extension of Route 28 west from the Mather Field/Mills light rail station along Folsom Boulevard to serve the Rancho Cordova Library and the Butterfield light rail station.

This change began in response to inquiries from library advocates who were concerned about lack of access to their numerous community programs and events. By collaborating with library representatives, RT was able to develop a cost-neutral change to Route 28, which resulted in improved service. It's also a prime example of how RT and the community can work together to improve transportation options for everyone.

In April, due to construction of the future downtown Entertainment and Sports Center, bus service to the 7th and K streets stop will be discontinued. Riders of Routes 2, 3, 6, 7, 15, 29, 34, 51, and 109 will need to board and exit buses at the 7th Street and Capitol Mall stop, which will be added to the timetable.

For a complete summary of the service changes scheduled for April, visit

I'm also pleased with service changes recently approved by the RT Board of Directors scheduled to take effect on Sunday, September 6.

The Board's adoption of a revised Route 65 will restore bus service to a portion of the former Route 8, serving Elder Creek Road, Power Inn Road, and 65th Street to the University/65th Street light rail station. As with the Route 28 changes, RT worked with neighborhood representatives to adjust the route and make the improvement cost-neutral.

September 2015 service changes will also include updates to Routes 25, 61 and 84. Route 25 frequency will be increased to operate every 30 minutes on Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael. Route 61 will serve the University/65th Street light rail station instead of the Power Inn light rail station. Route 84 will take advantage of a new "Bus Only" lane on Watt Avenue at the Highway 50 interchange.

Let's begin today's chat session.

sacto, CA:  What proactive measures are in place to help assure that bus drivers follow proper procedures when driving and when picking up passengers at stops? Specifically, I am wondering about drivers who are speeding on city streets during early morning and late night runs such that they miss or nearly miss picking up passengers. Also, drivers not waiting their turn at busy single-space bus stops just past an intersection, such that they cannot clearly see whether or not passengers want to board there. I appreciate the fact that there are reactive measures in place like the Customer Advocacy phone and form, but I was curious if any proactive measures are in place or if there are any plans to do so.

Reply:  All RT operators are provided training and rulebooks which provide direction for safe driving and customer service. RT expects our operators to abide by these rules. Issues such as you describe should be discussed with our customer advocacy department at 916-557-4545. An advocate should be available to assist with reporting any incidents where a rule may have been broken and can help answer any questions regarding RT rules.

Sacramento, CA:  While a passenger in a car exiting onto 30th St from Business 80's N St exit, some different looking bus roofs caught my eye. When I looked closer, I realized it was a whole row of shiny new buses! (I think they were numbered 15xx.) Do you have any estimate when these buses will go into service? Will they directly replace where the old 23xx buses serve as the 23xx are retired? Or, will the newest buses replace where the 28xx serve, and the 28xx will in turn replace where the 23xx serve as the 23xx are retired?

Reply:  It takes a couple of months to outfit the buses for service and that process is underway. There are 30 buses that have been delivered and being readied for service. 30 of the 23XX will be retired, when the new buses go into service. This is currently targeted for April 1st.

South Sacramento, CA:  Will the ribbon cutting ceremony to extend the Blue Line to CRC be on September 6th, the same day as the official start of revenue service, as well?

Reply:  The timing of the ribbon cutting hasn't been decided. I am happy to report, however, that the project is on schedule and that September 6th is still the target date for the first day of service.

Sacramento, CA:  On your website, RT mentions that the bus stop on 7th at K Street is being eliminated on April 5th due to on going construction of the Downtown Entertainment Sports Complex. Once construction is finished, will RT re-open and/or re-establish this stop? Many people I talk to are hopeful that RT will as a way to get to a bus stop for routes traveling south of Downtown upon egress of events at the Downtown Entertainment Sports Complex.

Reply:  We are working with the City of Sacramento on two new stops (one on 7th at J Street and the other on 7th at Capitol Avenue). These will be new stops including new equipment and a more modern look. Our plan is to remove the 7th and K Street. bus stop as part of adding the two new locations.

