Transit Talk with the General Manager

April 03, 2015
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live on Friday, April 3, from noon to 1 p.m.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

RT and Operation Lifesaver (OL) have partnered to promote a light rail safety campaign that emphasizes pedestrian and motorist safety around tracks. It's titled "See Tracks? Think Train!"

"See Tracks? Think Train!" is a simple message originated by OL, but one that can save lives. It is RT's goal to eliminate incidents by using education and outreach to remind the public of the proper behavior to stay safe.

The statistics are stark. According to California Operation Lifesaver, 33 people were killed at grade crossings throughout California in 2014. In addition, 101 people were killed while trespassing along rail right-of-way, an increase of 48.5 percent from 2013.

The local "See Tracks? Think Train!" campaign includes the distribution of print materials, presentations to community and neighborhood groups, social media, and special enforcement conducted by RT Police Services at grade crossings and stations throughout the RT system.

Campaign messages focus on the danger of distractions near tracks and in stations, and the importance of respecting warning signs and signals.

Important safety tips include:
  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings when near tracks or in stations. Avoid the danger of distraction caused by cell phones, headphones or other electronic devices.
  • Look and listen for trains. Light rail trains can travel at any time from either direction and are relatively quiet. After a train has passed, a second train might be traveling from the opposite direction.
  • Whether on foot, bike or in a vehicle, it is illegal to go around moving or lowered crossing gates.
The "See Tracks? Think Train!" campaign is focused initially on the south Sacramento area as RT prepares to begin testing trains this spring in anticipation of the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College light rail extension opening in September 2015.

For more information, visit To schedule a "See Tracks? Think Train!" presentation, contact Michael Young, RT Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist, at or 916-556-0119.

Sacramento, CA:  Two questions on the Connect card: 1. Has the vendor (I gather called INIT; I can’t find anything about them) actually done a card system before? The many delays seem to indicate not. Why not go with an experienced vendor like the one who does Boston’s CharlieCard (almost 10 years service) or the Clipper Card from the Bay Area? 2. In use, will the card system print a receipt to show that the rider has paid? In Boston the card readers are on the vehicle, including rail, so it’s not an issue. But here I see the readers on the light rail platform. How does the rider prove he’s paid? (I realize buses will have card readers.) Thanks

Reply:  INIT has installed smart card systems around the world. They are installing ours and one in Portland at this time. These are their first systems in the United States. The have a good deal of other transit related equipment installed on vehicles throughout the United States. Customers may print receipts when they purchase products or buy a pass. On the buses, tapping puts a record on the card and in the system. The light rail platform equipment, like wise, puts a record on the card and in the system. Our fare inspection team will use a cell phone, which will read the card and check the system for fare payment. All of this should be transparent to the rider.

Rosemont Area, CA:  I am enrolled this coming Fall Semester at Cosumnes River College. My guidance counselor reminds me that classes start August 22nd, with most students starting on August 24th. Could you let me know if there is a chance (slim or great) that the Blue Line extension might be available for me and others to use by or before the 22nd of August, or does this possibility exist only in my dreams? Thank you for your consideration.

Reply:  The current schedule calls for the Blue Line extension to be open by September 6th. However we are currently running ahead of schedule and I am very hopeful that we will be able to beat that date.

North Natomas, CA:  I ride the M-F 3:56pm Route 11 from Truxel @ Gateway Park to Dowtown. Lately, the bus operator stops on 7th between F & G, and then proceeds to turn left on H, followed by a right onto 9th. Is there any possibility you can issue an executive order that this route turn left on J, followed by a right onto 9th? Riders like me are missing their connection to Route 30 traveling east on J. In looking at the sewer replacement work going on, it appeared to me in doing my research that any and all buses that normally travel on J Street (30, 38, 62, 86, and 88) are still serving the J at 8th bus stop. It would be a real convenience for us Route 11 riders to be served a drop off only stop on J at 8th so that we can make connections. Please see if this can be arranged, even during the sewer replacement work.

