Transit Talk with the General Manager

May 01, 2015
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Quesitons
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live on Friday, May 1 from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Over the past few weeks, I hope you had a chance to experience the sleek, new RT buses serving the community. I'm proud to say that RT partnered with GILLIG to manufacture 96 custom 40-foot low-floor BRT-Plus Compressed Natural Gas buses, which will replace nearly half of the fleet over the next two years. The first 30 GILLIG buses began revenue service in early April.

The GILLIG BRT-Plus bus was designed with the customer and operator in mind. For you, the customer, the bus features flip-up seats in the front section to accommodate folded carts and packages; increased leg room; and a clear rooftop emergency hatch that allows in natural light. For the operator, the bus features improved windshield visibility; and an adjustable brake pedal and seat adjustment options for improved ergonomics. There are also nine state-of-the-art day/night color interior and exterior surveillance cameras.

The buses are part of RT's initiative to enhance the transit system, which also includes work being done to improve the appearance of the light rail vehicles. RT recently completed the first application of an exterior vinyl adhesive wrap on a light rail vehicle consistent with the RT branding.

The newly-wrapped light rail vehicle is the first of 36 that will feature the wrap, which is a cost-effective method to improve the appearance of the nearly 30-year-old train cars.

Those of us who are deeply rooted in the transit industry think the new buses and train wraps are pretty cool. If you've have the chance to ride the vehicles, or have seen them out on the system, let me know your thoughts.

Sacramento, CA:  Wasn't the future Dos Rios station initially planned to be closer to North B near Loaves and Fishes?The Sproule site seems a little narrow to me not to mention that it's very close to where the Blue Line narrows to a single track.

Reply:  RT had a study completed in 2006 that looked at multiple sites. The site at Sproule was the site selected and concurred with by the Board in 2006. The track in this area would have to be double-tracked to accommodate the station and the train movements.

Sacramento, CA:  Are there plans to improve RTservices in the Citrus Heights area including extending light beyond Watt/I-80? Thank you!

Reply:  RT's adopted Transit Master plan, TransitAction, includes a long term plan to extend light rail to Citrus Heights via Auburn Boulevard. However, that project is currently unfunded.

Sacramento, CA:  In the chat from April, a participant had asked a question regarding light rail connection times at the 16th Street Station once the Blue Line to CRC opens. You had mentioned in the example the participant laid out in their question that it will be a 7-minute connection from Westbound Gold Line to Northbound Blue Line. My question is, based on this response from last month, when and where will folks be able to view the schedules in advance of them taking effect? I for one, want to see how I would need to change my riding habits, but do it in a way that I know well in advance of the new schedules taking effect. Thank you.

Reply:  There is still a great deal of work to do to get all the bus and light rail schedules completed. At this point we will likely release them to the public around the end of July.

Elk Grove, CA:  What is the latest outlook across the region as far as a launch date or season for the Connect Transit Card? Do you see the Connect Card up and operational around September 1st by chance so that it will be ready around the time school starts back up from Summer Recess?

Reply:  The vendor continues to resolve open issues and has promised completion by July 1st. If they are successful in completing the system and it passes the testing/validation, we will pick a go live date a few months after that to allow for a marketing campaign as part of the regional implementation. Without getting too optimistic after all of the delays in this project, we appear to be closing the major open issues that would prevent going live with the system. So, if all goes extremely well Connect Card could be operational by early September.

Citrus Heights, CA:  While I have heard that there are financial concerns the district is facing, what service expansion are you contemplating related to the Downtown Entertainment Sports Complex? Will the extending of route hours, rather than creating new routes be taken into consideration so that folks who ride to the E.S.C. (both bus and rail) will be able to ride home as well as to the E.S.C. Events? Here in Citrus Heights, I hope you will consider later operating hours, when that time comes around for Routes 1, 21, 23, 25, and 28. We can certainly use the service if it operated later.

Reply:  Based on what we've seen in other cities, we expect that most arena attendees will be using light rail and parking at our park-and-ride lots and select bus routes. We are currently working with the Sacramento Kings' representatives to develop the ESC service plan. We expect to operate additional service on routes that are in high demand.

Sacramento , CA:  Can you please put in one bus stop in each direction on the 54 route between Center Parkway and Mack and Center Parkway and Tangerine ?