Folsom, CA:  I watched the last RT Meeting on television, and saw questions and answers between Directors and Staff on the Connect Card. It caught my attention that RT and SACOG were going to have a "serious" meeting on this topic on February 27th. What happened at the February 27th Meeting at SACOG regarding Connect Card? Will it officially launch on July 1 or August 1? How can I prepare my co-workers for such a significant change in transit fare collection?

Reply:  Great questions. Executives from RT, including the CEO, met with SACOG staff, including their CEO to work through the issues plaguing our vendor's delivery of the new regional smart card (Connect Card). SACOG is the lead agency and holds the contract with INIT, our smart card vendor. The discussion was a frank and detailed working meeting covering the open issues needing correction before the system can go live. Subsequent to this meeting, RT and SACOG staff met with the President of INIT and his staff to work through the road blocks to going live. During those two meetings INIT has developed a plan to complete the system and deliver a working system for the 9 transit systems that will be using the new connect card for fares. Out of these meetings there were a number of milestones created, that need to be completed. INIT provided a schedule for delivering the system configuration changes and having the system complete and ready for use in the next three months. Once the system is fully tested by staff and determined to be functional, we will begin at least 60 days of outreach and marketing to prepare riders for the go live. Based upon the timelines and work to be completed, the most optimistic date possible is 1 July. As we move through the new milestones and see the vendor's performance, we should be able to evaluate when the system will be ready for going live.

Citrus Heights, CA:  What is RT doing other than in September and this April to improve and restore service? Could RT take advantage of new state funding programs like "Low Carbon Transit Operations" as well as "Cap and Trade Auctions" or as far as state funding goes, are these very uncertain right now?

Reply:  RT is currently exploring use of LCTOP and Cap and Trade funding oppportunties for upcoming service changes and projects, such as those that have been recently approved by RT's Board of Directors for implementation in April and September of 2015, and potential future changes. RT is not currently able to add service that would result in a signficant increase in costs without an offsetting additional revenue source. All recently approved changes were designed to be cost neutral; all near-term changes will need to be designed in a similair fashion, that would likely be a reallocation of existing resources (unless or until additional funding sources or resources are identified). RT regularly reviews service productivity and schedules efficiency in attempt to identify potential resources for reallocation.

Sac, CA:  Is the full scale test of Connect Card still on schedule to commence this month? Is this full scale test for all participating transit agencies as well as the retail and school/direct-to-employee sales sides? I think the terminals on the RT buses I rode this week were still red.

Reply:  We are beginning to test the integrated system, but have a bit of work with the vendor to correct a number of functional issues. In another question during this chat, I shared the details of those issues. We have an array of testing underway, that will go on for at least the next 90 days.

Sacramento, CA:  Is the Streetcar development in downtown the best way to connect downtown and West Sacramento? Does RT stand to lose any ridership or funding priority because of the streetcar?

Reply:  The streetcar is not only a great way to connect the two cities, it will also provide an economic development boom for both cities. The streetcar will attract a new transit market - those people who want to make short trips that are not easily provided by walking, light rail or bus. These new riders will provide new revenue to RT. The streetcar is part of a regional long term funding strategy which includes RT projects and should not affect RT funding..

Orangevale, CA:  Since Regional Transit was nice enough to archive past chat sessions I have been able to review the lack of progress on the Connect Card project. Has any thought been given to just throwing it all away and starting over?

Reply:  No, we expect the Connect Card to be implemented, although somewhat later than we planned. For details, see my answer to an earlier question regarding the Connect Card.

South Sacramento , CA:  Since gas prices have surged in the past couple of weeks, have any of you seen an uptick in both passengers and revenue?

Reply:  Not yet. Transit ridership can vary by 10 percent or more just by the day of the week, the month of the year, weather, etc., so the kind of improvements we see in ridership from gas prices can take a while to emerge in the data.

Sacramento, CA:  Where is information and an agenda about / for RT's System Improvement Committee meetings? Does each meeting discuss only one of the six topics ?

Reply:  RT's System Improvement Committee members are currently working with staff members to develop the subject focus, format and schedule for future meetings of this committee. Information concerning upcoming meetings will be available at least three days in advance of the meeting date. More information will be available as the committee develops. Check the RT website for updates.