Reply:  We've had a bit of a difficult time getting timely, accurate details on the scope and timing of the sewer replacement work, so in the interest of keeping the detour consistent for our riders, we've kept it to H Street to date, but we'll take another look at it. Thank you for the input!

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I have noticed more and more work going on at stations related to implementation of the "Connect Card" like an additional large machine going into place at the 16th Street Station, that most other stations, if any, don't have. How is the Connect Card Project coming along. When can I expect to use one of these rather than a paper pass? For photo ID's in particular, will the customer service center at 13th Street Station be temporarily available on selected weekends to handle crowds during the transitional time period?

Reply:  We are nearing completion of the installation of the equipment and continuing to finish the software. Once the system has been entirely tested, we will have a full range of support for customers including support from our 13th Street Customer Service Center, a bus with customer ID printing equipment and support at our stations and transit centers. The schedule has not been set in stone and will not be, until the system is fully functional.

Sacramento, CA:  I'm looking forward to being able to use the Connect Card! When can I expect it?

Reply:  I am looking forward it as well. We are gearing up to go live later this summer, in preparation for the vendor completing all their necessary work. Two months before going live, we will begin an advertising campaign.

Sacramento, CA:  RT is hosting public meetings later this month to discuss a proposed Dos Rios light rail station. What is the potential timeline for opening that station?

Reply:  We expect architectural and engineering work to be done by late 2015 or early 2016. We still need to line up some of the funding for construction but we are optimistic that we'll find grant money soon to bring this project to the finish line.

Roseville, CA:  What are the plans to extend the Blue Line north beyond the Watt I-80 area?

Reply:  The long range plan is to extend from Watt I-80 to American River College and up Auburn Blvd to Citrus Heights. Keep in might this is a long range, tentative plan with no funding or environmental work.

South Sacramento , CA:  I've read in the Quarterly Ridership report that there would be a proposal on a few routes would be considered for elimination. Could you give details on those routes?

Reply:  The staff report that accompanied the Quarterly Ridership Report for the period ended December 31, 2015, included cost estimates for eliminating weekday fixed-route bus services that failed to meet their producity standards for more than eight quarters and had not been approved for upcoming modification. Cost estimates were provided for eliminating routes 6, 24, 34, 74. These estimates were provided for informational purposes. RT is not currently proposing service reductions on specific routes. Should service reductions be formally proposed, RT will take appropriate actionsto inform the public of these potentiail changes.

Folsom, CA:  Two months ago you said RT was in talks to extend service to Folsom after 7:00 pm. What is the latest and when will it happen?

Reply:  RT staff has had a few meetings with the City of Folsom staff members and we are still working through some of the details. After the details are finalized, the next step would be to bring this recommendation to the Folsom City Counsel and the RT Board for approval. Both parties would need to approve the agreement prior to any service changes, and at this time, it is difficult to determine an exact date. We will keep you posted as things progress.

Sacramento, CA:  What is RT's role in the bikesharing program which SACOG is leading?

Reply:  Although SACOG is the lead on the project, RT is staying involved because we view it as a great way to help people travel the last mile from light rail to their destination and to avoid having to bring bicycles onto the trains, where there is limited space.

Sacramento , CA:  I have read that the green line is extending to the airport. How long do you expect it to happen?

Reply:  The Green Line to the Airport light rail extension is moving along, environmental work is currently being completed. However, the funding for the construction of this light rail extension is currently planned to include Federal New Starts funding and contributions from the airport and also the local match funding for this project will require a new tax measure (Measure B), which would include approximately 50 percent of the capital funding for this project and also would cover the operating costs for this project once completed. This sales tax measure is currently proposed to go to the voters in November 2016. This sales tax measure would also include funding for other RT Light Rail improvement projects, Hi-Bus rapid transit projects and others, if approved by the voters. The Downtown Riverfront Streetcar project is the Sacramento region's current highest priority project and is proposed to be completed in the 2017- 2018 time frame. The funding sources for the streetcar are different than the Green Line to the Airport.