Reply:  The design of the streets in this location have historically made it impossible to add an ADA-compliant stop. We will take a look into it however, this may be an issue we will need to raise with Sacramento County if there are physical improvements that need to be made.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I ride the Gold Line from Sunrise daily. I have seen what I would call Police Sweeps at various stations and on the trains. It has made an impact. I dont see undesirables as often. Keep It Up.

Reply:  Thanks. We are making a focused effort to improve our security, safety and cleaning. I appreciate that you noticed and commented.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Are there any plans to charge for parking at Sunrise Light Rail Station?

Reply:  Not at this time. The RT Board has limited charging for parking to park and ride lots within the city limits of Sacramento.

Fair Oaks, CA:  On the RT website there is a section for bus and light rail disruptions. When there has been light rail problems I have never seen anything about it posted. Why not?

Reply:  RT does post light rail disruptions to the RT Alert page when they occur. Alerts may be delayed as information about the disruption circumstances develop and RT implements plans to mitigate the impact on passengers. You can also use RT's mobile app at to see alerts that are connected to the electronic message signs at each light rail station.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Recently I have noticed the interior volume of the anouncements on some trains has been loud. Is there a decible level they shoud be at? Are they checked?

Reply:  Yes, they are set to a specific level. I'm not sure of the actual level. Our maintenance crew will check specific cars when we have a report of a problem. Please feel free to report this issue to Customer Advocacy ( - 557-4545), when you notice a problem. We will need the three digit light rail vehicle number when you report. Thanks.

South Sacramento , CA:  I've seen documents regarding possible service changes and/or fare changes for January 1, 2016. Is there a possibility of realignment of bus routes or turning some routes to express routes?

Reply:  We have had discussions with our Board about both fare changes and service changes; however, at this point, it has been very conceptual. We are in the process of closing a projected budget deficit for our upcoming fiscal year. That means we have to take a look at potential service cuts or fare increases; however, we have been progressing toward closing the projected deficit by other means, and we are optimistic that we'll be able to avoid having to cut service or raise fares.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Are there any plans to up date the RT website to make it easier too alert you to maintenance issues at the stops/stations and on the trains? The current way is cumbersom and is geared towards complaints of operators/drivers.

Reply:  We are working on releasing a smart phone application like the one used at LA MTA and Denver RTD. Our plan is to release the application in the September time frame. The application allows customers to report security and facilities issues with photos and supports sending a response to the customer as we address the issues.

Fair Oaks, CA:  How long until the extention of the blue line to Cosumnes College will be operational?

Reply:  The Blue Line to Cosumnes River College light rail extension is scheduled to begin operation on September 6, 2015. Work is progressing nicely on the project, and RT is monitoring the process to determine if an earlier operation date will be possible.

Fair Oaks, CA:  How often are the interiors of the trains cleaned?

Reply:  The light rail interiors are cleaned each night. In addition, we have security guards that pick up trash and litter at the ends of the lines during the day. We will also send out personnel to address specific problems when needed.

Fair Oaks, CA:  It has been many months since I have seen RT transit officers asking for ride ticket on the Gold Line. Has that position been eliminated?

Reply:  No RT transit officers positions have been eliminated. Our transit officers and sworn police officers and sheriff deputies inspect the trains daily. Our inspection rates range from 12-15% per month. During the month of March, our inspection rate was 13.64% of all passengers which was slightly lower than the prior month. However, the year to date average is approximately 14.1%. As you may already know, this continues to be an area of focus for RT.

Fair Oaks, CA:  In the early morning I see many homeless sleeping on the trains when I get on at the Sunrise Station. I board there at 4:58, 5:13 or 5:28. Are there Officers on duty at that time asking for tickets/passes?

Reply:  I will alert our police Lt. of your observations so that we can address you specific concerns. Thanks for letting me know.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Did RT purchase used trains from southern California? If so, when will they go into service?

Reply:  Actually, RT purchased 21 rail cars from the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA). We have a contract with Siemens to refurbish all these cars. This project is on going, we currently are in the process of testing a few of the rail cars and expect to have nine of the cars active for the opening of the Southline Extension.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I have seen many of the Sacramento City and Sheriffs officers on the trains. They all have shown great professionalism. Many times I have seen them counsel a rider about proper passes instead of issuing a ticket. Pass it along to the officers please.