Correction: Agendas for the Ad Hoc System Improvement committee meetings will be posted at least 24 hours in advance. Each meeting's agenda is determined by a meeting by meeting basis.

Sacramento, CA:  I noticed issues with drivers on the 72 on weekends. When leaving Watt/Manlove, they do not pick up passengers until departure time. In the process they rush out of the station as quick as possible and do not wait for the elderly and handicapped riders to be seated safely. Can something be done to address this safety concern?

Reply:  We ask that you please contact our Customer Advocacy Department at 916-557-4545. A customer advocate can assist you in filing a report for investigation by the appropriate department.

South Sacramento , CA:  Are there any plans for more maintenance priorities such as cleaning light rail stations and/or bus-light rail vehicle seven days a week? Also enforcing rules for people riding on the bus, light rail especially on weekends?

Reply:  This is one of the key focus areas our Board has directed staff concentrate efforts on improving. The new AD Hoc committee of businesss leaders and Board members focused on system improvement are divided into areas of concern which address your issue. It is a bit premature for me to suggest how these areas will be improved, but it is a major RT focus. Our entire organization is directly engaged in making system improvement a priority.

Carmichael, CA:  A couple 'future' light rail questions:Of the longer term extensions,which is more likely first,Green Line to SMF or Blue Line to west Citrus Heights?Second,will the rehabbed VTA cars(which can't be coupled with existing cars)be used just on the Blue Line or on the Gold and Green lines as well?

Reply:  The Green Line remains an RT priority and is moving through the design and environmental process. After the Blue Line extension and the Streetcar,the Green Line extension to the Airport is the major extension closest to actual construction. The rehabbed VTA cars are a little longer than the other cars in our fleet and our plan is to run them in 3-car trains on both lines.

Folsom, CA:  Any plans for getting new benches or shelter for 7th & Capitol Station? Current wooden benches pretty beat up.

Reply:  Yes. We are working on plans to make improvements system wide. The planning for this has just begun. We are looking to do a refresh of all of the older stations.

Roseville , CA:  Is it possible for RT to make the fare vending machines accept partial payment with a debit/credit card, then pay the difference with cash?

Reply:  No. Our new machines can take either cash or credit, but not split payments. Thirteen of these machines have been installed so far, with more to follow.

sacramento, CA:  What is RT doing to improve sexual assault safety? I have witnessed multiple accounts of women having to remove themselves from the train due to unruly patrons sexually harassing them. Sometimes this happens so fast that calling 911 doesn't help and alerting the driver could draw undue attention to the one performing the alert.

Reply:  We have recently added a non-emergency crime tip line at 916-556-0275 and a text # 67283 if you prefer to be more discreet. This line can connect you directly to our security operations center, where an officer or guard may be dispatched to your location. This is in addition to the passenger intercom that you may use to contact the train operator.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I want to thank RT for a feature on the Mobile Web App., and that is the feature of Real Time Bus Information. If I am at a bus stop, I can enter a 4-digit number located in the bus shelter or on the back side of the bus stop sign, and your mobile web app will tell me how the bus is really doing. That is fabulous. Don't get me wrong, I often use the "Bus and Light Rail Timetable Book" often to do any advance planning, and that tool is very handy as well. My question is, on the mobile web app., whether light rail will also soon display real time information on train status, just like it does for buses? Amtrak has a "tracker" in which their passengers can track an Amtrak Train in real time.

Reply:  RT is currently testing tracking equipment and software for the light rail vehicles. Once testing is complete, we can begin installation of the equipment systemwide.

Sacramento, CA:  On your website, are the issue papers for your Board Meeting for this coming Monday. I read through the one pertaining to the financial forecast. Here is my question based on what I have read, so far. Rather than assuming a fare structure change, whatever that will come to, on Friday, January 1, 2016, wouldn't it be more prudent of RT to advance any changes to the fare structure effective on Tuesday, September 1, 2015? There seems to be so much going on at RT as it is on Sunday, September 6, 2015, do in terms of incorporating route changes and schedule changes in early September, it seemed to me to make the most sense to implement fare structure changes as close to the service changes as possible. Does this approach make more practical sense to RT than doing fare structure changes four months after the service changes?