South Sacramento , CA:  Are you planning for an evaluation of fares in the future?

Reply:  Yes. On April 13th, RT staff will bring a report to our Board of Directors discussing fare policy issues. On April 27th, staff intends on bringing forward a report to discuss ideas to increase revenues through fare increases or reductions to various fare discounts.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the hang up with the Connect Card? Why is it taking so long, where can I get one and when will I be able to use it?

Reply:  The INIT team is struggling to resolve the remaining open issues before we will be ready to put the system in use. We are getting close, but still have a few major software issues to resolve. When we believe the system is fully functional, we will start a two month informational campaign before going live with the Connect Card.

South Sacramento , CA:  Any information or future changes in store after September 2015?

Reply:  In addition to the implementation of service on the extension of the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College, RT's Board of Directors has approved changes to routes 25, 61, 65 and 84 that will be implemented on September 6, 2015. Please find a brief description of the planned changes below. The other major rail improvement will be the implementation of a new starter streetcar line connecting West Sacramento, Downtown Sacramento, and Mid-Town. Route 25 service frequency will be increased to operate every 30 minutes on Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael. Route 61 service to the Power Inn light rail station will be discontinued, and the route will be extended west along Folsom Boulevard to the University/65th Street light rail station to improve connections. Route 65 will be restructured to serve Florin Road east of Franklin Boulevard to the Florin Towne Centre. New service will be added to serve a portion of the former Route 8 that operated on Elder Creek Road, Power Inn Road and 65th Street to the University/65th Street light rail station. Route 65 will no longer serve the Florin light rail station, Florin Road west of Franklin Boulevard, Franklin Boulevard south of Cosumnes River Boulevard, and Laguna Boulevard (in Elk Grove). Route 84 service on La Riviera Drive and Folsom Boulevard will be discontinued. Route 84 will continue to serve the Watt/Manlove light rail station via Watt Avenue. Route 80 will continue to operate on La Riviera Drive and Folsom Boulevard. To find more information, including maps about the upcoming changes, please visit RT's website at and navigate to the information about September 2015 Service Changes -or- use the direct web location that's provided below. Thank you for your interest!

Sacramento, CA:  The budget reports to the board now show that RT will be out of reserves soon. What is the longer term plan to stabilize the agencies finances so that expenses do not exceed revenues when the reserves are gone?

Reply:  RT is faced with the challenge of yearly cost increases and flat fare revenues. Therefore, staff will be bringing to the Board options which will include ways to increase revenues through fare changes (examples could include fare increases or changes to current discount programs), carbon credit for utilizing alternative fuel, and service reductions. We continue look for ways to reduce our cost without negatively impacting service. We do not anticipate further reductions to our reserves. In fact one of our Board priorities is to increase reserves.

Sacramento, CA:  I see from the paper that Elk Grove is looking for transportation tax revenue. Does this mean the existing tax revenue that goes to RT will have to be shared with Elk Grove or are they going after their own tax?

Reply:  I believe that you referring to Assembly Bill 906 that seeks to shift the cost of the City of Elk Grove's proportionate share of the costs for rail and district wide transit services provided by RT from the City of Elk Grove to the other communities within the general jurisdiction of RT. It is RT's position that the practical effect of this legislation would be, ultimately, the reduction of services to other RT member entities. Therefore, RT has serious concerns about the legislation and have expressed these concerns to the bill's sponsor, Assemblymember Jim Cooper.

Sacramento County, CA:  I work in the private sector, but just found out yesterday through the VP of Human Resources at my company that our worksites will be closed on Friday, July 3, 2015 in observance of Independence Day. With this in mind, will Regional Transit be observing Independence Day on Friday the 3rd, or will it wait until Monday the 6th, as far as offices being closed, and a Sunday/Holiday Schedule in effect?