Reply:  Thanks for recognizing our police officers efforts on behalf of RT. I'll pass along your comments.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Are there plans to extend Light Rail south from Bradwhaw?

Reply:  Extension of light rail south from Cosumnes River College to Elk Grove is in RT's long-range plan, TransitAction, under a scenario where the region's voters have approved greater funding for transit. City of Elk Grove officials have recently expressed increased interest in helping to make this extension happen.

Gold River, CA:  Earlier this year, you mentioned that the real time train tracking system was being tested on an actual train. How is that test going? When do you think we'll see it as passengers?

Reply:  We are excited to be testing the system in pilot mode. If the testing goes well, we will move forward with the complete system. The goal is to turn it on for use by the end of the year.

Sacramento, CA:  Everyday, I ride the Blue Line to Watt/I-80. More and more I am seeing light rail vehicles off to the left window that had at one time read "VTA." Now they are reading "Regional Transit" on them. They look really beautiful making Sacramento Proud. How did you come about these vehicles, and at what point in time will they be put into passenger revenue service? I'm quite intrigued by what I am noticing on my daily light rail ride.

Reply:  We purchased these vehicles for pennies on the dollar from VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority) and are refurbishing them for use on our system. The first few may be seen on the system as they are currently being tested. They will go into service as we complete the testing.

Sacramento, CA:  What percentage of RT's budget goes to paratransit? Thanks

Reply:  For fiscal year 2015, approximately 9% of RT's budget goes to Paratransit. For fiscal year 2016, this amount is anticipated to increase by approximately $1M, which will put the amount at $14.3 million.

Fair Oaks, CA:  The new Sacramento Superior Criminal Courthouse will be built between 5th and 6th on H street near the Sacramento Valley light rail Station. Are you going to work with the Courts to get Jurors to use Light Rail?

Reply:  We already have a great partnership with the county court system, as well as most local and state government agencies, where they help us sell and distribute RT fare media to their employees, and they have been great about locating near light rail, so that makes it extremely easy for RT to offer a great value to their employees. We're thrilled that the 500 block of H Street will have the new court house, as it will be a great ridership generator in an area where there are more and more transit improvements on the horizon, including the Downtown/Riverfront Streetcar, improvements to the Sacramento Valley Station, and Green Line service direct to Amtrak.

Davis, CA:  I think a line to Davis makes a lot of sense, because (1) only one station/stop would need to be constructed; (2) it's basically an easy straight line over the Yolo Bypass, which doesn't require demolishing existing buildings and would minimize legal challenges; (3) the 25,000 UCD students would use it heavily. Amtrak is an expensive and less convenient alternative that isn't really that useful.

Reply:  I agree, this could be a great service. To build a light rail line from Sacramento to Davis would require a partnership with Davis, Yolo County, West Sacramento and Sacramento Regional Transit (RT). RT alone can not pull this off by itself. What I find is where we have willing partners, we are able to build the new lines. Folsom and Elk Grove are positive examples.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I have been on many trains where much of the seating has been removed. What is going on and when will it be reinstalled?

Reply:  Seating was removed on some of our cars to increase capacity for people in wheelchairs and customers with bicycles. Our plans are to eventually convert the entire rail fleet to this configuration. The response has been mostly positive from our riders.

Sacramento, CA:  I hope you don't mind a couple of technical questions. What type of CNG engine and transmission (manufacturer, # of cylinders) is used in the new Gillig buses? And - how often must they be refueled? How can you determine mileage since the fuel isn't a liquid? Thanks!

Reply:  The new Gillig buses have a Cummins 8.9 L ISL G in line 6 cylinder engine designed for using CNG for fuel. The transmission is a Voith model 6. We fuel daily to make sure that when the buses leave the yard in the morning they are full of fuel and ready for service. The hub miles are recorded every time we fuel with the number of therms of fuel added. From this data we are able to watch for mileage related problems.

Sacramento, CA:  Have you guys considered using the third rail along the gold line for peak/express service?

Reply:  This rail line is the UP heavy rail freight line and isn't available to RT for use. We plan to operate limited stop express service on all of our lines utilizing our existing rails.