Reply:  There are pros and cons with making a lot of changes at one time. On the one hand, it's nice if you're making a major outreach effort to be able to carry multiple messages at one time. On the other hand, when too many things change at one time, staff can be spread too thin. Right now, the Blue Line to CRC extension is our top priority. With respect to the fare structure, we want to make sure it's done right. No one wants to raise fares, but we need to increase revenues, so we are taking a very careful look at our options.

Sacramento, CA:  How would Regional Transit characterize the quality of its collaboration with Bike and Pedestrian planning? Could you describe how you worked with Bike planners and advocates on the 7th St. underpass project?

Reply:  RT is a very involved partner in bike and pedestrian planning. We work with municipalities as well as bike advocacy organizations. The bike underpass was neither designed nor built by RTand while we made recommendations on design, the final decision was not ours.

Fair Oaks , CA:  Could a London style congestion tax be used to help reduce cogestian downtown and help fund public transportation? Also what other sources of funding is RT trying to obtain? Bus service, especially in the suburbs is abysmal.

Reply:  The London program requires a fee for autos to enter the City. That is not something we at RT have discussed.

Folsom, CA:  Once the Downtown Sacramento Entertainment Sports Complex opens in October of next year, will Folsom and RT collaborate before then to work out a finance and operations plan so that our train service extends from 7pm to Midnight, similar to the Non-Folsom Station Hours?

Reply:  RT is currently developing service plans for events at the Entertainment Sports Complex. As these plans develop, RT will work with various stakeholders and partners to ensure appropriate collaboration and consideration of various plan elements. Light rail service to Folsom is currently operated via a memorandum of understanding with the city of Folsom; light rail service levels to Folsom are depedent on the city of Folsom's direction and commitment to fund these services.

Laguna, CA:  What is the planned implementation schedule of the different street car segments after the initial riverfront segment is complete (I believe the report I reviewed referred to Riverfront as Segment A and then there were 3 or 4 additional segments, B through E)?

Reply:  RT staff has been providing technical assistance with the project development for the starter line; however, SACOG is actually the lead on the streetcar project. The link below will provide more streetcar information Please refer to RT's TransitAction plans to see our current plans for future extensions.

Laguna, CA:  What is/will RT doing to meet SACOG's 2035 MTP? Will there be any attempt to fast track many of the transit provisions to complete projects sooner than 2035?

Reply:  RT is planning to update its long range plan, the TransitAction Plan, later this calendar year. The update to RT's TransitAction will allow RT to use then-known assumptions for long-range plans that are consistent with the Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. This process will also allow RT to update plan components to be consistent with current conditions and community priorities. RT is always looking for opportunities to expedite the completion and implementation of appropriate high demand projects and services.

Laguna, CA:  I read somewhere that the Downtown Station Light Rail Station will be re-oriented along a North-South alignment as opposed to the current East-West alignment (part of the Station renovation). When is that slated to occur?

Reply:  I think you're referring to the Sacramento Valley Station. We're doing design work right now to reorient the station tracks to a north/south alignment. From there, tracks will extend under the new 5th and 6th Street overcrossings and tie back in with the Green Line at 7th Street. This will allow the Green Line to go directly into the Sacramento Valley Station like the Gold Line.

Sacramento, CA:  Has RT ever considered removing some stops on the Gold Line to provide faster service? There appear to be some stops which have low ridership, and it seems like removing them would increase end to end speed.

Reply:  Providing express service is not currently being planned.

Natomas, CA:  I have repeatedly tried using the RT Tracker feature from my iPhone as I head for my RT-operated Flyer bus to see where my bus is. But the predictive arrival feature does not work properly when traffic is so backed up. So I resort to the map feature and it is almost impossible to use on my iPhone. I cannot zoom in and navigate the map. PLEASE make the map feature usable on iPhones! Soon!

Reply:  When buses are delayed by traffic and not moving for an period of time, the system is unable to predict when the vehicles will arrive at the stops farther down the line. Regarding the map feature, RT is evaluating the possiblities of providing it through the mobile web app in the future.

Comments from RoseMary Covington: 

Thank you for your questions today. The next session of Transit Talk is scheduled for Friday, April 3, 2015.