Reply:  July 3rd and July 6th are not a Holidays for RT. We will be running regular service on the 3rd and the 6th. Because so many people have different days off when a holiday falls on a Saturday we observe the holiday on the Saturday and run regular service on the Friday before and the Monday following the holiday.

Sacramento , CA:  I've hearing a lot about smart growth, lately. How does smart growth and the "green line " project promote the concept of safer and more efficient transport in conjunction with RT's service goal?

Reply:  The Green Line is planned to extend into Natomas and eventually to Sacramento International Airport. The experience we've had in Sacramento and throughout the rest of America as well, has been that when light rail goes into communities, over time, it has a real impact in terms of who chooses to live there and locate businesses there. In Sacramento you can see the positive results, from the Globe Mills building to the award-winning apartments on 30th and S Streets, the nearby Mercy office building, the new Co-op Grocery Store in the same neighborhood, the boom on 16th Street and the forthcoming boom on R Street, one can clearly see how proximity to light rail stations has been one of the key pieces to the puzzle in making some of these sites and neighborhoods attractive to a lot of exciting projects. All one has to do is read the papers looking for rentals to see how "near light rail" is a legitimate amenity for people looking for a convenient place to live. We believe extending light rail into Natomas and to the airport is going to be a terrific project that really helps the entire corridor become an even better place to live and work.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  There is a change in the design of bus passes. Users will have to obtain a new pass? Can you verify and send instructions? Thanks.

Reply:  We are working on an electronic fare card called the Connect Card, which will be a universal fare card which customers can use on other transit systems in the region. When we go live, we will transition all our monthly pass users over to Connect Cards. There will be at least 60 days notice before we do that. We expect to go live sometime later this year. You may also be interested to know that we recently purchased 30 new buses. These new buses have new fareboxes with some slightly updated features. If you purchase a daily pass upon boarding, instead of the driver tearing a ticket off a tick from a stack, the farebox will dispense your daily pass onto a disposable ticket. In addition to this technology, the fare box already has technology that will allow RT to move away from disposable tickets and move to dispensing disposable smart cards. This change is anticipated to occur once RT has replaced it's entire bus fleet.

Laguna, CA:  Are you familiar with the significant blow back against E-Trans' proposal to have all commuter routes redirected to the new light rail extension to CRC? Much of this centers on the perception that the Blue Line, particularly from Meadowview to Fruitridge, is basically a "ghetto train." So far, from what I've observed, RT has yet to address these concerns in any sort of meaningful way and I think there is also some skepticism over claims of adding additional security to the Blue Line when RT frequently states that it doesn't have the budget to add additional security. What would you say to the residents of Elk Grove regarding the above issues?

Reply:  RT is aware of e-tran's currently proposed service changes. RT staff attended both public workshops held in March concerning these proposed changes to provide information and respond to inquiries about the upcoming implementation of light rail service to Cosumnes River College and RT operations. RT works closely with e-tran and has provided Elk Grove staff with information concerning RT's safety and security measures as well as vehicle and station maintenance activities to assist in related inquiries and responses. I would encourage the residents of Elk Grove to use the light rail service before arriving at any conclusions. RT's proposed FY 2016 budget contains a $500,000 increase in security that will help augment security on this new service. Further, in RT's experience, a sense of community develops among commuter groups (such as the Elk Grover riders) and that "community" of commuters tends to dictate the behavior exhibited on the train. Very similar concerns were expressed prior to the start of service to Folsom in 2005 and those trains currently carry standing loads. The City of Folsom would like to see more frequent service and later night service.

Arden/Arcade, CA:  There was no notification on Facebook about the Light Rail issue you had, or about the high number of cancellations on the bus side. But you have time for a press conference?

Reply:  The Blue Line disruption information last night was posted to our Twitter account, the electronic message signs at all light rail stations and in our mobile app at You are correct that a Facebook message was not posted. Bus cancellation information is available through our website on the bus and light rail disruption page, and also through our mobile app.