Fair Oaks, CA:  Over the years there have been disruptions in Light Rail service on the Gold Line. I have to let you know the reaction time to the problem and bus bridge communication has been great!

Reply:  Thanks for the positive comments. Our Rail Operations and Bus team have work extremely hard on the planning side for events. So that we are ready to roll out emergency plans quickly and without delay, when we need to implement a bus bridge. Thanks for recognizing the efforts.

Folsom, CA:  Will light rail ever expand into the city of Folsom, for easier access to people without cars.

Reply:  As you are aware, RT provides light rail service to three locations in Folsom, Iron Point, Glenn, and Historic Folsom. The current expansion plans for Folsom is to offer additional late night week day service and additional late night weekend service. This service is contingent on working with the City of Folsom through contract negotiations. In addition, RT plans to provide express service, however this is contingent on funding. As for plans to add additional track into Folsom, future plans that are being discussed would be to determine demand for future housing developments south of highway 50. It would also be great to increase the connections between the rail line and Folsom Lake Community College.

Sacramento, CA:  I had the opportunity to watch the last Sacramento City Council Meeting. There was a presentation about the need for a new Performing Arts Center in the city with sites that are close to transit. One thing that caught my attention was the options for financing. The PowerPoint presentation included, but was not limited to a new sales tax for the public financing. As far as transit is concerned, this sounds familiar. Later in the presentation there was mention that the November 2016 Ballot is going to be quite crowded with sales tax measures, unless entities considered "pairing" their needs perhaps into fewer sales tax measures, or even just one complete sales tax measure package. Have you and Regional Transit perhaps considered jumping onto the bandwagon, for lack of a better term, of one or many other entities to better propose one complete November 2016 sales tax measure. From my understanding, a general sales tax measure package might have a better chance of passing at 50%+1 of the popular vote, versus a transit or issue specific sales tax measure, which needs a minimum of 67% of the popular vote. Have you "carefully" considered this, moving forward?

Reply:  Putting together a sales tax measure to fund transit needs is something RT has been considering for several years now. Our most recent efforts have been to work with our local cities and Sacramento County and the Sacramento Transportation Authority to determine if it would be in RT's best interest to work together on a new tax measure or approach the public on our own. As of now, our focus has been on finding ways to improve our service. At the point we are ready to act on any future measures, we would first bring our plans to the RT Board for approval. We will also look at the possibility of combining with other interests.

Laguna, CA:  Will the Sacramento Valley Station eventually be a hub for all of the rail lines? Blue, Gold, Green, and the Streetcar?

Reply:  The current plan is for Sacramento Valley Station to be served by the Gold Line, the Green Line, and the Downtown/Riverfront Streetcar, as well as for more of RT's bus routes to terminate there. The improvements we are planning for the station and the nearby track will also enable us to run Blue Line trains to/from the south area or to/from Watt/I-80 if the need or the desire arises. We are in the process right now of doing the design/engineering work.

Laguna, CA:  Last month an individual said they worked at Apple in Elk Grove and asked if E-Tran will provide service from light rail to Laguna Town hall. If you go to the E-Tran website and look up the proposed modifications due to the light rail extension, there is a route 165 that E-Tran intends to replace route 65 with. As I understand it, it will run starting at Laguna and Harbor Point, through Town Hall, up Franklin to the new Franklin Light Rail Station.

Reply:  Thank you. Readers may want to visit the City of Elk Grove's web site for the most up-to-date information:

Rancho Cordova, CA:  When the construction starts in the Horn Rd station will light rail trains be coming through it still during construction?

Reply:  The current light rail track configuration would not be affected by Horn Road station construction, allowing RT to continue service through the build. The freight tracks would need to be moved south however, to accommodate a new station boarding platform.

Fair Oaks, CA:  I have seen the yellow uniformed Security Officers on the train deter crime and cause the undesirables to leave or relocate to another train. Do you plan on adding more of them?

Reply:  We are planning a number of security enhancements next fiscal year (July 15). Adding guards and some adding Police Officers is planned.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

That's all the time we have for today's session. Thank you for participating and I look forward to answering your questions during the next installment of Transit Talk with the General Manager on Friday, June 5.