Rio Linda, CA:  What initiatives is Regional Transit undertaking to make changes to Route 19? I have complained through "Transit Talk" in the past about the long circular route that it is, and have suggested that the route operate from the Arden/Del Paso Station to Watt/Elverta only. I think doing this will go a long way to address major schedule adherance issues the route is facing today. What is the status update as far as this route is concerned?

Reply:  RT regularly reviews services in attempt to identify changes that may improve service operations. Changes to resource requirements and impacts to existing and potential passengers must also be considered with all potential changes. RT has received your recommendation and will retain it for future consideration. RT is not currently proposing any changes to Route 19.

Laguna, CA:  It has been previously mentioned by yourself and other RT staff that it would be difficult for people to ride without paying with the connect card. I have a hard time seeing that. Without connect card, you can have staff check tickets. How will you check that people have paid with their connect card? What is to stop someone from getting a connect card just to show to the transit staff without actually paying?

Reply:  Each of our fare inspection team members will have a smart phone equipped with an application that will read the Connect Card and check the system to determine that we have been paid. This happens in very quickly . The process only takes 1 second. At that point the inspector writes a citation for non-paying riders.

Sacramento, CA:  My question is regarding the logistics surrounding light rail to light rail connections at the 16th Street Station. Currently, one who is traveling on weekday nights has to wait 28 minutes between Gold Line to Downtown and Blue Line to Watt/I-80. On weekend nights, as well as all day on weekends, this specific wait is just 13 minutes. Once the Blue Line to CRC opens on September 6th, will examples like I have been given here change so as to reduce wait times at the 16th Street Station between light rail lines?

Reply:  As you're pointing out, the transfer timing at 16th Street on weeknights is not ideal right now. We are, in fact, changing this when the Blue Line to CRC opens this fall. The transfer from inbound Gold Line trains to northbound Blue Line trains will actually go down to 7 minutes.

Sacramento, CA:  Will the Connect Card allow light rail to bus transfers?

Reply:  The rules for fares are not changing. The card itself will allow customers to ride all of RT's services and the other 9 transit systems that are part of the Connect Card project. The fares and transfer rules are identical to the current paper ticket structure, but will have the ease of use provided by the new Connect Card.

Sacramento, CA:  What kind of celebration is planned for the opening of the light rail extension to CRC?

Reply:  A large community celebration. We just began working on the plan. Once we have more to share, you will see outreach.

Sacramento, CA:  You purchased some used railcars from another system (San Jose?) a few years ago. When will these go into use? I gather that they can't be hooked to the existing stock of cars.

Reply:  The 1st few cars have completed rehabilitation for our system. They look great. These vehicles do not interline with either the CAF or Siemens vehicles as you noted. In the next few months, you will see them on the system. They will run as homogeneous trains. There remain a few station modification underway to accommodate the new cars. This work is nearing completion, except for Historic Folsom Light Rail Station, which will require greater effort to modify it for the new fleet.

Sacramento, CA:  The new buses look great! What are the two long structures on the top of the buses?

Reply:  I'm glad you like them. The cool new look was our goal. The structures are protective housings for the compressed natural gas tanks. The tanks hold the fuel for the bus.

Laguna, CA:  "Our fare inspection team will use a cell phone, which will read the card and check the system for fare payment. All of this should be transparent to the rider." Can you clarify something for me? Are you saying that a fare checker shouldn't need to check each individuals connect card one at a time? If so, how do you identify non-fare payers?

Reply:  The inspector will check each card as they do with tickets now. They will only need to move their phone within proximity to the customers Connect Card to check for payment. When we scan a non-paid card, the phone will both make a tone and flash red to indicate a problem.

Sacramento, CA:  Those new buses are pretty shiny. But can you make the headsign say REGIONAL TRANSIT?

Reply:  Thanks. We like them too. RT reserves the space on the headsign to provide information to the rider about the route. However, the sign can say REGIONAL TRANSIT.

Sacramento, CA:  I ride the LR from Zinfandel to downtown 5 days a week and I always notice how much trash is overflowing at stations.I rarely see anyone doing this routinely and it seems RT is understaffed for the amount of work/stations.Any plans on to beef up the support teams who take care of stations??How many ppl do u have doing this maintenance??

Reply:  We are working to improve our maintenance. The stations are all cleaned multiple times a week, but it is not enough. We are partnering with other agencies and Business Improvement Districts to assist us with maintenance in our shared areas of responsibility. As an example, RT and the City of Rancho Cordova will share responsibility to clean stations within the city. This approach is being taking throughout our service area. We are expecting to see a doubling of efforts in these area.

Sacramento, CA:  I work at the Apple facility in Elk Grove with the cancellation of the 65 on Franklin is e-tran going to be providing service from Laguna Town Hall to the light rail?

Reply:  That is a question for Elk Grove Transit:

Sacramento, CA:  I'm curious about the status of Gold Line cars that have two rows of missing seats. I've been on three different cars with this issue. During heavy commute times more people must stand which is not convenient and in some circumstances not very safe. The evening Folsom trains with only two cars are impacted the most. Additionally, I must agree with the Elk Grove e-tran bus riders, that light rail trains are dirty and crime-ridden. (Sac Bee 3/21/15) It's very disturbing to observe the cell phone grab and run that has become too common. Thanks for this forum.

Reply:  This change was made to increase the space for wheelchairs on the trains. It has become more common for light rail operator to have to pass up wheelchairs due to a lack of space. This change also creates more space for bicycles for the trailing cars on multiple car trains. As for your comments regarding crime, RT has been focused on this topic and has made significant progress in reducing the number of thefts. As an example crime was down 25% in 2014 compared to 2013.

Elk Grove, CA:  With the Blue Line coming to Cosumnes River College this summer, is your staff doing a thorough review of all schedules of all bus routes? While I read a response you made to another "Transit Talk" participant regarding major route changes, I was concerned about the schedules of all routes, and if adjustments are necessary on all routes, especially if light rail is either changing, or in this case, extending?

Reply:  Yes, we're looking at all the bus schedules, or at least most of them. Some of them will have to be adjusted because the train times will be different at some of the stations. We'll roll this information out this summer. Please note that the Blue Line extension is not scheduled to open until September 6, 2015.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I use the Zinfandel station frequently and notice its in disrepair and dirty.Smoking especially pot is rampant at all times or at least whenever I'm there so my question would be does RT have enough staff to clean/maintain stations and does the no smoking policy enforced?

Reply:  I will share you concern about the pot smoking with our police, who are working with the Rancho Cordova police department. When you see these behaviors, I would appreciate it if you could use our text tip line (See it, Hear it, Report it, text to 67283 and your message must begin with sacrt) from our website. This goes directly to our security staff. We are working to improve our maintenance. The stations are all cleaned multiple times a week, but it is not enough. We are partnering with other agencies and Business Improvement Districts to assist us with maintenance in our shared areas of responsibility. As an example, RT and the City of Rancho Cordova will share responsibility to clean stations within the city. This approach is being taking throughout our service area. We are expecting to see a doubling of efforts in these area.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  What does "Bay 2" and "Bay 4" mean on the schedule?

Reply:  I'm not 100% sure, but I think you're referring to how some of the bus stops that are at light rail stations are reported in RT Tracker, our real-time mobile app. The short answer is that it's technical. Behind the scenes, the entire RT system, from schedule making, to dispatching, to real-time information is based on a very sophisticated database and suite of transit software. All the bus stops are coded into the system with their ID numbers, cross streets, GPS coordinates, etc. When the real-time app presents a stop to a user on their phone, it shows whatever it has for the cross streets for that stop. For a bus stop that's in a light rail station, it's "cross street" may get written up as the nearest street and one of several internally numbered bus bays in the terminal. Thanks for the question!

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for the overwhelming interest in the chat today. I appreciate the enthusiasm and we will make sure to begin next month's chat with questions we did not have time to address this afternoon. The next session of Transit Talk will be held on Friday, May 1.